Manchester United are relying on Cristiano Ronaldo to save them in every game and should have replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Antonio Conte, according to sprint king and Red Devils fan Usain Bolt.

The pressure is growing on Solskjaer following a disappointing start to the campaign, with United winning just seven of their opening 16 games in all competitions.

Solskjaer's side have been soundly beaten 5-0 by rivals Liverpool and 2-0 by Manchester City in their last two home Premier League matches and are sixth with 11 games played.

Conte was touted as a contender to replace Solskjaer after the Liverpool loss, but he has since taken over at top-flight rivals Tottenham as Nuno Espirito Santo's successor.

Bolt, a life-long United supporter, believes the club should have been more proactive in moving for the Premier League and Serie A title-winning coach.

"I wanted Conte," he is quoted as saying by The National News. "He is going to do so well at Spurs. He is going to get them organised.

"He has been at Chelsea – he won a title. He's been at Inter – he's won a title. He's been at Juve – he's won titles. Everywhere he goes, he structures the team so well. 

"In January, he is probably going to get one or two players, then at the end of the season he is probably going to find proper players and bring them in."

United had been expected to challenge for the Premier League title in Solskjaer's third full season at the helm after bringing in Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Ronaldo.

While his team may have struggled this term, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo has been prolific in front of goal with nine strikes in 12 matches across all competitions.

That includes a last-gasp winner against Villarreal and dramatic late goals to rescue four points home and away to Atalanta in the Champions League.

Eight-time Olympic champion Bolt, who has been in attendance at Old Trafford this season, feels Ronaldo is being given too much to do on his own.

"We are going to struggle," he said. "Cristiano has saved us every game. One guy has to do all that work. We have not played good football in so long.

"It is so relaxed. We pass so slowly. When Alex Ferguson was manager, we had to win because he would demand you win."

United return to action following the two-week international break with a trip to Watford on Saturday.

Xavi has his work cut out at Camp Nou following his appointment as Barcelona head coach.

Barca have struggled on the pitch amid off-field turmoil and financial problems.

But Xavi wants to make Barca great again and he reportedly has his eyes on some players across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE TRIO

RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo and Manchester City pair Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling are transfer options for Barcelona, according to Thursday's Mundo Deportivo.

Xavi is now at the helm of Barca and the club great is tasked with restoring the fortunes of the embattled LaLiga giants.

The Barca head coach is keen to reinforce his squad in either January or at the end of the season.

Barca have also been linked with Chelsea forward Timo Werner and Manchester United veteran Edinson Cavani.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Paul Pogba is set to leave United and Juventus are trying to re-sign the Frenchman, though his salary is proving problematic. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter are pressing Marcelo Brozovic to sign a new contract by Christmas, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. The Croatia international is reportedly wanted by Barca, Liverpool, PSG and United.

Steven Gerrard is expected to join Aston Villa as their new manager, reports Fabrizio Romano. The Rangers boss is set to be joined by his backroom staff at Villa.

Fiorentina are trying to sign River Plate striker Julian Alvarez as Dusan Vlahovic prepares to leave but Juve are also interested, according to Corriere dello Sport. Vlahovic has no plans to renew in Florence and the Serbia international has been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juve and Inter.

- The Mirror says United are confident of landing Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers as their new manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under mounting pressure at United and former Liverpool boss Rodgers has emerged as a target for the struggling Red Devils due to a release clause in his contract.

Dusan Vlahovic is believed to be Juventus' number one transfer target.

However, Juve are not the only club interested in the Serbia international, who is unwilling to re-sign at Fiorentina.

Juve are keeping their options open as they try to reinforced a stuttering squad.

 

TOP STORY – MARTIAL AND ICARDI EMERGE AS JUVE OPTIONS

Anthony Martial and Mauro Icardi are among the alternatives should Juventus miss out on Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato.

Juve are interested in Vlahovic, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Tottenham and Arsenal.

With competition high, United forward Martial, Paris Saint-Germain's Icardi, Benfica star Darwin Nunez, Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca are also being considered by Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Nacional reports Real Madrid are targeting Juve star Federico Chiesa. The Italy international signed from Fiorentina on an initial two-year loan deal and Juve are desperate to make it permanent amid interest from Liverpool.

