Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's working relationship with the club he loves is set to carry on until at least 2024 after he signed an extension with Manchester United.

The deal, a pre-season boost as United prepare for a new campaign, came with a glowing endorsement from outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who talked up the "foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch" in the official statement released by the club.

There are obvious reasons to be so optimistic, too, considering the Red Devils finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League and also reached the Europa League final.

However, as has become a worrying trend of late, they still came up short in the quest for silverware. Solskjaer's new deal, plus the signing of Jadon Sancho, shows a high degree of faith in the current regime, but also shortens the list of excuses if the near-misses continue.

Partnerships in football can sour swiftly if things do not pan out as hoped – the previous manager to occupy the home dugout at Old Trafford knows that only too well...

A sign of better times after life under Mourinho

Solskjaer has a win rate of 52.6 per cent in the Premier League since taking charge. His average of 1.86 points per game sits him third on the United list since the competition's inception, behind an undoubted club legend and a former boss who knows an extension is not always a guarantee of sticking around.

Jose Mourinho triumphed in exactly 50 of his 93 league games in charge. In contrast to the man who replaced him, the Portuguese had early success with United as well, winning the EFL Cup and the Europa League in his first season.

Those seemingly solid foundations subsided quickly, though. He was handed an extension in January 2018 yet was gone inside a year, dismissed amid dissatisfaction with not just results on the pitch but also the style of play. A defeat to Liverpool at Anfield proved to be the final straw.

Mourinho fell seven games short of his Premier League century with the Red Devils, caught out by his entrenched views on how the team should be set up as he seemingly failed to grasp the club's traditions.

Solskjaer now has his hundred within sight, a number that seemed highly improbable when he flew in from Molde to answer United's SOS (Save Our Season) call. The trip to Wolves on August 29, United's third outing in 2021-22, following on from games against Leeds United and Southampton, will see him reach three figures in the Premier League. 

In doing so, he will become the first manager to make it to the milestone with United since Alex Ferguson. Matching his league success rate of 65.2 per cent may appear a tall order, but the team have been trending in the right direction after mixed times under the stewardship of more illustrious names.

United's 73 league goals they scored last term were the highest tallied in the post-Ferguson era, while 12 away wins in the top flight were also the most since the Scot stepped aside. All they need to do now is work out a way to get over the hump, whether that be at home or abroad.

Finding the balance in the quest for success

Upon his arrival in December 2018, Solskjaer cited the "very talented squad" at his disposal. That group which struggled for points in the dying embers of Mourinho's reign went unbeaten in his first 12 league games, a run that helped the caretaker stick around in the job for a while longer.

A Champions League away win over Paris Saint-Germain provided further ammunition to suggest the Norwegian should be retained on a permanent basis (he would receive a three-year deal). Marcus Rashford scored the winner from the penalty spot on that famous night in the French capital, one of his 52 goals under Solskjaer.

No player has managed more than the England international, who also tops the list for appearances (128). Mason Greenwood – another product of the academy system that remains so highly valued by both club officials and supporters – has 29 goals in 105 appearances.

There have been hugely successful signings, too, with Bruno Fernandes (40 goals in just 80 games) the pick of the bunch. Edinson Cavani, who scored 17 times in the 2020-21 season, proved an astute bit of business as well, a free transfer that paid off spectacularly as a much-needed focal point in the forward line.

Rashford, Greenwood, Fernandes and Cavani demonstrate the "good balance" within the squad that Solskjaer mentioned in the announcement of his new contract. Sancho joining from Borussia Dortmund only adds even greater depth to the attacking options, having returned to Manchester – albeit the other side of the divide – after dazzling during his time in the Bundesliga.

A centre-back, quite possibly Raphael Varane, would help bolster the back-line that gave up 44 league goals in the previous season, but Solskjaer has plenty to work with already.

He spoke both prior to the end of the league season and also in the aftermath of losing on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League showpiece about the need to strengthen the squad, calling for two or three high-profile signings.

Sancho is certainly one of those, while Varane would tick that box as well, so it seems the much-maligned owners board are set to grant him his wish.

United have shown faith in Solskjaer throughout and now he needs to repay them in the only way possible – by winning trophies.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's working relationship with the club he loves is set to carry on until at least 2024 after he signed an extension with Manchester United.

The deal, a pre-season boost as United prepare for a new campaign, came with a glowing endorsement from outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who talked up the "foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch" in the official statement released by the club.

There are obvious reasons to be so optimistic, too, considering the Red Devils finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League and also reached the Europa League final.

