Old Trafford magic missing, boss laments

Empty stands depriving United of X factor as they seek to arrest further home decline

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the EPL football match between Everton and Manchester United on Nov 7, 2020.
Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the EPL football match between Everton and Manchester United on Nov 7, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his side's poor home form in the Premier League this season, and backed his players to pick up a win at Old Trafford today.

The Red Devils are languishing in 14th spot in the standings with just 10 points after seven games, and have been winless at home with three defeats and a draw.

Speaking ahead of today's home clash with West Brom, the Norwegian said: "Home and away now is different, not like it used to be.

"We've had four home games in the league, the first one we look at us having no preparation and Palace deserved it (3-1 win).

"Tottenham deserved win (6-1) after Anthony (Martial) sending off, other two games if we had our fans we might have sparked that little extra X factor we needed in two close games (0-0 draw with Chelsea and 1-0 loss to Arsenal).

"Our best win this season was against Leipzig (5-0) at home though. It's something we wanna correct and get our first win, hopefully against West Brom, but it's a different sensation playing in front of the Stretford End without fans, they normally score a goal for us."

United's 3-1 victory at Everton the last time out ensured the two-week break was not filled with more speculation over the manager's future. But in a topsy-turvy season, there are no guarantees the team will build on that win even with West Brom still looking for their first win of the season.

United's winless home streak in the league is now six, stretching back to last season, and they have already lost one more game at Old Trafford than they did in all of the last campaign.

West Brom should be the perfect visitors with Slaven Bilic's men having taken just three points from eight games. But the Baggies have won three and drawn one of their last five visits to United.

"I expect a good team who will come and cause problems, but I focus on us and I want to see more of what we've been good at. I want to see us dominate," said Solskjaer.

The United boss also confirmed that Luke Shaw will be out with an injury, while fellow defenders Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof are doubts for today's match.

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He also offered his support for Paul Pogba, as the France midfielder continues to be linked with a move away from United.

He said: "Paul's had a difficult season last season, had Covid now, those three games he played for France helped.

"I spoke to Paul and he felt towards end of the Portugal and Sweden games he felt stronger for it, he played well, they qualified, I think he's only going to improve.

"Paul is a very important player and very important person for us and to have him in form and happy is gonna be important."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Old Trafford magic missing, boss laments'. Print Edition | Subscribe