EPL

Man Utd boss Solskjaer says no quick fixes for Red Devils in transfer market

By Sports Desk January 19, 2021

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted the Premier League giants only sign players that fit the club's long-term strategy amid ongoing transfer links.

With the January transfer window open, United have once again been linked to Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Bayern Munich's soon-to-be free agent David Alaba and Lens defender Facundo Medina among others.

During the previous window, United signed 33-year-old forward Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles, Facundo Pellistri and teenage sensation Amad Diallo – who arrived from Atalanta this month.

As United eye their first Premier League title since 2012-13, Solskjaer discussed the club's transfer plans.

"Whenever you get the chance to speak to players or learn about their personalities, what you get through a chat when you've been put together, that is very important," Solskjaer said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Fulham.

"And of course, we've been here, we know where we want to get to at Manchester United. Do you want to be part of bringing us back to the successful times - that's always been one of the topics that we've discussed.

"We're not here for a quick fix, we have players who have a long-term role to play. Even if it's, say Edinson [Cavani] coming in at the age of 33, he still has a part-long term by who he is, and how he comes in and what he does to the club and to the players."

United are second in the Premier League but can reclaim their two-point lead atop the table with victory at Fulham midweek.

Solskjaer's United are unbeaten in their last 16 Premier League away games. In their top-flight history, they have only once gone longer without defeat on the road – 17 matches between December 1998-September 1999.

Luke Shaw has played a key role for United following his man-of-the-match display in Sunday's 0-0 draw against defending champions Liverpool at Anfield.

Form and fitness have hampered Shaw since his big-money arrival from Southampton in 2014, but the 25-year-old full-back is returning to his consistent best.

"Luke has immense quality," Solskjaer said. "He has a very good technique, good quality. You see against Liverpool, he takes the ball and drives forward, that is something that I have pushed him more to do because we know he can do it.

"It is generally down to the boy himself, mentally he is very good at the moment, he has become a dad. He is physically very good, his fitness is so much better and he keeps beating his high-intensity stats and his total distance stats. He has been consistently up there with what a full-back should be doing.

"When you have the talent of Luke, when that fitness and the mental bit is sorted then you are always going to get good performances."

United are the only side without an away defeat in the Premier League this season (W7 D2), while the Red Devils have picked up the most points (23) and scored the most goals (22) on the road in the competition this term.

The Manchester team are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League games against promoted sides (W6 D2), scoring 25 goals in those games since a 2-0 loss to Cardiff City in May 2019.

Meanwhile, of all clubs to have played more than two Premier League games on Wednesdays, United have the highest win rate (62 per cent - 70/113).

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    Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have found his next club.

    Marca reported on Monday the former Manchester United forward was set to join Al Nassr on January 1 after agreeing his exit from Old Trafford last month.

    News of a lucrative contract offer from the Saudi Pro League club emerged last week, with Ronaldo said to be in line to earn more than £100million a year.

    The 37-year-old, who is still in World Cup action with Portugal, appears destined to head outside of Europe for the first time in his storied career.

    Al Nassr are not a renowned name in Europe but have enjoyed huge success in Saudi Arabia, so what can Ronaldo expect should he head to Riyadh?

    Who are Al Nassr?

    Formed in 1955 and winning the Saudi top flight in their very first season, Al Nassr have nine championships to their name – second only to Al Hilal's 15.

    Indeed, Al Nassr and Al Hilal have between them won eight of the past nine Pro League titles, although Al Hilal have taken the most recent three in a row.

    The two sides contest the Riyadh derby, with Al Hilal winning the most recent edition 4-0 in March.

    Ronaldo's new team-mates

    Saudi Arabia's entirely Saudi-based World Cup squad included six Al Nassr players, with Sultan Al Ghannam and Abdulelah Al Amri appearing as substitutes in the shock defeat of Lionel Messi's Argentina.

    But the better known players in the Al Nassr squad are likely those from foreign shores.

