What the papers say
I would love to see Ole Gunnar Solskjær kept on as permanent manager with an experienced team of coaches. The positivity he has brought to players is evident, with the team playing with smiles and an obvious desire to work hard. I’m desperate for a manager to be given time – I would have liked to have seen David Moyes and Louis van Gaal given more than they were allowed, though José Mourinho made his position untenable with his negativity in the press and losing the dressing room. I would like the new manager to build for the future, targeting the Premier League within the next three to five years, developing our talented crop of young footballers and continuing to bring youth players through the ranks playing the United way.Continue reading...
The Norwegian’s man-management at Manchester United has been top class – but the game against Tottenham will show whether he has the tactical nous to beat the best
Nobody realistically doubts that Manchester United’s game against Tottenham on Sunday represents a new level of challenge for Ole Gunnar Solskjær but equally it would take a particularly cussed soul – or Nemanja Matic – not to acknowledge the change of mood he has already enacted.
Perhaps his role is simply to be a palate-cleanser but Solskjær has United playing with a sense of enjoyment that arguably has not been there since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.Continue reading...
Liverpool have a defensive dilemma, Spurs could struggle in midfield against Paul Pogba and United, while Rafael Benítez is unlikely to go on the attack at Stamford Bridge
Mousa Dembélé’s impending move to Beijing Guoan is a reminder of Tottenham’s lack of depth in important areas. The Belgian midfielder was once a mandatory pick for Mauricio Pochettino but injuries have caught up with him and he has featured in only 10 league games this season. Dembélé’s decline has been a blow for Pochettino and Tottenham’s manager has also had to deal with injuries to Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, forcing him to ask a lot from Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in the past month. Sissoko and Winks have responded by forming an effective partnership in central midfield, enabling Tottenham to force their way into the title race, but they looked tired against Chelsea on Tuesday. Manchester United, who visit Wembley on Sunday, will spy a weakness to exploit given that Pochettino’s only alternative in recent weeks has been the inexperienced Oliver Skipp. Paul Pogba is probably licking his lips at the thought of stamping his authority all over midfield – assuming, of course, the United showman’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjær is the real deal. JSContinue reading...
• Solskjær: ‘He has done a very good job at Tottenham’
• Paul Pogba fit to face Spurs at Wembley on Sunday
Ole Gunnar Solskjær accepts Mauricio Pochettino “has done a very good job” at Tottenham and understands why he is being linked with the permanent Manchester United manager’s role.
Solskjær has had a 100% start as the United manager but third-placed Spurs will provided the toughest test of his three-week tenure at Wembley on Sunday.Continue reading...
Why take on a rebuilding job in Manchester when he could win Tottenham the title for the first time in almost 60 years with a little help from the board?
Mauricio Pochettino knows he is the most coveted manager in football right now. I can only describe his comments this week about his future at Tottenham as a direct call for action to the club’s board following his show of loyalty. I understood Pochettino to be saying to them: “I have showed and I am showing my loyalty to you by batting away the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United, but now if you back me financially I want to stay for the next 20 years”.
Pochettino has been at Tottenham for five years, which is rare in modern football and yet has spent a lot less money than rivals clubs who challenge for the Premier League. Jürgen Klopp has turned Liverpool into real title contenders in only three years and has had to spend a lot of money to try to bridge the gap to Manchester City. But Klopp has also moulded that team in his own image, with an exciting brand of play which we have seen in abundance this season. Pochettino has done the same but how much of building a team to win the Premier League is down to having much more spending power versus a coach’s ability to change the playing style, tactical blueprint and perhaps most importantly the winning mentality of the team?Continue reading...
• Mourinho stays tight-lipped over Manchester United exit
José Mourinho has spoken publicly to rule himself out of the vacant manager’s job at Benfica, but refused to make any further comment on his dismissal by Manchester United in December.
Mourinho, who was sacked by United last month after two-and-a-half years in charge, told Correio da Manha he has no intention of coaching in his native Portugal for the time being.Continue reading...
• Barnet v Brentford, AFC Wimbledon v West Ham
Arsenal will face Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round while Newporthave been rewarded for their exploits against Leicester City with a trip to Middlesbrough. Fellow giantkillers Oldham and Barnet were drawn to face Doncaster and Brentford respectively, while AFC Wimbledon, who have reached the fourth round for the first time in the new club’s history, will take on West Ham.