Manchester United are in no rush to sack embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, per Manchester Evening News. Solskjaer is under pressure following humbling defeats to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City. Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Zinedine Zidane have been linked.

- Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks are among Roma's transfer targets, says Calciomercato. Roma are also determined to sign Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should hand over the baton and leave Old Trafford, according to former defender Rio Ferdinand.

Solskjaer is under mounting pressure after United were outclassed 2-0 by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby, having been humiliated 5-0 at the hands of Liverpool last month.

United have lost four of their past six games as the Red Devils already find themselves nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea heading into the international break.

Solskjaer is yet to deliver a title since he became permanent United manager in March 2019 and ex-team-mate Ferdinand believes it is time for the Norwegian to move on.

"We started this season with such hope but also the transfer window that we had, the excitement, we were all sitting there going 'this is our time now'," Ferdinand – who won six Premier League trophies and the Champions League during his time at United – said on his Five with Vibe podcast.

"Ole was brought in to get us to that point. He was brought in to get the squad in-tact, get the players in to make us challenge for the league.

"I sit here now and I don't think we can challenge for this league. I look at our team every week wondering what are we gonna do tactically? 

"I don't see any philosophy or identity in the Man United way of playing whatever that should be from the management. I sit here looking confused at the team.

"I was always deep down a bit sceptical, could he take us on to be champions? I wasn't fully convinced – I wasn't sure he could do that. 

"But the showing with the squad that he accumulated, to the beginning of this season – and what I've seen this season – I just feel it might be about the time now for the baton to be handed over to somebody else who can take us on now.  

"And I think Ole would leave now with his head held high because, because from when he came in to where he got us at the beginning of the season I think it's been positive."

United are now without a clean sheet in their last 14 home games in all competitions – they have only had one longer run in their entire history without a home clean sheet, a 21-match run between April 1958 and March 1959.

Solskjaer's United have lost eight home matches in all competitions in 2021, their most in a calendar year since losing eight in 1989.

United have conceded 11 home Premier League goals in six fixtures Old Trafford this season, their most in their first six home league matches of a season since 1976-77 (also 11).

Meanwhile, United have taken just eight points in their last nine home Premier League matches (W2 D2 L5) and have lost consecutive home league matches without scoring for the first time since March 2014, when those defeats also came against Liverpool followed by City.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

Harry Maguire has labelled Manchester United's current form "nowhere near good enough" following Saturday's derby defeat to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side hardly had to get out of second gear at Old Trafford as an own goal from Eric Bailly and a close-range finish from Bernardo Silva sealed a comfortable 2-0 win.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had enjoyed a good record against Guardiola in previous league derbies, but United mustered just one shot on target throughout the match as they slumped to a fourth defeat in their last six top-flight outings.

City had 67.4 per cent possession and managed 16 attempts to United's five, with David de Gea having to pull off a string of fine saves in the first half.

United are now without a clean sheet in their last 14 home games in all competitions - they have only had one longer run in their entire history without a home clean sheet, a 21-game run between April 1958 and March 1959 - while their record of eight defeats at Old Trafford in 2021 is their worst in a calendar year since they lost eight in 1989.

The Red Devils have conceded 11 Premier League goals in six home games this season, the most after six matches at Old Trafford since 1976-77.

Part of the problem at the back has been the form of Maguire. The England centre-back missed a chunk of the season due to injury but returned against Leicester City last month, turning in a poor performance in a 4-2 defeat.

Maguire has struggled to find his best level, having a torrid time against Liverpool in a 5-0 loss on October 24, and he was at least partly culpable for City's second goal when he failed to communicate with Luke Shaw, allowing Silva to steal in at the back post and prod in Joao Cancelo's cross.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Maguire acknowledged the performances are far from where they need to be, but insisted United will turn their fortunes around.

"As a group of players we are going through a tough period," the post read.

"We know and accept this is nowhere near good enough. We feel your frustration and disappointment, we are doing everything we can to put things right and we will put things right.

"Thanks for your support. UNITED."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remained defiant he can turn around Manchester United's awful form despite the "big step back" of their derby defeat.

The Red Devils were brushed aside 2-0 at Old Trafford by Manchester City on Saturday, Bernardo Silva scoring after Eric Bailly's own goal.