    Cameroon's World Cup star Vincent Aboubakar is joined by former Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo, along with three-cap Argentina international Pity Martinez.

    Goalkeeper David Ospina has represented Colombia at several World Cups, as well as turning out for Arsenal and Napoli, while Talisca was once a highly rated young forward at Benfica and has scored regularly at Al Nassr.

    South Korea's left-back Kim Jin-su is out on loan.

    Potential debut date

    The Saudi season paused in October ahead of the World Cup but will begin again next week.

    Al Nassr are set to play Al Hilal on December 26, meaning Ronaldo will have missed the derby if he joins in January.

    The legendary striker could be in the line-up against Al Tai in Al Nassr's first match of 2023 on January 5, however.

    Al Shabab lead the Pro League by three points ahead of second-placed Al Nassr, with a top-of-the-table clash lined up for January 13.

  • Dias pleads to Portuguese media for unity over Ronaldo criticism Dias pleads to Portuguese media for unity over Ronaldo criticism

    Ruben Dias pleaded with the Portuguese media to promote unity rather than trying to create a divide following criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Fernando Santos' Portugal side will face Switzerland in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday after winning Group H despite a shock defeat to South Korea on matchday three.

    Ronaldo endured a particularly difficult day against the Taeguk Warriors.

    He failed to hit the target with either of his two shots and was caught offside three times, with a couple of those situations raising questions of his concentration.

    The 37-year-old was withdrawn in the second half and simultaneously had a disagreement with South Korea forward Cho Gue-sung.

    Since then, a poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggests 70 per cent of supporters want Ronaldo to be dropped, and defender Dias had a defiant response.

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    "I'd like to take this moment to say, in this tournament the press is supporting us and Ronaldo, so I'd like to make an appeal to the press; as we progress, instead of creating a divide, create unity, then who knows maybe we'll have good strength and positive energy for all involved."

    If Ronaldo was to be dropped, Rafael Leao would be among the favourites to step in.

    The Milan forward came on as a substitute in all three of Portugal's group games, but Santos appears to think he still requires some adaptation work.

    "He has a huge potential, and I think he will have a promising career," Santos added.

    "But of course he faces the difficulties of any player who has a place in a club like his, where he plays more on the left and playing for the club he has more freedom.

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  • Santos scolds Ronaldo for South Korea spat as Portugal coach insists transfer talk not his focus Santos scolds Ronaldo for South Korea spat as Portugal coach insists transfer talk not his focus

    Cristiano Ronaldo's spat with South Korea's Cho Gue-sung frustrated Fernando Santos, who was unsure on reports surrounding the Portugal captain's future.

    Ronaldo was involved in an exchange with Cho during his side's World Cup defeat to South Korea on Friday, where he appeared to get into a verbal tussle with his opponent as he was substituted.

    The 37-year-old confirmed after the game that his frustrations had been with Cho, and not at Santos' decision to take him off.

    While Santos has put the matter behind him ahead of Portugal's last-16 tie with Switzerland on Tuesday, he made it clear he was not impressed by Ronaldo's reaction.

    "Did I see the images? I did," he said, in reference to footage of the incident. "Did I like it? Not at all. I really didn't like it at all.

    "But from then on, these matters are resolved internally. From there, we think about the next game, for which everyone will be focused. The matter is over."

    News emerged shortly before Santos' pre-match press conference that Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr were close to signing Ronaldo, who is a free agent after leaving Manchester United.

    "I haven't spoken to him about this. I didn't know about this," Santos said.

    "Someone only told me a few minutes ago. But that's his decision, and something that he has to deal with. We are focused on the World Cup and this team."

    Ronaldo has scored only once in Qatar, converting a penalty he won in Portugal's 3-2 win over Ghana in their opening Group H match.

    He became the first man to score at five different World Cups in the process, though he is yet to score in a knockout game in the competition.

    Indeed, only Brazil great Roberto Carlos has had more attempts (29) without scoring in the knockout stages than Ronaldo (25) since 1966.

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