Newport, beaten at this stage of the competition at Wembley last season by Tottenham after a replay, will nonetheless fancy their chances of reaching the fifth round despite a tough away draw against Tony Pulis’ side while Barnet, who share their “Bees” nickname with Brentford, will entertain their Championship opponents at The Hive. Elsewhere Accrington Stanley will face Derby or Southampton while Millwall entertain Everton, Manchester City take on Burnley and Crystal Palace entertain Tottenham in another all-Premier League tie.Continue reading...
Nketiah shows rich promise, Chelsea may rue Fàbregas’s exit, things about to hot up for Solskjær and what next for Carroll?Continue reading...
• United in Dubai for warm weather training this week
Paul Pogba has failed to make Manchester United’s flight to Dubai for a week of warm-weather training due to a leg injury, though the club expect him to join up soon.
The Frenchman suffered the problem in a second half challenge by Newcastle United’s Jonjo Shelvey in Wednesday’s 2-0 win at St. James’s Park, the midfielder not receiving even a booking for what appeared a dangerous challenge.Continue reading...
Referees know they can make a mistake on a bad tackle when they see an incident in a flash and it’s a cop-out not to punish serious fouls on the basis of video evidence
We all make mistakes. Even us football writers, as difficult as it may be to believe, have been known to drop the odd ricket over the years. I must confess, to my eternal shame, that in the mild panic of a last-minute, potentially deadline-busting goal during my early years of covering Manchester City I managed to type in the wrong name for the scorer, Gareth Taylor, and credit his heroics to, well, this is awkward ... myself instead.
The readers of the newspaper I was working for at the time – and Gareth himself, I imagine – must have been bemused to find this rather fanciful version of events slipped past the subeditors and made it into the opening line of the subsequent match report. The only consolation being that it was, thank heavens, before the years when Twitter’s pitchfork mob could be found scouring the internet for fresh prey.
A player embedded his studs into another man’s thigh, injuring his opponent and getting away with it scot-freeContinue reading...
In the Premier League and beyond clubs have a set place in the pecking order and despite the odd Leicester-style success that is not likely to change
In politics it is said that when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. In sport when Manchester United fire a manager – which is rather often nowadays – the chain reaction is felt throughout football. And nowhere more, at present, than at Tottenham. The way the media reacted after José Mourinho was ousted from Old Trafford, it seemed it was already a done deal that Mauricio Pochettino would be United’s new manager next season. It was almost as if it was an embarrassing inconvenience that he had to play along with being Spurs manager for the next few months.
After all, if you’re a film director and you’re offered a Hollywood blockbuster with an unlimited budget, do you really want to continue labouring away on EastEnders? That was the kind of professional distance that was portrayed as existing between Manchester’s nobility and north-London’s perpetual also-rans. Never mind Spurs lead United in the Premier League and, by the reckoning of most observers, are the better team.Continue reading...
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s dream start continues, this a fifth victory in five games, setting up what will be the first stern test of his interim reign: the trip to Tottenham next Sunday.
The run equals Sir Matt Busby’s non-wartime club record, but how United fare against a team 10 points and three places better off will be a litmus test of progress.Continue reading...
- Minute-by-minute updates from the game at Old Trafford
- Solskjaer to ‘voice opinion’ on United transfer business
- Feel free to send your emails to Scott here
80 min: Swift sends Aluko skittering down the right. Meite is free in acres in the middle, but Aluko can’t find the space to loop the ball across, and runs it out of play.
78 min: Good work by Rinomhota down the right, nipping past Jones with ease, the United defender charging out recklessly. But his cross is well cleared by Dalot with Reading forwards waiting to pounce.
77 min: To a chorus of pantomime boos, Chong is booked for a light but cynical clip on Richards.
76 min: Reading make their final change, swapping Harriott for Meite.
75 min: Reading press United back in their final third, Aluko, Barrow and Rinomhota stroking it around, probing hither and yon. But they can’t find the killer pass.
73 min: Reading are still on 61% possession for the match. They’re going out, but they’ve given a great account of themselves this afternoon, a performance that’s sure to give them a boost in their Championship relegation battle.
72 min: Barrow bowls down the left, then slips a pass inside for Aluko, who clips a first-time shot towards the bottom left from the edge of the box. Romero tips round for a corner. From the set piece, Yiadom’s shot hits McTominay on the shoulder. Reading want a penalty, but they’re never getting it. Another corner instead, which comes to nothing.
