Football: Scrappy win but Solksjaer lauds Manchester United

Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates after Premier League's Leicester City v Manchester United, on Feb 3, 2019.
Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates after Premier League's Leicester City v Manchester United, on Feb 3, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

He salutes them for winning without playing well, then travels to see European rivals PSG

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wasted no time after his ninth victory in 10 games to fly to Lyon to watch Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue One match in preparation for Manchester United's last-16 first-leg tie with the French champions next Tuesday.

After overcoming another tricky hurdle last Sunday to emerge with a 1-0 win at Leicester, Premier League games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City loom, as well as the European challenge.

Although Solskjaer, who is on loan from Molde, had previously said he would return to them in May, he has since revealed that the Norwegian club's co-owners have wished him "good luck" and told him not to return.

The United caretaker manager, who took charge in December for the rest of the season, is certainly presenting a compelling case to be given the job full-time.

While United were not at their flowing best at the King Power Stadium, Solskjaer saluted his players for showing that they could win without playing well.

The Red Devils bounced back from a 2-2 draw with Burnley last Tuesday to leapfrog Arsenal into fifth place in the league.

He told reporters: "Our lads sacrificed everything they had. They know they can do better than this, but a clean sheet is always a foundation to build on.

  • English Premier League talking points

  • 1 SEAGULLS NEED TO UNCLIP WINGS

    Chris Hughton may not be looking over his shoulder just yet but a fifth consecutive game without a Premier League win has seen his Brighton side drop perilously close to the relegation dogfight.

    Cardiff's victory means the Seagulls are only five points clear of trouble and having picked up only six points from their last 10 league games, the manager will be eager to stop the slide.

    While they will have an immediate opportunity to do that on Saturday against Burnley, Hughton will be wary of their opponents given that the Clarets are also fighting for their lives.

    2 TOFFEES' SEASON TURNING SOUR

    Wolves gave Everton a beating and many reasons for envy on Saturday. Nuno Espirito Santo's men were organised, committed and dangerous - everything Marco Silva's side were not as they slipped to their sixth defeat in nine league games.

    In Conor Coady, they possessed a defensive strength and discipline that was in stark contrast to the performance of Michael Keane, while in Joao Moutinho, they had the purpose and invention the home midfield failed to deliver.

    But it was in attack where Everton were totally eclipsed by the quality of Raul Jimenez, whose work rate and contribution put the efforts of all of Silva's offensive players - Theo Walcott, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Cenk Tosun - to shame.

    3 COTTAGERS AWAIT 'DILLY-DING, DILLY-DONG'

    While winning the league with Leicester meant Claudio Ranieri arrived at Craven Cottage with a reputation as a miracle worker, Fulham have seen little evidence of the Italian's supposed magical powers since appointing him in November.

    The side with the worst defensive record in the league are just as bad as they were under Slavisa Jokanovic.

    Second-last Fulham, the only team without an away win, looked like they were waiting to be relegated during their loss to Crystal Palace and successive home games against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are unlikely to lift the mood.

    THE GUARDIAN

"We could've done better higher up the pitch in terms of defending but we deserved the three points.

"We never strung passes together, we didn't control the game, but we're away with three points.

"Second half, I thought we were more concerned about the result than the performance and it showed."

Highlighting the growing influence and combination of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - who has now netted six in his last eight league games compared to just three before Jose Mourinho was sacked last December - he said: "Marcus has played a lot of games and he got a dead leg earlier on, but he struggled through it.

"Good players make each other better and I can only explain goals like this with quality."

Pundits have also noticed the 21-year-old Rashford's transformation - not only has his conversion rate in the league improved, but so has his volume of shots at goal from less than two per game to close to five under Solskjaer.

Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted post-game: "Mature beyond his years. He's always struck me as totally confident and calm in his finishing."

While Alexis Sanchez played a part in Rashford's winner, he was otherwise pretty anonymous. But Solskjaer defended the Chile forward, who struggled to make inroads into the Foxes' defence.

The 45-year-old added: "He's played well today, but we just had to change the dynamics of the game a bit and (substitute) Anthony Martial has got fresh legs so I don't think there's any problem with his confidence, I thought he did well."

Still, even with an off-key Sanchez, Solskjaer and assistant Mike Phelan will be confident their attack can pose a serious threat to PSG's defence after they watched Thomas Tuchel's men fall to a 2-1 loss at Lyon, their first league loss of the term.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2019, with the headline 'Scrappy win but Ole lauds team'. Print Edition | Subscribe