The defeat was United's sixth in their past 12 games in all competitions and their eighth at home in 2021, a number they last endured back in 1989.

They have also gone without a clean sheet in 14 consecutive home matches for the first time since the 1950s, while they have let in 11 at home in the top flight in 2021-22, their worst such return over the first six games of the season since 1976.

It was the manner of United's loss that was particularly damaging, even though the scoreline did not reach the embarrassing levels of the 5-0 loss to Liverpool last month. 

They only had one shot on target throughout and just four touches of the ball in the City box, their fewest in a league match since at least 2008-09.

Solskjaer was granted a reprieve by United bosses after the thrashing by Liverpool and responded by delivering a 3-0 win at Tottenham followed by a Champions League draw with Atalanta, a result secured through a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo equaliser.

The United manager accepted the City performance was a major blow after their previous two results but maintained he is committed to arresting his team's slide.

Asked about his belief he can turn things around, Solskjaer said: "Definitely. You're right – [we need to get] back to where we should be. For me, it's back to what we started to look like. We started to look like a proper team, a team that I like to see.

"We've had two, three, four weeks now, a disappointing spell. The performance against Tottenham was good, but it was not what we want to look like, to put it that way. We want to be on the front foot, we want to be more aggressive. Unfortunately, we had to try to get a few results.

"We got a couple of good results, Atalanta and Tottenham, but today was a big step back."

Ronaldo's volley in the 26th minute was the only moment City goalkeeper Ederson was made to work as the visitors assumed total control, making 821 passes to United's 389.

"It's a way of losing that we don't like," said Solskjaer, who appeared to receive less of a positive reception by fans than he did after the Liverpool result. "When you lose a game against a good team, you want to see a better Man United team than that.

"When you concede the first goal as early as we did in an unfortunate way, it makes the game a lot more difficult. We needed to be more front-foot, aggressive. We played against a very good team that made it hard to do that.

"When we had the ball, they pressed us really well and we couldn't get the angles we knew we had to get and the quality we knew we had to get. We never got to the level we need to be at to win against good teams."

Solskjaer now hopes the international break can do his players some good before they return to action at Watford on November 20.

"Players are human beings, and when you lose a game of football, there's no better remedy than winning a game, getting your confidence by winning a game. Hopefully, the ones that go away do that and do well," he said.

"For us, it's all about Watford. We have to come out against Watford like a proper hurt animal. We've got to get back to what we know we can do. It's the only way to approach this and attack this situation.

"Yes, the short answer is I think it's come at a good time for us now. As a group, we've had a difficult spell, come through it, but this was a big step back for us."

Roy Keane said he felt sorry for the Manchester United players after their derby defeat to Manchester City as the former captain believes they are simply not good enough.

United were second best in a 2-0 loss to the Premier League champions at Old Trafford, an Eric Bailly own goal and a finish from Bernardo Silva settling the contest before half-time.

It was the Red Devils' first home league match since the 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool but there was little better about this latest result other than the scoreline.

United had only one shot on target throughout, managing only 389 passes to City's 821, as Pep Guardiola's men eased through the contest in second gear.

Former United defender Gary Neville described it as a "calm annihilation" at City's hands, and Keane agreed it was a game that looked easy for the visitors.

"It was so poor. The difference in class, quality and decision-making, basically everything," he said on Sky Sports at half-time, after Bailly had turned into his own net and Silva had converted a Joao Cancelo cross that Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire left.

"I know the old saying is men vs boys, but United are so off it, it's unbelievable. Look at Shaw and De Gea. What chance have you got in this game? I've been cross with these fellas for years.

"I give up on these players. These are international defenders. I can't understand the defending. I give up."

He continued after the match: "Phil Foden mentioned it is a tough place to come. It's not. Ask Everton, ask Aston Villa and Liverpool. Teams have come to Old Trafford and are getting a bit of joy now.

"I know United's away record has been fantastic over the last couple of seasons but ultimately it's what you do at home that gives you that foundation to try and compete and go on and win trophies because United still always have the quality, even away from home. But their home form, the performance and the defending...

"We go back to characters. Scott McTominay, who I know is learning his trade. Fred in midfield. These players are not good enough for Manchester United.