70 min: Aluko drives at United but the door is slammed shut. United break upfield, Lukaku slipping a ball wide right to Chong, who is fast but can’t get on the end of that. The Old Trafford faithful certainly are excited by the promise of Chong, a huge roar going up as he’s in hot pursuit.
68 min: Young hoicks a free kick into the Reading box from the left. Lukaku can’t get a header on target. Then another wave, as Rashford bursts into the area from the left, but he’s crowded out. Finally a third go, as Young dribbles in from the left and slips a ball inside for Fellaini, who tries to back-flick into the net from close range. No Lee Sharpe he.
66 min: Nothing going on, so BT Sport show footage of Sanchez sitting in Solskjaer’s seat in the dugout, and being told to move in short order.
64 min: Sanchez departs with a frown, as Rashford comes on in his stead.
63 min: Typical timing: Sanchez has pulled up, and has indicated that he needs to come off.
61 min: Reading make their second change, swapping McCleary for Barrow. Meanwhile United make a double substitution: Mata and Fred are replaced by Fellaini and the 19-year-old winger Tahith Chong.
59 min: McCleary makes good ground down the left with some ball-on-string entertainment. He flicks a pass down the channel to release Loader into the box, but the Reading forward has foolishly wandered offside. A needless mistake with United once again looking vulnerable in defence.
57 min: A bit of a lull. United don’t really need to move up the gears, so this is where we are.
55 min: Now it’s Reading’s turn to escape. A long ball down the United left. Lukaku cushions a header down for Sanchez, who can’t get a shot away. Yiadom should clear, but he allows Lukaku to barge him off the ball, to the left of goal. Lukaku sets up Mata, whose first-time swipe hits Moore.
53 min: Aluko jinks his way across the front of the United box, right to left. Then he suddenly checks and plays a cute straight pass to Harriott, who is free on the penalty spot! He has to score, but batters straight at Romero. United escape.
52 min: Dalot and Mata play a long-distance one-two down the right. Dalot dinks one into the centre but Lukaku is on the back foot. Mata tries a cross from the left but it’s too deep. The first signs of United flickering to life in this second half, though.
50 min: Kelly takes a shot from the best part of 40 yards. Full marks for ambition.
49 min: Darmian clatters into the back of Loader, who was in the process of turning him down the inside-left channel, 25 yards from goal. A free kick in a dangerous area. Swift takes, sending one over the wall and dipping towards the bottom right. Romero reads it well and snaffles the catch.
47 min: Harriott dribbles down the middle of the park and flicks a pass to his left for Loader. It doesn’t quite come off, but United were once again light at the back there.
46 min: McClearly and Loader work the ball down the right. The ball’s teed up for Swift, who blazes over from distance. Reading have obviously come out swinging, with nothing to lose. A fair chance, one way or the other, that this won’t end 2-0.
The second half is underway. United get the ball rolling again. Reading have made a change, with the injured Ilori replaced by the forward-thinking Aluko. Rinomhota moves to right back, with Yiadom moving into the centre of defence.
Half-time entertainment. This is delightful. Please don’t get too lost in nostalgic reverie, and remember to come back for the second half.
Reading have been excellent. But United have been clinical. The hosts have one foot in the fourth round.
Just as Reading were threatening to equalise, United break upfield. Sanchez threads a pass down the inside left to release Lukaku, who rounds Jaakkola on the outside and rolls home.
45 min +3: Harriott has a whack this time from his beat out on the right. It’s blocked. But then Yiadom spins Jones with the greatest of ease, down the inside right. He slams a shot towards the top right; it’s parried round the post for a corner that comes to nothing.
45 min +2: Swift has been Reading’s chief creative force, and here he sends a stunning crossfield pass to Harriott out on the right. Not for the first time, there’s a lot of space out there. Not for the first time, Harriott doesn’t do anything with the opportunity.
45 min: There will be five added minutes, a combination of the Ilori injury and the VAR exercise.
44 min: Swift robs Pereira, 35 yards out, and feeds Harriott down the right. Harriott opens his body and looks to pass the ball into the bottom right, but his shot is weak and easily snaffled by Romero.
43 min: Young hauls down Harriott in the middle of the park. For some reason the referee gives Sanchez a lecture instead. This half is petering out.
41 min: Yiadom bursts past Sanchez down the right. There’s not much in it, but the referee blows for a United free kick. Just as well for the hosts, because Yiadom was yomping into the area. Yiadom loses the place completely, throwing semaphore shapes in disgust. He suddenly remembers he’s on a booking and calms down quicksmart.