However, as has become a worrying trend of late, they still came up short in the quest for silverware. Solskjaer's new deal, plus the signing of Jadon Sancho, shows a high degree of faith in the current regime, but also shortens the list of excuses if the near-misses continue.

Partnerships in football can sour swiftly if things do not pan out as hoped – the previous manager to occupy the home dugout at Old Trafford knows that only too well...

A sign of better times after life under Mourinho

Solskjaer has a win rate of 52.6 per cent in the Premier League since taking charge. His average of 1.86 points per game sits him third on the United list since the competition's inception, behind an undoubted club legend and a former boss who knows an extension is not always a guarantee of sticking around.

Jose Mourinho triumphed in exactly 50 of his 93 league games in charge. In contrast to the man who replaced him, the Portuguese had early success with United as well, winning the EFL Cup and the Europa League in his first season.

Those seemingly solid foundations subsided quickly, though. He was handed an extension in January 2018 yet was gone inside a year, dismissed amid dissatisfaction with not just results on the pitch but also the style of play. A defeat to Liverpool at Anfield proved to be the final straw.

Mourinho fell seven games short of his Premier League century with the Red Devils, caught out by his entrenched views on how the team should be set up as he seemingly failed to grasp the club's traditions.

Solskjaer now has his hundred within sight, a number that seemed highly improbable when he flew in from Molde to answer United's SOS (Save Our Season) call. The trip to Wolves on August 29, United's third outing in 2021-22, following on from games against Leeds United and Southampton, will see him reach three figures in the Premier League. 

In doing so, he will become the first manager to make it to the milestone with United since Alex Ferguson. Matching his league success rate of 65.2 per cent may appear a tall order, but the team have been trending in the right direction after mixed times under the stewardship of more illustrious names.

United's 73 league goals they scored last term were the highest tallied in the post-Ferguson era, while 12 away wins in the top flight were also the most since the Scot stepped aside. All they need to do now is work out a way to get over the hump, whether that be at home or abroad.

Finding the balance in the quest for success

Upon his arrival in December 2018, Solskjaer cited the "very talented squad" at his disposal. That group which struggled for points in the dying embers of Mourinho's reign went unbeaten in his first 12 league games, a run that helped the caretaker stick around in the job for a while longer.

A Champions League away win over Paris Saint-Germain provided further ammunition to suggest the Norwegian should be retained on a permanent basis (he would receive a three-year deal). Marcus Rashford scored the winner from the penalty spot on that famous night in the French capital, one of his 52 goals under Solskjaer.

No player has managed more than the England international, who also tops the list for appearances (128). Mason Greenwood – another product of the academy system that remains so highly valued by both club officials and supporters – has 29 goals in 105 appearances.

There have been hugely successful signings, too, with Bruno Fernandes (40 goals in just 80 games) the pick of the bunch. Edinson Cavani, who scored 17 times in the 2020-21 season, proved an astute bit of business as well, a free transfer that paid off spectacularly as a much-needed focal point in the forward line.

Rashford, Greenwood, Fernandes and Cavani demonstrate the "good balance" within the squad that Solskjaer mentioned in the announcement of his new contract. Sancho joining from Borussia Dortmund only adds even greater depth to the attacking options, having returned to Manchester – albeit the other side of the divide – after dazzling during his time in the Bundesliga.

A centre-back, quite possibly Raphael Varane, would help bolster the back-line that gave up 44 league goals in the previous season, but Solskjaer has plenty to work with already.

He spoke both prior to the end of the league season and also in the aftermath of losing on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League showpiece about the need to strengthen the squad, calling for two or three high-profile signings.

Sancho is certainly one of those, while Varane would tick that box as well, so it seems the much-maligned owners board are set to grant him his wish.

United have shown faith in Solskjaer throughout and now he needs to repay them in the only way possible – by winning trophies.

Paul Pogba remains in talks with Manchester United over a new contract and is looking forward to the coming campaign getting under way, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The France international's future has once again been called into question amid reports he has reached a stalemate in discussions over a deal to stay at Old Trafford.

Pogba is due to become a free agent in a little under a year's time and is now rumoured to be a €50million (£43m) target for Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Solskjaer remains confident the 28-year-old – who has spent five seasons with United in his second spell with the club – will remain in place beyond this window.

"Talks are ongoing between Paul's representative and the club representatives," Solskjaer said. "All the dialogue I've had with Paul is that he's looking forward to the season.