"Defensively, I wasn't shocked when Eric Bailly sliced that into his own net. He's got that in his locker. He's erratic.

"It was so comfortable for Man City. They just toyed with Man United. I'd like to go in hard on the United players, but today I'm feeling sorry for them. I think some of them aren't up to playing for Manchester United, particularly at home.

"When I was at United you judge a player on how they cope with playing in front of 75,000 and you stay in the fight when you're under the cosh.

"But this team doesn't. They just don't have the desire to stay in the fight. This team doesn't have personality. They're trying things and they're a decent group going for lunch, but it's what happens when the referee blows the whistle."

United have now lost eight home games in all competitions in 2021, the most in a calendar year since 1989, while they have gone 14 matches at Old Trafford without a clean sheet for the first time since the 1950s.

They have also taken only eight points from their most recent nine home league games, losing to Liverpool and City without scoring in their previous two. The last time that happened was during the final weeks of David Moyes' tenure in March 2014, when the Red Devils suffered consecutive 3-0 losses to their fiercest rivals.

The pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is only going to increase, and Keane accepted his old team-mate must get more from his players.

"Ole seems to be under pressure since he's walked into the club and that's not going away because people didn't think he was up to it," Keane said.

"The pressure is going to build but the players, I look at Shaw and De Gea, they're international players. They couldn't sniff out danger, these boys are too casual.

"Ole has to take responsibility and I've defended him for one or two years but he's the manager and the staff need to get more out of these players."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City highlighted how far United have fallen off the pace, but insisted he had no fears over his future.

The United boss cut a disconsolate figure on touchline at Old Trafford, where Eric Bailly netted an own goal before slack defending and goalkeeping allowed Bernardo Silva to double the visitors' advantage in the first half.

United, beaten 5-0 by Liverpool in their previous home game, offered scant threat after the break as the pressure mounted on Solskjaer.

And the Norwegian admitted the stark disparity between the two sides was evident, with the forthcoming international break offering some respite for the embattled boss.

He told Sky Sports: "At the moment, yes we are [a long way behind the leading teams], but we've got to get back to what we started to look like, and we started to look like a proper team at the end of last season, start of this season. We've got to get back to that.

"I'm sure when we come back, the players will be fresh in their mind after internationals. The demands on me and the players are going to be high, the expectations. We need to get back to what we started to look like for a while, and we've got the players to do that.

"We've been this situation a few times of course, since the last game we played here it has been a very difficult period. We need to be on the front foot more, I can't look at myself and say this is the way I want Manchester United to play."

Asked if he was starting to feel as though he may be on borrowed time, Solskjaer, whose side slipped six points behind City, added: "No, I don't start to do that.

"I have good communications all the time with the club, we're very upfront and honest about the situation.

"I work for Man United and want the best for Man United and while I'm here I'll do what I can to improve this, and that's going back to what we started to look like."

United were second best throughout against Pep Guardiola's side, managing only one shot on target, while the second goal saw an uncharacteristic error from David de Gea, who was beaten at his near post.

"It's very difficult to talk now of course because we started the game off badly, passive of course," said Solskjaer. "When they get the first goal it was always going to be a difficult game anyway.

"Being 1-0 down was hard, David kept us in the game, some good stops, then they scored a goal they always score. [Joao] Cancelo cuts inside, crosses back stick, we know that's going to happen and it shouldn't happen.

"They played well, of course, they don't give you opportunities to win the ball off them, some praise has to go to them as well but we were not at our level, our standard, they need to be raised.

"We still don't trust ourselves with the ball, we still don't pass or find the angles as well as I know we can."

David de Gea leapt to his right and tipped Kevin De Bruyne's shot around the post. "Vamos!" he bellowed to team-mates gathered for the Manchester City corner, banging those overworked gloves together.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who had just congratulated the Manchester United goalkeeper on his latest brilliant save, gazed around the penalty area, shaking his head.

The reactions looked different but echoed the same feeling, presumably the one felt by the 70-odd thousand United fans inside Old Trafford. It's the same thing they felt when losing 4-0 at half-time to Liverpool. It's largely the same thing they felt seven years ago, when consecutive home defeats to Liverpool and City sounded the death knell for the David Moyes era.

How much longer can this go on?