40 min: Space for McCleary down on the right. He hooks into the box for Loader, but Darmian and Jones crowd out the Reading striker.
37 min: Fred looks industrious and impressive. He sends Lukaku trotting into the Reading half with a quick forward thrust. Lukaku feeds Sanchez on his left. Sanchez dribbles into the box with great purpose, but he’s shepherded away from danger by Ilori, and Jaakkola then hacks away from danger while down on his knees.
35 min: United’s defence is all over the shop, offering up plenty of chances. But Reading aren’t taking them. Twice in the space of a minute, there’s oodles of room for Harriott, then Loader, down the inside-right channel. But both young Reading forwards hesitate when they should drive forward to trouble Romero.
34 min: Reading are still on 61% possession. But what’s possession nowadays? United seem happy to let them ping it around and play on the break.
33 min: Yiadom is quite correctly booked for a wild and late lunge on Fred. He took out the United midfielder’s standing leg with gusto. Clumsy more than anything else, but still.
32 min: Reading aren’t taking this lying down. Harriott has a whack from a position wide on the right. It’s not a million miles from the top-left corner.
30 min: A glorious chance missed at both ends! First Lukaku barrels his way down the middle. He should tear clear, but with Moore on his shoulder, lets the ball clank between his feet. Momentum gone. He finally digs it out for a shot, but Jaakkola parries well. Then Harriott is sent scampering into acres down the right. With United’s entire defence inexplicably AWOL, he slips a ball inside for Loader, who should shoot when one on one with Romero. But instead he tries to round the keeper on the right. Romero stands up well to block for a corner, which leads to nought.
28 min: Sanchez twists and shimmies in the Reading box, but can’t get a shot away because Richards is sticking to him like glue. Ilori, moving well again, sends a long clearance towards Harriott, who briefly threatens to race clear. But Darmian is across to cover well.
27 min: Young tears down the left and sends a low cross-cum-shot into the arms of Jaakkola. The goal has lit a fire under United. They’re playing with much more speed and purpose now.
25 min: Sanchez attempts to cross from the left. The ball clanks into Yiadom’s arm, just inside the box. United want another penalty kick, but they’re not getting one. Yiadom was standing right in front of Sanchez, and he had little chance of getting his arm out of the way. Also, on second viewing, he wasn’t in the box. We move on.
24 min: It took two minutes and five seconds, but that was the correct decision. A shame for Reading, though, who had otherwise started very well.
Mata slots the ball into the bottom right, Jaakkola given no chance!
22 min: And it’s a penalty to United, Mata having been barged over by Richards as he played the ball forward to Fred! Mata will get up and take it himself.
20 min: United score! But the flag goes up! Young hoicks the ball into the Reading area from the left. Fred hooks it down near the penalty spot. Mata plays the dropping ball back to Fred, who sweeps home. But Mata’s touch looks to have caught Fred offside. We’re going to VAR.
18 min: Reading respond very impressively. First Swift looks to have sent Loader clear down the middle with a defence splitter from inside his own half, but the Reading striker went too soon and the flag goes up for offside. Then a left-wing cross from Harriott finds its way to Yiadom, haring into the United area from the right. Yiadom is in acres - where’s Young? - and could take a touch before shooting. But he suffers a rush of blood to the head, and blooters a first-time effort wide and high. That goes down as a good chance spurned.
16 min: Finally, United spring into life. Fred, McTominay and Lukaku play it upfield at speed, some glorious one-touch passing. Sanchez picks up possession 25 yards out, drops a shoulder as he shifts the ball to his right, and sends a dipping screamer, intended for the top left, inches over the bar. So close!
15 min: Ilori’s back up, but padding around gingerly at the moment.
13 min: Ilori has come off second best in a 50-50 challenge for a high ball with Lukaku. He’s landed awkwardly on his hip from a height. On the Reading bench, erstwhile United defender John O’Shea wonders whether he’ll get a fairytale run-out at his alma mater, at the ripe age of 37.
11 min: Reading have enjoyed 62% of possession so far. United have looked a little sleepy so far, not long out of bed.
10 min: McTominay’s back up and about. Reading spend some time probing down the left. Swift then switches play to Harriott, who briefly threatens to turn Pereira down the inside-right channel. Pereira recovers well and United try to break upfield, but Sanchez’s attempt to release Lukaku is wayward.
