United set for Wolves test

Following the big win over Chelsea, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes that his emphasis on fitness in pre-season is paying off.
Following the big win over Chelsea, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes that his emphasis on fitness in pre-season is paying off.PHOTO: REUTERS

Solskjaer wary of dangerous counter-attacks and set-pieces of Nuno's team at Molineux

LONDON • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could perhaps be forgiven if he is dreading the thought of facing Wolverhampton Wanderers today.

After all, he has been beaten twice by their Premier League opponents since he took over from Jose Mourinho last December.

In the span of 18 days, Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves defeated United 2-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final in March, and won by the same scoreline in the league in April, both at their home Molineux Stadium, also the venue today.

Solskjaer is building a momentum after thrashing Chelsea 4-0 last weekend, but he has also identified two threats, Wolves' counter-attacks and set-pieces, that his players must try to nullify today.

"Wolverhampton will give us a very hard challenge, we have to break them down, we have to stop them counter-attacking and can't give them too many set-pieces," the Norwegian said.

"Of course the last two visits there... it almost feels like I'm going home, I've been there so often lately.

"They were tough games and Wolverhampton are a hard team to break down, they defend deep, don't give you a lot of spaces, and they can play.

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    Manchester United, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, were twice beaten by Wolves at the Molineux last season.

"So, we've been looking at the games we've had last season, see if there's any tweaks or different things we need to do this time."

Following the big win over Chelsea, Solskjaer believes that his emphasis on fitness in pre-season is paying off.

"Chelsea outran us quite a lot in April, now we've outrun them, so of course that's a good shift for us," the United boss said.

"We've had a good pre-season, so fitness is better, we've got a young team which will give us that energy and mentality. Towards the end of last season, we were mentally tired, now mentally fresh.

"I'm looking forward to the first hurdle, because you want to see the resilience and the robustness, that we can bounce back when the going gets tough and I'm sure it will be on Monday."

While the youngsters, notably Mason Greenwood, 17, Angel Gomes, 18, and Tahith Chong, 19, are getting playing time under Solskjaer, the future of 30-year-old Alexis Sanchez seems to be getting bleaker.

According to The Guardian, Inter Milan are hoping to sign the Chilean forward on a season-long loan.

Having already signed Romelu Lukaku from United for £74 million (S$124.5 million), Inter coach Antonio Conte has turned his attention to Sanchez after missing out on Edin Dzeko, who extended his contract with Roma by three years.

Since signing in January last year from Arsenal, Sanchez has scored only three Premier League goals and his last in any competition was at Arsenal in a 3-1 FA Cup win in January.

Yet Solskjaer has insisted that Sanchez is still part of his plans and is working to regain fitness after injuring his hamstring at the Copa America last month.

"Alexis is such a professional and he comes in working every single day really hard," he said.

"He has had three weeks (of training) now, a few weeks behind the rest but close to being part of it.

"We don't have the biggest forward line in numbers (following Lukaku's departure) so Alexis might end up playing a lot more games than you expect."

THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'United set for Wolves test'. Print Edition | Subscribe