It was the 5-0 scoreline that was most damaging about the game last month against Jurgen Klopp's side, and the reason Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came as close as he did to losing his job. The Manchester derby was, in essence, no different; it was a thrashing in all but the scoreboard.

And it will prompt the same question.

The 3-0 win over a miserable Tottenham secured Solskjaer's position for at least another week and saw Antonio Conte, his most obvious and available replacement, head to north London. Yet, as the United manager likes to say, "one swallow doesn't make a summer". He knew there had to be sustained improvement, that wins over Atalanta in the Champions League and Manchester City were vital to show he could arrest a decline that has seen his United become the first to concede in 13 consecutive home matches for the first time since the 1950s.

Instead, United repeated the 'Liverpool Week': a poor Champions League performance salvaged by Ronaldo, and utter embarrassment at the hands of their domestic rivals.

Solskjaer had won four of his first eight meetings with Pep Guardiola, giving him the best win rate of any manager to face the City boss at least five times. He'd also presided over a four-game unbeaten league run against their neighbours, whose recent success relative to United – nine major trophies since the Red Devils last won anything – has seen them go from noisy to ear-splitting. The last time these teams met in front of a full crowd, a muddied Scott McTominay slid across the soaked turf after lobbing Ederson in the final seconds, a striking visual metaphor for Solskjaer's team: imperfect, unpolished, but going somewhere.

In the second half of Sunday's game, after Eric Bailly's senseless own goal and a gift for Bernardo Silva, Solskjaer's tenure entered a perverse kind of scoreline purgatory: would he be safe if it finished 2-0, or 3-0, or 4-0? Was it not bad enough that City could come to Old Trafford and treat it as a training exercise, limiting their opponents to one shot on target?

This is what Solskjaer's United have become: a listing wreck, held together by default. Results are bad, but not quite bad enough; supporters are fed up, but they won't turn on a club legend; the owners fear the risk of change more than the cost of inaction.

"I give up," said former captain Roy Keane on Sky Sports. Solskjaer won't; not after nearly three years in charge. The pedestrian, goalless second half against City will probably count in his favour with the board, too.

But 'only' losing the derby 2-0 cannot ever be acceptable. It certainly isn't what Ronaldo signed up for, and as long as things persist as they are, he'll be shaking his head for many months to come.

Victor Lindelof and Mason Greenwood were recalled to Manchester United's starting line-up for Saturday's Premier League showdown with Manchester City.

Centre-back Lindelof missed Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw with Atalanta with a knock sustained in training and was considered doubtful for the Manchester derby.

However, the Sweden international returned for the clash at Old Trafford in place of Raphael Varane, who was injured in that midweek European match and faces a month out.

Lindelof started in a back three alongside Eric Bailly – making just a third start of the season – and Harry Maguire, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sticking to a 3-5-2 system employed in his side's last two games.

Unlike those previous two matches, there was a place in the starting line-up for Greenwood, who came in for Marcus Rashford. Edinson Cavani was not included in the squad due to injury.

Cristiano Ronaldo led United's attack as expected as he looked to build on a return of three goals in his past five Premier League meetings with City.

Fred was the other change made by Solskjaer from the Atalanta match, the Brazil international replacing Paul Pogba as he continues to serve a domestic suspension.

City also made three changes from their 4-1 win over Club Brugge in the week, with Jack Grealish's exclusion being the big talking point.

The British record signing's place in the starting line-up was taken by Kevin De Bruyne, who was expected to play through the middle of the forward line in the absence of a recognised striker.

Asked to explain the decision, City boss Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports: "We want a left foot on the left side and right foot on right side. That is the reason."

Aymeric Laporte also made way after being sent off in last week's 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace, with Ruben Dias getting the nod at the back alongside John Stones, while Gabriel Jesus came in for the benched Riyad Mahrez.

United were unbeaten in their last four league games against City heading into Saturday's meeting – their longest such run against their fierce rivals since a run of six between 2008 and 2011.

Victor Lindelof and Mason Greenwood were recalled to Manchester United's starting line-up for Saturday's Premier League showdown with Manchester City.

Centre-back Lindelof missed Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw with Atalanta with a knock sustained in training and was considered doubtful for the Manchester derby.