8 min: United finally get a little rhythm going. Fred at the centre of some pretty triangles. Suddenly Sanchez attempts to turn Harriott down the inside left. He’s fouled, and it’s a chance to clip a free kick into a loaded box. Young wedges the set piece into the mixer. Jones wins a header. Moore wins another to clear. McTominay goes down having hurt his noggin. He’s down getting the magic sponge.
6 min: Loader and Swift try to one-two their way down the middle of the park. A couple of passes stick, the one intended to split United’s defence doesn’t. But full marks for ambition.
4 min: Reading continue to knock the ball around in a carefree style, albeit mainly in their own half. They’ve decided to try to enjoy themselves, by the looks of it, just as their manager suggested. United haven’t got going yet.
2 min: It’s not been all Reading, exactly, but the visitors have been pinging it around in a confident manner. Everyone’s had a touch. Perhaps they’ve been a little too confident, because for a second it looks as though Kelly is going to gift possession to a buzzing Fred on the edge of his own box. But he plays away from danger.
And we’re off! Reading get the ball rolling, and they’ll be kicking towards the Stretford End in this first half.
The teams are out! A fantastic atmosphere at Old Trafford, as the sound of the Stone Roses pings around the place. This is the one. It’s almost as though a huge weight was recently lifted. United are in their famous red, white and black, while Reading sport their traditional blue and white. We’ll be off in a minute. “After the Reading manager’s interview just now, it feels completely surreal to me to have someone named José talking about Manchester United with any kind of enthusiasm or interest.” Adam Kline-Schoder with today’s top zinger, ladies and gentlemen. He’s here all week. Try the pickled egg in a sausage and black pudding coating rolled in breadcrumbs.
Solskjaer speaks ... and smiles. He’s loving this life. “It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, but it’s been fantastic. It’s great to be in a competition that you can win, it’s a trophy we can go for. Most of these players have started a game in the last four games anyway. Romelu and Alexis, it’s about time to start them. I give young Scott a chance, he’s played enough games. It should be an opportunity for everyone to put themselves in the frame for Tottenham. Changing so many players might be a risk, but we have a couple of injuries and some tired legs, so this is how it has to be. I’m going to enjoy it as long as I’m here. If you don’t enjoy working at Man United, you’re not gonna enjoy working in football! I’m not thinking about job prospects, but trophies. This is probably our biggest chance of a trophy. I have told the lads how nice it is to run out at Wembley for a final.”
For the record, the Reading gig is the well-travelled Gomes’ sixth job in the last two-and-a-half years. And his tenth in a 13-year managerial career. He makes Roy Hodgson look like Guy Roux. Altogether now: ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯ There’s a voice, keeps on callin’ me ... ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯
The new Reading manager Jose Manuel Gomes speaks! “It’s a big game, the football party of the English federation. It’s an honour to be part of this game. We must enjoy it, we must show to our supporters that we are able to play good football and get good results in the league. Today is a day to enjoy, and you never know what can happen. United are a strong team with fantastic players. We will try to play positive, offensive football. Why not? I cannot change this because we play against Manchester United, and we will try to give a good picture of what we can do.”
Corrections and clarifications dept. “Hi Scott,” begins Christian Palmer. “It’s not going to make any difference to today’s result, but Reading made it to the semis in 2015. Here’s your minute-by-minute report. Don’t worry, my memory is failing me too.” Oh dear. Thank you. Sorry. Yes, I am getting old. I remember when the Madejski was all fields.
Only two United players remain from the starting XI named for the win at Newcastle on Wednesday. Phil Jones and Juan Mata keep their places. Otherwise it’s all change, with Sergio Romero replacing David de Gea in goal, Matteo Darmian playing in the centre of defence, and the lesser-spotted Alexis Sanchez starting up front.
Reading make four changes to the team thrashed at home by Swansea last weekend. Liam Moore, Liam Kelly, Callum Harriott and Danny Loader replace Sone Aluko, Yakou Meite, Modou Barrow and - returning to his old stomping ground, the Old Trafford benches - John O’Shea.
Manchester United: Romero, Dalot, Darmian, Jones, Young, Fred, McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Mata, Lukaku, Sanchez.
Subs: Lindelof, Rashford, Martial, Grant, Fellaini, Garner, Chong.
Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Tiago Ilori, Moore, Richards, Kelly, Rinomhota, McCleary, Swift, Harriott, Loader.
Subs: Gunter, O’Shea, Aluko, Barrow, Meite, Walker, East.