"There's always speculation about Paul, the talks between Paul and his representatives. I'm not in the detail of every single one. I've got nothing to say about that really.

"Paul knows what we feel about it and I've enjoyed my time working with him and hopefully we can continue working together."

Pogba has yet to link up with United for pre-season training, having being given an extended break after playing four times for France at Euro 2020.

The ex-Juventus midfielder scored one goal and assisted another for France at the tournament, while his eight chances created were second only to Antoine Griezmann (10) among Les Bleus players.

Speaking after United's 4-2 friendly defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, Solskjaer suggested Pogba could link up with his United team-mates in the next couple of days. 

"Many will join in training on Monday so they've got a few weeks to catch up," he told MUTV of United's players involved at the Euros and Copa America. 

"That's unfortunately the way it is; every year where there is a tournament, we have to catch up. Hopefully, they've done the work we've told them to do when they're away."

New signing Jadon Sancho and fellow England internationals Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire, who reached the Euro 2020 final, along with Copa America finalist Fred will "return in about 10 days' time", however.

Solskjaer had already confirmed ahead of United's defeat at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium that full-back Alex Telles will miss "a few weeks" with an ankle injury sustained in training.

United's next pre-season friendly is against Brentford at Old Trafford on Wednesday, followed by games with Preston North End and Everton before their Premier League opener at home to Leeds United on August 14.

Manchester United certainly can't be accused of standing still this year. A day after sealing the signing of Jadon Sancho, they confirmed a new contract for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until at least 2024.

But there's still plenty to press on with for Solskjaer and United. While the signing of Sancho addresses one area that has been a problem in recent years, it appears there are still two glaring weaknesses in the first-choice starting XI.

It would seem United have identified the man to take care of one of them, with Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane reportedly set to bolster their defensive options. In one sense it will have been a signing long in the making, given the club were supposedly close to buying him from Lens as a teenager only for Los Blancos to get the deal over the line in the end.

Although it took Varane a little time to truly establish himself at the Santiago Bernabeu, he's gone on to enjoy a hugely successful time in the Spanish capital, winning three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns, among a host of other trophies.

Below, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to see how Varane might improve United and where else they could do with reinforcements.

 

Physical dominance is the key

There are some obvious strengths that Varane would bring to United at the back – chief among them is his pace, which they arguably don't have a great deal of at centre-back.

While Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire may not be considered painfully slow, neither boasts the same kind of speed as the Frenchman and that would undoubtedly be a considerable asset for United.

Recent reports have suggested Solskjaer wants to play more attack-minded football in 2021-22, and having a faster centre-back could be crucial in that sense.

In theory, it would allow United to play slightly higher up the pitch. While they didn't exactly defend deep in 2020-21, their average starting position of 42.3 metres from their own goal was deeper than six other teams – Varane's pace could potentially provide them with a little more security in a high line.

In terms of possession, there's not a great deal separating Varane and Lindelof, the man whose position is surely in doubt. The Sweden international averaged fractionally more successful passes (58.1 to 55.9) and accurate passes in the opposing half (17.81 to 17.77) per 90 minutes last season, but that could be a reflection of slightly differing styles of play implemented by the teams rather than ability.

Opta sequence data suggests they are similar as well. While Lindelof (14) may have been involved in four more goal-ending passing sequences, the expected goals (xG) value attached to Varane in those instances is actually higher (8.9 to 8.8), meaning the current United man's influence is likely being exaggerated by particularly good finishing from his team-mates.

Even their ball carrying tendencies aren't hugely different, though Lindelof does boast a greater average carry distance of 11.3m to 10.9m, while his average progress up the pitch of 5.7m is a minor improvement on the 5.4m posted by the Madrid man.

But it could be argued United don't need their right-sided centre-back to be forward-thinking all the time because that's one of Maguire's key strengths. If anything, having a dependable partner could allow for their captain to have even greater prominence going forward, as he may feel more relaxed about stepping up with better protection behind.

 

And that's where Varane could really shine as an upgrade on Lindelof. The Swede's effectiveness in physical duels has been routinely questioned since he joined from Benfica in 2017 – a prime example being when Mbaye Diagne bullied him as West Brom scored in their 1-1 draw with United in February.

While it's impossible to guarantee Varane wouldn't have also been dominated in that instance, he does have a better record in situations where physicality is important. In 2020-21, he won 2.4 aerial duels per game across all competitions compared to Lindelof's 1.8.

