Football: Defeated Manchester United 'on right track'

Goalkeeper David de Gea falling after a clash with Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk in Sunday's Premier League game. Referee Craig Pawson did not give a foul and Manchester United's players confronted him to protest after Roberto Firmino scored in the aft
Goalkeeper David de Gea falling after a clash with Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk in Sunday's Premier League game. Referee Craig Pawson did not give a foul and Manchester United's players confronted him to protest after Roberto Firmino scored in the aftermath. The Red Devils have been charged over the players' conduct.PHOTO: REUTERS

Solskjaer insists Reds result shows progress, ignores criticism of Woodward's transfers

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has refused to respond to Gary Neville's criticism of Ed Woodward, with the Manchester United manager instead pointing to the "strides forward" made by his team in Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Liverpool.

Neville, a former club captain, described Woodward's player recruitment as unforgivable in a vociferous attack on the executive vice-chairman after the loss at Anfield.

He felt that Woodward should take the blame after having spent around £850 million (S$1.5 billion) in his seven years in charge, yet the current United squad are 30 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Ahead of today's Premier League home match against Burnley, Solskjaer was asked about his former teammate's comments.

"For me, we lost to Liverpool, a team that you all say are fantastic, but we were in the game until the last kick," the Norwegian said at his press conference. "And, for me, that's strides forward.

"We're disappointed about losing the game, we don't want to be behind them but there were signs that we are on the right track.

"Now is not the time to speak about recruitment. We're looking to Burnley. Now is not the time to talk about Gary and the discussion."

United won 2-0 at Burnley on Dec 28 and he will be banking on home form this time round, having won four of their last five games in all competitions at Old Trafford.

The 46-year-old said: "We played them 31/2 weeks ago, had to work really hard to get the points, defended really well and, every time we play against Sean's (Dyche) team, we have to earn it.

"So we have to approach this game as if they've won five in a row. We might make some changes.

"We are looking forward to it, we're at home and we've been doing well at home recently so, hopefully, that can continue."

SILVER LINING

For me, we lost to Liverpool, a team that you all say are fantastic, but we were in the game until the last kick. And, for me, that's strides forward. We're disappointed about losing the game, we don't want to be behind them but there were signs that we are on the right track.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Manchester United manager, has a positive take on their 2-0 Premier League loss at Liverpool.

Marcus Rashford, their top scorer this season with 19 goals in all competitions, is the latest addition to an injury list that includes fellow key players, midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

The England striker faces at least six weeks out with a back problem.

Solskjaer, who is reported to be looking for a short-term fix in the January transfer window, said: "He won't be fit for this game that's for sure. He will be out for a while, he'll get the time he needs to recover.

"We're always looking at improving the squad and seeing if there's anything out there but nothing I can talk about now."

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been constantly linked this month, but a possible deal has hit a stalemate with a fee yet to be agreed.

Solksjaer remained coy and said: "You're never 100 per cent sure something's gonna happen until it happens so we'll update you."

Meanwhile, United have been charged by the Football Association over their players' conduct during the loss to Liverpool.

They surrounded referee Craig Pawson midway through the first half after Reds defender Virgil van Dijk challenged and fouled their goalkeeper David De Gea. United failed to clear the ball and Roberto Firmino scored. But his goal was ruled out following a video assistant referee's review of the clash.

The club have until tomorrow to respond to the charge but Solskjaer was nonplussed.

He said: "Maybe I shouldn't talk too much about that. Let's get that decision done but... (the goal) is overturned.

"I reacted myself because everybody could see it was a foul."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAN UNITED V BURNLEY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Defeated United 'on right track''. Print Edition | Subscribe