Manchester United and Reading have history in the FA Cup. A long tradition stretches all the way back to 1912, when Billy Meredith and Sandy Turnbull starred in a 3-0 win for United at Old Trafford. A last-minute goal settled a three-game marathon in Reading’s favour in 1927; the Biscuitmen made it all the way to the semis , the last time they got so far . United beat Reading in successive seasons in 1937 and 1938. Colin Webster and Dennis Violett shone for the Busby Babes in a 4-1 rout in 1955.
In more modern times ... the United of Cantona and Giggs won 3-0 at Elm Park during their successful run of 1996; Gabriel Heinze, Louis Saha and a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put them three up in six minutes (!) at the Madejski in 2007; Nani and Javier Hernandez were the heroes in 2013; Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford wrapped up a 4-0 win this time two years ago.Continue reading...
• Paul Pogba likely to miss FA Cup tie against Reading
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has yet to discuss any potential transfer targets for Manchester United in the current window but will offer an opinion when required.
While the interim manager also suggested Paul Pogba might not be fit for Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie with Reading Solskjaer indicated that if any players are recruited in January this will be a product of a longterm strategy.Continue reading...
Manchester United’s interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted that doesn’t want to leave the job at the end of the season. Speaking after his side’s 2-0 victory against Newcastle, Solskjær said his squad are ‘great bunch of players’ that have created a ‘fantastic atmosphere’Continue reading...
Ole Gunnar Solskjær knows a thing or three about impact substitutions but even Manchester United’s former supersub extraordinaire must have been pleasantly surprised to see Romelu Lukaku step off the bench and score with his first touch.
Until the Belgian’s game-changing intervention, Solskjær had seemed outwitted by Rafael Benítez’s contain-and-counter tactics yet by the end of a bitterly cold Tyneside night the impressive Marcus Rashford had added a second to make it four victories from four for José Mourinho’s interim successor.Continue reading...
- Premier League updates from St James’ Park, kick-off 8pm GMT
- Clockwatch – updates from the rest of tonight’s action
- And feel free to email Jacob or tweet @JacobSteinberg
53 min: Jonjo Shelvey replaces the injured Mo Diame. Shelvey will either win the game for Newcastle or lose it for them.
51 min: Shaw and Mata both try to get the ball into the middle from the left. Nothing doing. Moments later Lindelof outmuscles Rondon and knocks a pass through to Rashford, who’s played onside by Schar. The striker cuts inside, ignores his team-mates in the middle and hits a shot out for a throw.
48 min: A low-key start to the half.
46 min: Newcastle get the second half underway. It’s not long before Lindelof gets a booking.
The home fans applaud. It hasn’t been too bad, you know, but we await the first goal. Manchester United end the half looking likelier.
45 min+2: Diame returns.
45 min: Now Diame’s down and in need of a chat with the physio. This has petered out. Two added minutes.
44 min: Atsu returns to the pitch after some treatment. He’s faded after a bright start. Newcastle could do with him stirring again. They have no spark up front at the moment.
42 min: Mata’s curling delivery tempts Phil Jones. He clears it effortlessly.
41 min: Pogba’s fouled on the right. Mata goes across to take the free-kick.
39 min: After some treatment, Martial lives. Hopefully he won’t have woken up thinking that Mourinho’s still in charge.
38 min: Perez accidentally boots the ball straight into Martial’s face. Down goes the Frenchman. It’s been that sort of half. In fact it’s quite a feat we haven’t seen either team score a farcical goal yet. But Phil Jones is on the pitch, so anything’s possible.
36 min: “If Solksjaer picks Phil Jones to play against Mbappe and Neymar surely UEFA are going to have to step in with some kind of mercy rule,” Michael Meagher says.
No, Michael. Solskjaer just loves attacking football too much.
35 min: Newcastle attack for the first time in around 15 minutes. Atsu crosses from the right and Rondon heads over from six yards. He couldn’t quite rise high enough.
32 min: Lascelles, who’s on a booking, dives into another full-blooded challenge to stop a surging Pogba, who’s sent flying into the air. The replays suggest that was just about on the right side of legal. Which is fortunate for Lascelles given that Pogba was in the Newcastle area.
31 min: Pogba finds Martial, who threatens to burst through on the left, only for Schar to stand firm and deny the forward with a no-nonsense challenge. Moments later Martial flicks the ball through to Rashford, carving Newcastle open. When the ball’s whipped off Rashford’s toes, just in the nick of time, it runs to the right for Mata. But before the Spaniard can stroke home from close range, Dubravaka throws himself at his feet to save Newcastle again.