However, the Sweden international returned for the clash at Old Trafford in place of Raphael Varane, who was injured in that midweek European match and faces a month out.

Lindelof started in a back three alongside Eric Bailly – making just a third start of the season – and Harry Maguire, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sticking to a 3-5-2 system employed in his side's last two games.

Unlike those previous two matches, there was a place in the starting line-up for Greenwood, who came in for Marcus Rashford. Edinson Cavani was not included in the squad due to injury.

Cristiano Ronaldo led United's attack as expected as he looked to build on a return of three goals in his past five Premier League meetings with City.

Fred was the other change made by Solskjaer from the Atalanta match, the Brazil international replacing Paul Pogba as he continues to serve a domestic suspension.

City also made three changes from their 4-1 win over Club Brugge in the week, with Jack Grealish's exclusion being the big talking point.

The British record signing's place in the starting line-up was taken by Kevin De Bruyne, who was expected to play through the middle of the forward line in the absence of a recognised striker.

Asked to explain the decision, City boss Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports: "We want a left foot on the left side and right foot on right side. That is the reason."

Aymeric Laporte also made way after being sent off in last week's 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace, with Ruben Dias getting the nod at the back alongside John Stones, while Gabriel Jesus came in for the benched Riyad Mahrez.

United were unbeaten in their last four league games against City heading into Saturday's meeting – their longest such run against their fierce rivals since a run of six between 2008 and 2011.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for making "big improvements" at Manchester United as he approaches his three-year anniversary in charge, says Bruno Fernandes.

United manager Solskjaer remains under intense pressure ahead of Saturday's Premier League derby with Manchester City following an underwhelming start to his third full season in charge.

The Red Devils have won just half of their opening 10 Premier League matches, a run that includes a record 5-0 home loss to fierce rivals Liverpool in their most recent match at Old Trafford.

A 2-2 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League in midweek has scarcely lifted the pressure off Solskjaer, who has yet to win any silverware since his appointment in December 2018 on an initial caretaker basis.

But Fernandes – brought to United in January 2020 – insists the players are just as much to blame as their manager for results.

"He brought me to the club, he gave me the chance to play in this amazing club, he made my dream come true," Fernandes told Sky Sports. "He is a great person and everyone knows the human part of him.

"It's normal people get upset because the results don't come, but it's too easy to blame only the coach. We go on the pitch, we should do better.

"We could say the system is not good enough, but we played 4-2-3-1 for three years. We got to some finals, which we didn't win, I understand that, but we got to second place last season and no one was expecting us to have as good a season as we did.

"It was not as good as we want, but it was a good season overall after what everyone was thinking.

"If we didn't drop those points in January, February, we could have been much closer to City. There has been big improvements in the team, big improvement in the club since he arrived, and I think he deserves credit.

"I think he's capable to do more and us as a team are capable to do more. That doesn't depend only on the coach. We have to try to help him because he is trying to help us."

United have 17 points from their opening 10 league games and are eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea. That compares to 19 points at the same stage last season when going on to finish third and 13 after 10 games in 2019-20 when finishing sixth.

"It's not what we want, of course, and we dropped points against Everton, Aston Villa, and Liverpool at home," Fernandes said.

"Last season it was a problem at home, we started the season really well at home to Leeds and Newcastle and in the Champions League too. But we're still dropping points at home and we know that. It's not only the coach's fault."

 

Fernandes was directly involved in 46 goals in all competitions last season – 13 more than next-best Marcus Rashford – and again leads the way among United players this term with his four goals and seven assists.

The most recent of the Portugal international's four goals this term arrived against Newcastle United on September 11, though, and there is a perception that his importance to United is dwindling now that Cristiano Ronaldo is back at the club.

However, Fernandes is creating more chances per 90 minutes this season compared to last season (3.94 to 2.69) and more big chances (0.74 to 0.65), all while playing in a more reserved midfield role.

"The way we played in the last two games, I've played a little deeper,, but it's because we changed system and you have to adapt," Fernandes said. "Everyone was adapting themselves. We have to do what is better for the team.

"I can still do my game wherever I play. I know people are upset because the numbers are going a little bit low – goals are going low, but assists are coming up.

