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."

Cristiano Ronaldo came to Manchester United's rescue yet again on Tuesday, with a brilliant volley sealing a 2-2 draw with Atalanta.

It was Ronaldo's second goal of the game, and his fifth in the Champions League this season. Three of those goals have come after the 80th minute.

While United have struggled since Ronaldo arrived back at Old Trafford, there is no doubting his quality and ability to stand tall in decisive moments – something that has arguably saved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job after a difficult start to the campaign.

Ronaldo's stunning volley set United on their way to a 3-0 win over Tottenham last time out in the Premier League, with the 36-year-old then turning provider for Edinson Cavani.

United's 3-5-2 set-up negated Spurs, albeit the Red Devils face an altogether different task when they host neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's early kick-off.

Solskjaer might have bought himself time, but United have a tendency to drag their manager back from the brink. He has a good record against City, but given United's last home game saw them lose 5-0 to Liverpool, Solskjaer may well not survive another drubbing.

 

Milestone coming up for Ronaldo

United's defensive frailties were exposed again by Atalanta and if not for Ronaldo's lethal finishing, their Champions League progress would have been in significant doubt.

Ronaldo is now on 798 goals, scoring that total from 1,088 matches. The majority (450) came during his nine-year stint at Real Madrid, while he has netted 127 for United, a further 115 for Portugal, 101 at Juventus and five while at Sporting CP.

He has not scored many times against City, however, managing four goals in 13 appearances, with 11 of those coming as starts. His record in terms of wins is better, with Ronaldo tasting victory eight times against the Citizens, suffering three defeats.

When going up against sides coached by Pep Guardiola, Ronaldo has scored eight goals across 16 appearances.

It was not until the fifth game against a Guardiola team that Ronaldo found the net (in April 2011 in a Clasico draw), while he has only scored more than once in such a game on one occasion.

This was, however, in his last appearance against one of Guardiola's sides, which came way back in 2013-14 as he scored twice in Madrid's Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich.

A quick turnaround 

"If it was tomorrow, we would play tomorrow," Guardiola said after the 4-1 home win over Club Brugge on Wednesday, which finished approximately 63 hours before City and United are due to take to the pitch on Saturday.

"The schedule is the schedule, sometimes we play Tuesday, sometimes Friday. Sometimes it is 12:30 or sometimes 5:30pm. I am pretty sure at 12:30 on Saturday we will be at Old Trafford. When you are Manchester City you realise nobody helps you – no one."

Guardiola, like Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp has been on many occasions, will likely be fairly irked by the swift turnaround his players face, though it has to be pointed out there will at least be no notable travelling involved for City's stars.

History is also on City's side. Of the 11 times they have played at 12:30 on a Saturday following a Wednesday Champions League match under Guardiola, they have won eight, drawn two and lost just once.

That sole defeat came last season, when Leeds United ran out 2-1 victors at the Etihad Stadium in April.

Does Solskjaer have the edge?

Despite his struggles, Solskjaer can have some confidence heading into Saturday's match based on his own promising record against City and Guardiola.

Solskjaer has lost just one of his five league derbies, winning three of them. The Norwegian has often deployed a counter-attacking set-up in these matches, and has enjoyed success with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard picking apart City on the break.

As opposed to the hap-hazard pressing approach deployed in the Liverpool thrashing, Solskjaer reverted to counter-attacking against Spurs, with excellent results. United did press, but kept their shape while doing so, and were happy to surrender the possession to Nuno Espirito Santo's team, seeing just 41.8 per cent of the ball, but managing more shots (10 to nine).

It would seem almost certain that Solskjaer looks to utilise a similar set-up against City, who had 67.6 per cent of the possession and managed 14 attempts in a frustrating 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace last week.

United have averaged two goals per game in the league derbies that Solskjaer has taken charge of, conceding just three times in total across the five fixtures. It is a tactic that has proven its worth.

However, it is a risky one. In their seven meetings in all competitions since the start of the 2019-20 season, United have recorded expected goals (xG) values of below 1.0 in all but three games.

A similar lack of cutting edge on Saturday, combined with the type of defending that has left United so vulnerable at the back, could prove Solskjaer's downfall.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared Cristiano Ronaldo to NBA great Michael Jordan after the forward single-handedly dragged Manchester United to a 2-2 draw against Atalanta.

Ronaldo twice inspired United to come from behind, cancelling out strikes from Josep Ilicic and then Duvan Zapata as the Red Devils earned a 2-2 draw.

The Portugal international's brace prevented United from falling to a fourth successive away defeat in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time ever and keeps his side top of their group, level with Villarreal and two points better off than Tuesday's opponents.

Ronaldo also became the second-oldest player to have netted a Champions League double after Filippo Inzaghi (37 years and 86 days) in November 2010, and Solskjaer likened his forward's impact to that of former Chicago Bulls superstar Jordan.

"We all have our roles and responsibilities," Solskjaer told reporters at his post-match news conference. "Cristiano is a leader in the group, but that's what he does: he scores goals.

"We're not happy conceding two goals. Both of them are very, very fine margins. The first one I think should be off, the second one is a centimetre onside, probably. He's maybe offside last season, it's fine margins.