30 min: Pogba scoops a shot wide from the edge of the area.
28 min: Lascelles overruns the ball and commits himself into a thunderous challenge on Herrera. An obvious yellow card for the Newcastle skipper.
25 min: Another chance for United. Pogba slips a pass inside to Mata, who conjures a delightful assist to set up Martial. However the Frenchman slips after taking the ball on his chest and ends up scooping a disappointing volley over the bar. United’s frustration grows.
24 min: Out of nothing, a long ball from the back from United causes all sorts of problems in the Not United defence. Lascelles and Schar run into each other in the Laurel and Hardy style, allowing Rashford to burst clear. Luckily for the comedy duo, Dubravaka’s going about his job more seriously tonight and he ensures that a sliding Rashford can’t poke the ball past him and into the net.
23 min: Atsu tries to release Rondon but United defender Phil Jones covers and manages not to score an own goal. “Good evening Jäcob, what’s with all these photos of Manchester United staff smiling broadly?” Justin Kävänägh says. “I didn’t think Alexis Sanchez even knew how to smile any more. What a difference a visit from a kindly old veteran filled with good will from Lapland over Christmas makes.”
22 min: “It’s Newcastle United so please stop referring to Manchester just as United in your updates,” weeps John Manning.
20 min: Still no goals for Rashford or Pogba or Martial. Get Fellaini on. That’s how it works, right?
18 min: Perez drops deep and drives a lovely pass over the top to Atsu. Where’s Valencia gone? The right-back’s leaving his man a lot of space. However Atsu’s first touch takes him wide and he lacks a clinical touch again, dragging a lame effort across the face of goal from the left of the United area.
15 min: United counter after that scare and almost silence the increasingly noisy home fans, only for Martial’s shot from the left to rip into the side netting. Close. This might turn into a good game!
14 min: Atsu threatens again on the left after poor defending from Jones. The winger stands up Lindelof and dribbles past the Swede. He’s cut inside on to his right feet and he tries to surprise De Gea with a low stabbed effort. The United goalkeeper is alive to the danger, though, diving to his right to hold. Moments later Newcastle cause more problems. Jones, who scored a majestic own goal against Valencia last month, is hassled into conceding possession by Perez after dawdling near his own area. It’s so dozy and the pressure from Perez sees the ball run through to an onside Rondon, who’s clear on goal. However the striker doesn’t react quickly enough - was he expecting a flag? - and lets Jones race back to make a recovery tackle.
13 min: Newcastle lob an up and under into the United area and Atsu, more alert than Herrera, darts in from the left. The winger controls well but he’s quickly under pressure and only manages to slide a shot straight at De Gea, who makes an easy save.
10 min: Martial runs on to a long ball down the right and tries to outpace Lascelles, who leans in and knocks the United forward over on the edge of the area. Andre Marriner isn’t interested in United’s appeals for another free-kick. Newcastle will argue it’s a contact sport.
9 min: Martial wins a free-kick on the left after being fouled by Yedling. It’s quite far out and the angle isn’t great, but Rashford decides he wants to have a go after scoring at Cardiff. The striker tries to catch out Dubravka with a wobbling low effort towards the near post but the Newcastle goalkeeper dives to his right to make the save. He can’t keep hold of the ball, though, and it squirms clear. There’s a moment of panic in the Newcastle defence but they eventually get the situation under control. Or, to be more precise, Phil Jones was the player trying to do something with the loose ball.
8 min: This feels like Crystal Palace v Chelsea on Sunday, with the hosts sitting back and the visitors seeing most of the ball. The question is whether United can break Newcastle down. Or whether Newcastle will chance their arm with an attack or two.
7 min: Yedlin clips Pogba’s heels on the left. United resist the temptation to send the big men forward from the back. They just keep on playing. Newcastle eventually win the ball back for a brief spell of possession, but they don’t keep it for long.
5 min: Diame picks up possession on the halfway line and pings a long pass straight out for a goal-kick. Excellent.
4 min: United attack down the left, Martial dribbling into the area and exchanging passes with Mata. Yedlin stops the ball reaching Martial, who would have been through on goal. The ball comes back to Pogba, who shoots straight at Dubravka from the left. It seems Newcastle are playing a back five, with Dummett joining Schar and Lascelles in the middle and Yedlin and Ritchie as wing-backs.
2 min: Philippe Albert.
Peep! Manchester United, in their red shirts and white shorts, get the game underway, kicking from left to right in the first half. Newcastle are, get this, in black and white stripes.