That equates to a 72.3 per cent success rate for Varane, as opposed to 59.4 for Lindelof. In fact, Maguire – the most dominant defender in that respect in the Premier League last season (100 duels or more) – only marginally edges the World Cup winner (72.9 per cent).

But when we broaden the comparison to encompass all duels, Varane comes out on top among all three of them (66.5 per cent). Maguire wins 63.8 per cent of those contests, whereas that drops to 53.1 per cent for Lindelof.

United fans have been crying out for a more physically dominant defender to partner Maguire, and in Varane they may have identified a centre-back to rival him in those stakes.

Is the Fred-McTominay axis necessary?

Centre-back certainly isn't the only area United fans would be eager to see an upgrade – there's little doubt they have room for growth in midfield, regardless of whether or not Paul Pogba leaves.

The Frenchman actually featured more from the left during the second half of 2020-21 and looked more comfortable out there with some creative freedom, rather than sitting behind Bruno Fernandes in the middle.

That meant Fred and Scott McTominay were, more often than not, the first-choice pairing at the base of the midfield.

Now, it must be said that both players have clearly improved significantly over the past couple of years and they do offer a lot to United in certain areas.

 

For instance, in the Premier League in 2020-21, Fred won possession more often than any other United player (228) and his 81 tackle attempts were only bettered by Aaron Wan-Bissaka (88). McTominay ranked fourth for tackles (51) and joint-second for fouls won (42), which speaks to his improved ability on the ball as well as a knack for relieving defensive pressure in transition.

But neither are particularly creative. Fred laid on 25 key passes with an expected assists (xA) value of 2.1, while McTominay created 17 chances that combined to an xA total of 0.7.

Of course, you can't expect every outfield player to offer creativity. In many cases a player's productivity – or lack of – is intrinsically linked to the role they're playing or system they're part of, and Fernandes has done a lot of the heavy lifting. But United are a side who generally have more of the ball than their opponents – do they need two 'destroyers'?

 

If Solskjaer is to implement a more forward-thinking setup in 2021-22, he would be wise to finally ditch the Fred-McTominay axis. More often than not, it comes across as extremely conservative.

 

But the caveat to that is Solskjaer's rather limited options. Donny van de Beek endured a pretty dreadful first season as he showed very little authority whenever he played, Pogba was more useful towards the left so his lack of work rate off the ball wasn't exposed, and Nemanja Matic just isn't athletic enough anymore even if he is still a talented ball-player.

Pressure now on Ole

Who's to say if another midfielder, Varane and Sancho will be enough to overthrow Manchester City while also holding off a Liverpool side who promise to be back with a vengeance and defending European champions Chelsea.

But such decisive addressing of the team's weak points should at least give Solskjaer the right tools to work with. It'll then be on him to prove conclusively he's the right man for the job, because further under-achieving with such a strong squad won't be tolerated for long, regardless of his new contract.

Jose Mourinho was sacked less than a year after signing his renewal in January 2018.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

Solskjaer's United finished as runners-up to Manchester City in the 2020-21 Premier League season and reached the final of the Europa League, losing 11-10 on penalties to Villarreal.

United confirmed the Norwegian's new deal contained an option for a further year.

Solskjaer said: "Everyone knows the feeling I have for this club, and I am delighted to have signed this new contract. It is an exciting time for Manchester United, we have built a squad with a good balance of youth and experienced players that are hungry for success.

"I have a fantastic coaching team around me, and we are all ready to take that next step on our journey. Manchester United wants to be winning the biggest and best trophies and that's what we are all striving for. We have improved, both on and off the pitch, and that will continue over the coming seasons.

"I can't wait to get out in front of a packed Old Trafford and get this campaign started."

Former United striker Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho on a caretaker basis in December 2018, after the Portuguese boss was sacked, and was handed the job on a permanent basis three months later.

He committed to a three-year deal at the time and has now signed up to stay at Old Trafford.

There is change afoot at the club, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward due to leave at the end of the year.

Woodward said Solskjaer had justified the club showing their faith in him with the extension.

"Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch," Woodward said.

"The results of that have become increasingly visible over the past two seasons and we are all looking forward to seeing this exciting team develop further in the years ahead.

"What is especially pleasing is the way this progress has been achieved with a blend of young, homegrown talent and top-class recruits, playing attacking football in the best traditions of Manchester United. We are more confident than ever that, under Ole's leadership, we are heading in the right direction."

Solskjaer has yet to win a trophy as boss of the Red Devils, or reach a major domestic cup final.

However, United have finished third and second in the league in his first two full seasons at the helm, guaranteeing lucrative Champions League income.