"The importance for people of scoring goals is always better than doing assists or a great game. Last season everyone was like, 'he's scored a lot of goals but he also scores a lot of penalties and he doesn't perform'.

"Now I perform and give a lot of assists and people say 'he's not scoring goals'. There will always be a problem. I'm never happy with myself. I want always to improve and do better."

He added: "The teams know me better and I don't get the space I got in the beginning because I was someone coming from Portugal and most players didn't know who Bruno is.

"Now the space is a little bit short for me, the time is a little bit short, and I have to improve on that to be quick on shooting and passing and everything to make my game work."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is bemused by criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo, who again rescued Manchester United a result in midweek at Atalanta.

After a Champions League brace, Ronaldo now has nine goals in 11 games for United this season heading into Saturday's Old Trafford derby against Manchester City.

The veteran forward scored three goals in his last five Premier League Manchester derbies in his first stint with United. Indeed, his final strike for the club before joining Real Madrid came against City in May 2009.

However, he is also the only player to have been sent off in two Manchester derbies in the Premier League.

Despite Ronaldo's goals, United have been unconvincing since he returned to the club this season, prompting some to suggest his role in the team was an issue, especially with the likes of Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood subsequently pushed to the fringes.

But Solskjaer said on Friday: "He's one of the best players that has ever walked on this planet.

"His impact so far, on and off the pitch, has been absolutely immense. The goals he scores, the way he conducts himself around the place. How people can say he's a negative, I can't see that one.

"We're really pleased the way he's started off. But that's what he does. He scores goals, he works for his team, and he is a top, top professional."

United's bigger problems may well be in defence, where Raphael Varane is out for "four to five weeks" with a hamstring injury.

"It's a blow for us, because Raphael has come in and been really influential, but Eric [Bailly] came in last time and was excellent," Solskjaer said. "That's why we have big squads, to cope with absentees at times."

The return of Victor Lindelof would at least provide a boost, with Solskjaer describing the centre-back as "a doubt" but still hoping he could feature.

"I would expect him to be ready, put it that way," the manager said.

United have kept three consecutive Premier League clean sheets against City, as many as in their previous 18 meetings, but they have conceded in 13 home matches in a row in all competitions.

They have only twice endured a longer sequence (21 games between April 1958 and March 1959, and 14 between September 1954 and February 1955).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no concerns about Manchester United's return to Old Trafford for another big match against Manchester City, despite their humiliating defeat to Liverpool in their previous home game.

United were hammered 5-0 by Liverpool last month, their largest ever home defeat in that famous fixture.

After a 3-0 win at Tottenham and a 2-2 draw with Atalanta, Solskjaer's side are back on home turf for the visit of rivals City.

City have matched Liverpool with a record seven away wins at Old Trafford, but Solskjaer is not concerned a result he described as his "darkest day" last time out will still be on his players' minds.

"We've moved on from that one," he said during a news conference. "Of course, it's going to be in the history books, but we've had a good week with good results away from home in difficult games.

"The mindset is positive. Of course, we've got to go into this game believing we can do good things. It's a local derby and we know what's at stake.

"It's a special one, of course. The last time we had a Manchester derby with fans in the stadium, the atmosphere was electric. I think everyone will remember that one more than any dark moments we've had.

"When Scott [McTominay] scored that winning goal in extra time, that was a special moment.

"We know it's a one-off game. We have to start on the front foot, start ready, because a lot of it depends on who starts on the front foot."

Solskjaer has won half of his four games against Pep Guardiola in all competitions, the best win rate versus the City manager of any boss to face him at least five times.

But he said: "I'm not one to talk about what I've done. I've got a great respect and admiration for Pep and what he's done.

"We've had a few good results against them, some good games, some tight games, and we need another performance like this.

"Sometimes you need luck – we know this is a game where we're going to have to work hard, suffer a lot, but we have to believe in ourselves. We have to trust ourselves."

Solskjaer's future has been the subject of speculation since the Liverpool game, yet he responded: "I stepped in the doors here in December 2018, three years ago, and there's been speculation ever since. That's no problem.

"We've moved on from the Liverpool game – of course, it's always going to be there as a dark moment in our careers, but we've had a good week with two good results away from home and we're ready for this game.

"You don't expect an easy ride when you become manager of Man United, so that's how it is."

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