Here come the teams! We’ll have football under the St James’s Park lights soon.
“Why can’t you Brits be bothered to get the basics right?” Charles Bruggman roars. “His name is Fabian Schär (the umlaut modifies the sound). If you cannot find a keyboard with the appropriate accents, the alternative spelling is ‘Schaer’. Brexit does not justify sloppiness.”
Brexit means I don’t have to use umlauts any more. About bloody time! Although I do have it in my locker. Watch: Chärles.
Rafa Benitez speaks! “It will be a tough game but we are confident that we can win if we do things well. At the same time I say to my players we have to stay focused to the end. Hopefully it will be the same as last season and we can win. The key thing is to do things right. If we do maybe they will be frustrated. But they are a good team.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks! “The boys have set the standards of where we can perform. The first proper test is when you come away from home. It’s never an easy game at Newcastle, although we had a decent record here when we played. It’s a strong bench. We have a strong squad and that gives us options. I want to put Alexis Sanchez on because he’s been looking sharp in training. He’s been away for a month but he’s really worked hard.”
You’ll remember that Alexis Sanchez’s last-minute winner in Manchester United’s comeback win over Newcastle at Old Trafford in October was a real turning point for Jose Mo... oh. But that was a cracking game. Newcastle swept into a two-goal lead at half-time and were unlucky not to be further ahead. They’ll have a chance if they play like that, but they know better than most sides that United are hugely dangerous when they gather attacking momentum.
Newcastle make one change after last Saturday’s draw at Watford. Fabian Schar replaces the injured Federico Fernandez at the back.
Manchester United make three changes after last Sunday’s win over Bournemouth. Antonio Valencia replaces Ashley Young at right-back, Phil Jones comes in for the suspended Eric Bailly and Juan Mata starts in place of Jesse Lingard. Alexis Sanchez, who was absolutely devastated to see Jose Mourinho go, is on the bench after returning from injury.
Newcastle: Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett; Diame, Hayden; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Rondon. Subs: Woodman, Manquillo, Lejeune, Shelvey, Kenedy, Muto, Joseulu.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Matic, Herrera, Pogba; Mata; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Young, Fred, Darmian, Lingard, Sanchez, Lukaku.
Hello. Turns out Sir Alex Ferguson headed into Manchester United’s training ground to give a pep talk to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff. Just like the old days in a way. In fact sometimes you almost get the sense that United would love nothing more than to transport themselves back to the 90s. Why not get the whole band back together? Fergie and Ole together in the dugout, Giggsy and Becks on the wings, Keano ... well, maybe it wouldn’t work with Keano and Fergie any more. But you get the drift. The 90s: a bloody great time to be alive if you supported Manchester United Football Club.
Mind you, the same could be said of Newcastle United supporters. Those were some rare times indeed for St James’s Park regulars. They almost won the title with Kevin Keegan and charge and the football was magnificent, with the likes of Faustino Asprilla, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer and Temuri Ketsbaia in attack. This was one of the top fixtures. There was always excitement and meaning when Newcastle played Manchester United.Continue reading...
• Out-of-form Newcastle face Manchester United on Wednesday
• ‘Everyone, players, staff, has to realise it is so difficult for us’
José Mourinho’s often stark candour won few hearts and minds at Manchester United but Rafael Benítez believes his own brand of brutal honesty can help keep Newcastle United in the Premier League.
As Benítez prepared to welcome a team from Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s interim care to Tyneside on Wednesday night he reflected on the fine line separating debilitating negativity and necessary realism.Continue reading...
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær says the club's former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, has visited the club recently and remains a key influence on both himself and Old Trafford. Solskjær says he keeps Ferguson informed and admits he feels 'at home' back in his old Manchester habitatContinue reading...
• Former manager gave pep talks to Solskjær and his staff
• Ferguson recovering from last spring’s brain haemorrhage
Sir Alex Ferguson provided encouragement and a series of informal pep talks for Ole Gunnar Solskjær and the Manchester United manager’s staff at the training ground on Saturday.
“He paid us a visit,” said Solskjær as he prepared his players for Wednesday night’s trip to face a Newcastle United side managed by one of Ferguson’s former rivals, Rafael Benítez. “Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed his time at the training ground, we had a few nice chats and he encouraged us. He knows the staff I’ve got are Manchester United through and through. He knows we’re going to do whatever we can, up to the last second we’re here, for Manchester United, as best we can.”Continue reading...