They finished five points ahead of third-placed Liverpool last term, losing just six of 38 domestic league games, albeit that was not enough to be competitive with City, who took the title by 12 points.

Their 2020-21 win percentage of 55.3 in the Premier League was the second highest United have achieved in a season since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013, beaten only by the 65.8 per cent they managed under Mourinho when finishing second in the 2017-18 campaign.

The 73 league goals they scored was the highest United have tallied in the post-Ferguson era, with the team's 12 away wins in the top flight also the most they have mustered since the long-serving Scot stepped aside.

In fact, United have not lost away from Old Trafford in the Premier League since going down 2-0 to Liverpool in January 2020 – that is a run of 26 matches.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Jadon Sancho has made the perfect step at the right time in his career, as he believes Manchester United's latest addition can showcase 'untapped talent' at Old Trafford.

United's long pursuit of Sancho has resulted in a deal that Stats Perform understands is worth £72.9million (€85m), making him the fourth most expensive signing in the club's history, behind Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

The 21-year-old, who left United's rivals Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has signed until 2026 with an option for a further year.

Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB, with only Erling Haaland and Marco Reus having scored more since the winger made his debut.

In 104 Bundesliga appearances, Sancho netted 38 times, averaging a goal every 197 minutes, bettering the totals of the wide players he has joined at United in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Daniel James.

Having secured a long-term target – Sancho was the subject of much speculation in 2020 – Solskjaer hailed the England international as the ideal player to bring into United's squad.

"Jadon epitomises the type of player I want to bring to the club, he is a forward player in the best traditions of Manchester United," Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He will form an integral part of my squad for years to come and we look forward to seeing him blossom. His goals and assists records speak for themselves and he will also bring tremendous pace, flair and creativity to the team. 

"Old Trafford will give him the platform he needs to release his untapped talent and perform at the highest level. For a player of his age, Jadon has already achieved a great deal and showed the courage to go and prove himself abroad. We all look forward to welcoming Jadon to the squad as we prepare for the new campaign."

For his part, Sancho – who came through Watford's academy before moving to City at the age of 14 – explained it was always his plan to return to the Premier League.

He said: "I'll always be grateful to Dortmund for giving me the opportunity to play first team football, although I always knew that I would return to England one day.

"The chance to join Manchester United is a dream come true and I just cannot wait to perform in the Premier League. This is a young and exciting squad and I know, together, we can develop into something special to bring the success that the fans deserve. I am looking forward to working with the manager and his coaching team to further develop my game."

Sancho also thanked Dortmund directly, telling the Bundesliga club's official website: "I can't thank the people in charge at Borussia Dortmund enough for the chance they gave me as a very young player. 

"At BVB I was able to mature into the player I am today. The DFB-Pokal win last season was a great end to my time at BVB. But I will always remember the support and love of the incredible fans as something special."

Manchester United have not yet decided if Marcus Rashford requires surgery despite reports to the contrary.

Recent media speculation suggested United and Rashford had come to the decision that the England international needed an operation to fix a long-standing shoulder issue.

Rashford is said to have been struggling with the problem since at least November, while it has also been claimed he has not been truly injury free in two years.

Were Rashford to have surgery, it is thought he would be out at least until October, forcing him to miss a significant amount of football at the start of 2021-22.

But Solskjaer is adamant a decision is yet to be made.

"No, we're looking at the best options," Solskjaer said after United's 2-1 friendly win over Derby County when asked if surgery was definitely in the offing for Rashford.

"Of course, he went away just to reflect on it a little bit. We have to take the best course of action for him and the club.

"We're still addressing that with the experts."

While Rashford's involvement in the early weeks of the season is in some doubt, Jesse Lingard looks set to play a part for United.

Lingard spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at West Ham and found some spectacular form, scoring nine goals and setting up another four in 16 Premier League outings for the Hammers.

That form forced him back into England contention, and although he was ultimately cut from Gareth Southgate's final selection for Euro 2020, it was evidence that perhaps his United career was not over as many would have suggested in January.

West Ham have been credited with a desire to bring him back to the London Stadium, though for the time being he will be remaining at Old Trafford.

"Jesse has come back, he's been bright and he wants to fight for his place," Solskjaer said. "There's nothing better than seeing players willing to fight for their place. Of course, what he did towards the end of the season, that is the true Jesse.

"That's what we know he is capable of. I think we saw towards the end [of our own season] that we lacked maybe some options at times."

Facundo Pellistri seems set to depart on loan again, however. The Uruguayan winger, 20, scored the winning goal for United on Sunday in a generally encouraging second-half outing, but Solskjaer expects him to leave temporarily having spent part of 2020-21 with Deportivo Alaves.

"I thought he was bright and he took his goal really well," Solskjaer said. "Great first touch, good pass by Shola [Shoretire], but great first touch with sets him up.

"It was a very good goal, the first touch set him up and he's very good at dribbling so going past the goalkeeper wasn't a problem. He was bright when he came on.

"I think he showed what he is because he's a difficult player to play against. One against one he can go past people so very pleased with him.

"I can see a loan deal for him, there's been loads of interest and for his best interests a loan would be what we look for."

Jadon Sancho's proposed move to Manchester United is seemingly close to being confirmed after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested only "small details" are preventing an announcement.

United revealed a deal had been agreed with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of Sancho at the end of June, with Stats Perform understanding the fee involved to be £72.9million.

That will make the England international United's fourth most expensive player after Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

United, who had been keen on Sancho last year, said at the time that the winger's medical and personal terms would be completed after his involvement in Euro 2020.

England's run to the final subsequently delayed completion of the deal, though Solskjaer suggested it will not be long now until United announce him as their new player.

Speaking after United's 2-1 friendly win over Wayne Rooney's Derby County on Sunday, Solskjaer said: "From what I understand only paperwork [is preventing completion], small, little details, hopefully we can announce something.

 

"Let's get all the paperwork done and get him over the line and then I can say what I truly feel about the player."

Having joined Dortmund in 2017, Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB.

Solskjaer will be hoping to have Sancho among his attacking options for United's opening Premier League game against Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14.

Sancho is the only player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored 10 goals or more and had at least 15 assists across all competitions in each of the past three seasons while playing at that high level.

Facundo Pellistri got the decisive goal as Manchester United began their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 win over Wayne Rooney's Derby County.

United great Rooney took over from Phillip Cocu in November and was managing against his former club for the first time.

It was, understandably, an unfamiliar-looking United side, however. With numerous players yet to return after Euro 2020 and the Copa America, and several set to feature at the Olympics, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without 16 players.

As such, Tom Heaton started in goal following his return to the club, and he made an important save from point-blank range just before the end of a first half that was made to look like something of a struggle due to the heat.

Nevertheless, United held a 1-0 lead at the interval as Tahith Chong – who is set to go on loan to Derby's Championship rivals Birmingham City – seized on a defensive error and bundled in from close range after seeing his initial chip attempt blocked back on to him.

Solskjaer made as many as nine changes at the break, with Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi the only players to remain in the team. Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant and Alex Telles were among those to come into the side, with several youngsters also involved.

Two of the young hopefuls combined to put United 2-0 up.

Shola Shoretire – who became United's youngest ever player in European competition back in February – sliced through the defence with a clever throughball and Pellistri coolly rounded the goalkeeper before tucking home.

Colin Kazim-Richards pulled one back for Derby from distance, but Pellistri's well-taken goal was enough to give United a winning start to their pre-season

Marcus Rashford will come back stronger following his penalty miss against Italy and will not be put off from taking spot-kicks for Manchester United, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 23-year-old was one of three England players to fail to convert from 12 yards in Sunday's Euro 2020 final shoot-out loss to Italy, clipping the post with his attempt at Wembley.

Rashford, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, have all suffered racist abuse on social media, prompting an angry response from the Football Association, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate.

A mural of Rashford in Manchester was defaced after the game, though supporters have since covered the graffiti with positive messages for the United academy product, who posted an emotional thank you message on social media on Monday.

United boss Solskjaer understands Rashford's disappointment at missing a penalty in such a crucial game and has praised the forward for stepping forward in the first place in such a high-pressure situation.

"You know the thing is when you step up to take a penalty, I think you've already won," Solskjaer told United's official website on Tuesday. "You've taken on the responsibility and I'm sure many of the players are hoping I don't want to take a penalty.

"So I think it’s a great character trait to step up and say I will deal with it, and the consequences. You might be the hero or the one who misses. That's football.  You learn from it and definitely come back stronger.

"I've not seen many people, at this club anyway, who lay down and say I'll not take a penalty anymore. I know Marcus is going to put his hand up and say he wants to take one for us."

England have now won just two of their nine major tournament shoot-outs, with that 22 per cent win rate the lowest of any European national team to have been involved in three or more.

Luke Shaw had earlier given England the lead at Wembley with a volley after one minute and 57 seconds, making it the earliest goal ever scored in a European Championship final, before Leonardo Bonucci equalised to take the game the distance.

Full-back Shaw also racked up three assists, his four goal involvements across the tournament being bettered only by the Czech Republic's Patrik Schick (five) and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (six).

He also enjoyed a good campaign at club level in 2020-21 and Solskjaer is pleased to see the defender add goals and assists to his game.

"I'm so happy for Luke," Solskjaer said. "I was watching it and thinking 'what's just happened?' He started the attack and we've encouraged him to get into the last third.

"We know how technically gifted he is and skilful he is and he hit the ball very, very sweetly. 

"He keeps his eye on the ball, straight laces and it's margins again – off the post and in, not off the post and out. That's football for you. Luke deserves all the luck he can get. He's had a tremendous couple of years with us."

Solskjaer knows all too well about the disappointment of losing a shoot-out, with United having suffered heartbreak at the hands of Villarreal in May's Europa League final.

"Obviously, we know the feeling the whole of England had after the game," the Norwegian added. 

"One kick decides the whole mood. An even game, maybe Italy bossed possession a little bit, of course, but when it comes to penalty shoot-outs, anything can happen, as we know from our own last game.

"It's hard on the boys but that's football sometimes. You just have to deal with it and move on. I know the whole atmosphere in the country has been so great and, of course, it's an anti-climax. I know that."

Gareth Southgate and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are benefiting from Jose Mourinho's "hard-line" approach to managing Luke Shaw at Manchester United.

That is according to former England boss Steve McClaren, who believes the United full-back's strong recent form owes much to the lessons he learned under his former manager.

Shaw started just 17 Premier League games out of a possible 76 during Mourinho's two full seasons at Old Trafford and was a regular target for criticism from his boss throughout.

Disagreements between the pair have not subsided since the latter's departure from United, either, with his punditry during Euro 2020 prompting their most recent war of words.

However, McClaren is convinced that Shaw's improved performances for club and country over the past 12 months are a consequence of the tough love he received from Mourinho.

He told Stats Perform: "The key relationship is always the player and the manager. Whenever you move clubs, whenever you go to a new situation, internationals, whatever. 

"Maybe Shaw was in a moment also in his career where he needed Jose Mourinho’s management – maybe everybody's [previously] accepted [his behaviour]. 

"And maybe you come with a hard-line manager who won't accept this, won't accept that. And this player needs teaching and this player needs the hard line. 

"Unfortunately, you're the manager that suffers because of that. Because Shaw’s probably been through that and is a more mature, more professional, and a better player.

"Who's benefiting? The manager after, which is Ole and which is now Southgate with England. 

"So, it's a journey for a player and you always want a manager that likes you and loves you, plays you. 

"Sometimes you don't [have that] and that teaches you lessons that stay with you when you do come to a manager who does like [you], you love and you will play."

Shaw's recent renaissance at international level has come under the guidance of one of McClaren's former charges in Southgate.

This year, the England boss has backed up leading his country to a World Cup semi-final by helping them to the same stage of Euro 2020, prompting a nation to dream that glory could lie ahead.

And that success has come as no surprise to McClaren, who believes the Three Lions are being coached by a man who has always shown a knack for leadership and bringing people together.

He said: "I remember signing him as my first signing for Middlesbrough. [He was] an important signing and I wanted a captain, I wanted a leader in the dressing room, and I bought him for leadership. 

"He epitomised exactly what I wanted in the dressing room and on the field. One, he was a winner. He’d proven that at Aston Villa and England – he was a winner, he wanted to win. 

"Number two, he was so professional. And that's what I wanted. That was the main thing. Gareth always did the right thing every day: first in, then last away, fantastic professional. 

"And the third and most important thing was as a leader in the dressing room. He brought people together. We had a lot of foreign players, a lot of cliques in that dressing room at Middlesbrough. 

"And he would mix with them all. I always remember dinner times, lunch times, breakfast, whatever meetings we had, the cliques would always sit on one table and everyone would always sit on one side, which was fine. 

"But every meal-time Gareth used to flit from one table to the other. And he used to mix with everybody, he knew the importance of the squad, the team sticking together. 

"And that's what he's brought to England. The key thing for me is it's like England's like a club side in the present moment.

"I think being the Under-21 coach for that many years, he's had all these players, he knows them inside out. He's got a story with every one of them. 

"He knows the best ones, he knows the characters, knows what will gel, he's brought them into the England team, grown up with them really. And now they're like a club side. 

"And that's what's driving it for us."

Manchester United host Leeds United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to go one better than last season's second-place finish behind Manchester City.

The Red Devils won the corresponding fixture against Marcelo Bielsa's men 6-2 last season and they might fancy their chances of making a strong start this time around.

An October 23 meeting with Liverpool at Old Trafford is United's first of the campaign against a fellow "big six" side, although they will go on to face Tottenham, City, Chelsea and Arsenal before the end of November.

United have won three and drawn one of the past four Manchester derbies in the Premier League and are at the Etihad Stadium on March 5 after City travel across town on November 6.

Newcastle United away followed by back-to-back home games against Burnley and Wolves comprise a favourable-looking festive period from December 26 – January 1.

The always-anticipated trip to Anfield arrives on March 19, while United's last home game of the season is a potentially crunch clash with European champions Chelsea before a final-day trip to Crystal Palace.

Manchester United's 2021-22 fixtures in full:

14/08/2021 - Leeds United (h)
21/08/2021 - Southampton (a)
28/08/2021 - Wolves (a)
11/09/2021 - Newcastle United (h)
18/09/2021 - West Ham (a)
25/09/2021 - Aston Villa (h)
02/10/2021 - Everton (h)
16/10/2021 - Leicester City (a)
23/10/2021 - Liverpool (h)
30/10/2021 - Tottenham (a)
06/11/2021 - Manchester City (h)
20/11/2021 - Watford (a)
27/11/2021 - Chelsea (a)
30/11/2021 - Arsenal (h)
04/12/2021 - Crystal Palace (h)
11/12/2021 - Norwich City (a)
14/12/2021 - Brentford (a)
18/12/2021 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
26/12/2021 - Newcastle United (a)
28/12/2021 - Burnley (h)
01/01/2022 - Wolves (h)
15/01/2022 - Aston Villa (a)
22/01/2022 - West Ham (h)
08/02/2022 - Burnley (a)
12/02/2022 - Southampton (h)
19/02/2022 - Leeds United (a)
26/02/2022 - Watford (h)
05/03/2022 - Manchester City (a)
12/03/2022 - Tottenham (h)
19/03/2022 - Liverpool (a)
02/04/2022 - Leicester City (h)
09/04/2022 - Everton (a)
16/04/2022 - Norwich City (h)
23/04/2022 - Arsenal (a)
30/04/2022 - Brentford (h)
07/05/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
15/05/2022 - Chelsea (h)
22/05/2022 - Crystal Palace (a)

Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defence at Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola's side won their third top-flight crown in four seasons in 2020-21 and there is likely to be plenty of intrigue in the build-up to the August 14 encounter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, given Spurs striker Harry Kane has been touted as a potential replacement for Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea denied City European glory with a 1-0 win in last month's Champions League final and Thomas Tuchel's side start their bid to unseat Guardiola's men domestically by hosting Crystal Palace, who like Spurs remain without a manager.

Manchester United were runners-up last term and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's third full season in charge will launch with a mouth-watering clash against Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Brentford have a similarly eye-catching assignment at home to Arsenal, who have no European commitments for the first time since 1995-96.

Liverpool are also away to one of the newcomers in the form of Championship winners Norwich City, while Watford host Aston Villa on their top-flight return.

Tricky start for Guardiola, Tuchel facing January Blues

City claimed a first victory at Anfield since 2003 last season and Jurgen Klopp will enjoy his latest battle with Pep Guardiola on Merseyside on October 2, a week after the champions get their shot at revenge over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Those matches all come within City's first seven fixtures, which also include Arsenal visiting the Etihad Stadium on August 28, the same day Chelsea travel to Liverpool and a week after Mikel Arteta's men welcome the European champions.

The season's first Manchester United v Liverpool encounter comes at Old Trafford on October 23, two weeks before United host City in the Manchester derby.

The return meetings for those two rivalries are at Anfield on March 19 and the Etihad Stadium on March 5.

Those games could prove key to the title run-in, much like Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend.

The Blues have a tough January schedule, with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on New Year's Day, followed by City away a fortnight later and a home derby against Tottenham.

Spurs and Arsenal are each aiming to improve upon dispiriting campaigns last time around. The first north London derby of the season is at Emirates Stadium on September 25, with Tottenham hosting their neighbours on January 15.

 

Premier League opening weekend fixtures
Brentford v Arsenal
Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester City v Wolves
Manchester United v Leeds United
Newcastle United v West Ham 
Norwich City v Liverpool
Tottenham v Manchester City
Watford v Aston Villa
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