"But he does provide those moments. I'm sure Chicago Bulls didn't mind having Michael Jordan either.

"Sometimes the teams have the players they have, and that's why they are at Man United and why they are champions at Chicago Bulls – you come up with those moments."

United have won just three of their past nine games in all competitions, leaving pressure on the under-fire Solskjaer, but the former Red Devils star hailed the support his side continues to receive.

"It's a great feeling, that support for the team and for me personally. It makes you humble," Solskjaer continued.

"They know that all we want is for the team and the club to do well, of course we want to do our best, and I've appreciated the support recently."

Jadon Sancho, whose opportunities have been limited since joining from Borussia Dortmund in the close season, featured as a second-half substitute, and Solskjaer was satisfied with the England international's performance.

"I commit a crime every time I pick a team," he said. "There are always players that get left out. Against Tottenham, it was a different system, here again it was another different system.

"Jadon has got a fantastic attitude, the quality he has, and he was really sharp when he came on – the first header he cleared, and then he was really good on the ball.

"He's got a really big role to play for us for many years as a good player."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised the "incredible" influence of Cristiano Ronaldo after the superstar forward struck twice – including another late goal – to once again rescue Manchester United in the Champions League.

Ronaldo cancelled out strikes from Josip Ilicic and then Duvan Zapata in added time at the end of each half as United twice recovered from behind to draw 2-2 with Atalanta on Tuesday.

The first goal rounded off a slick passing move that also involved substitute Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes, while the second was a perfectly executed volley from range that flew away from Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso.

Ronaldo has now scored in all four of United's Group F fixtures, having also netted a 95th-minute winner against Villarreal and an 81st-minute winner in last month's 3-2 win against Atalanta in the reverse fixture.

The Portugal international's latest brace prevented United from falling to a fourth successive away defeat in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time ever and keeps his side top of their group, level with Villarreal and two points better off than Atalanta.

Reflecting on the competition's record all-time scorer's match-winning display, Solskjaer told BT Sport: "Cristiano is just incredible. That's what he does. If there's any chance you want to fall to in the last minute, and a difficult chance, then it's him.

"He keeps his eye on the ball and his technique on that volley is incredible. That's football. No one can question the character of these players as they didn't give up, they don't give in and they keep going.

"We had to make a few changes and they worked. The first goal was a proper team goal with great quality in the passing and that was the first moment that we played the football that we should do."

Atalanta's opening goal was awarded after a VAR check for a possible offside infringement against Mario Pasalic, who was stood near David de Gea when the goalkeeper somehow let Ilicic's drive squirm through his grasp.

Zapata's strike was initially ruled out for offside, meanwhile, only for the officials to correctly adjudge the forward was onside following a VAR check lasting two minutes.

Atalanta outperformed their opponents 1.55 to 1.04 in terms of expected goals value, but Solskjaer is pleased with the way his side refused to give up in the eventful draw at Gewiss Stadium.

"Sometimes, you don't plan to concede a goal and we're at a difficult place," Solskjaer added. "The atmosphere was electric and they're a very physical and aggressive side. The character was spot on again. They kept going.

"It was a tight game, flaws both ways. Their two goals are very tight to being offside. I feel for the first, it's very close to a player interfering with David's view, and for the second it's very close."

United were already without defender Victor Lindelof, who sustained a knock in training this week, and lost centre-back Raphael Varane – making his second start since returning from a three-game lay-off – to injury shortly before half-time against Atalanta.

Providing an update on the France international ahead of Saturday's Premier League derby showdown with neighbours Manchester City, Solskjaer said: "He felt his hamstring and that of course you can't take any risks with. 

"Rapha has been such a calming influence when he's on the pitch and we lost him so that's football."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urged his critics to keep targeting him because he is fuelled by the flak that has come his way since Manchester United's 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

A Mohamed Salah hat-trick inspired Jurgen Klopp's men to their biggest ever winning margin at Old Trafford on October 24, with United losing by at least five goals without scoring at home for the first time since 1955.

It was a humiliating day for United, and Solskjaer looked as though he was going to pay the price, but Alex Ferguson reportedly played a major role in buying the Norwegian time to turn things around following a four-game winless run in the league.

United followed that defeat up with a comprehensive win at Tottenham on Saturday, Solskjaer's decisions to switch to a back three and deploy a strike partnership of Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo paying dividends – they kept a clean sheet and the two forwards each scored a goal.

That defeat ended up costing Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo his job as it eased the heat slightly on Solskjaer, but with a Champions League trip to Atalanta to be followed by the Manchester derby, he is only another disappointing result away from being under intense pressure again.

But he says the criticism that comes with such pressure is what keeps him on his toes.

"Criticism can make you doubt yourself or you can stand up for yourself," he told reporters ahead of the clash with Atalanta.

"I've always enjoyed criticism, keep it coming. Journalists, pundits – we've all got different jobs and it's their job to give their opinion. I am not here to fight with them, I don't need a spat with them."

Despite the excellent response against Tottenham, Solskjaer is not getting carried away about United's situation.

"The next one is the one that matters and we've been looking, working together for consistency and when we get that we'll get consistent results. One swallow doesn't make a summer.

"We will keep focusing on what we did well. [The schedule] is relentless. It is a chance tomorrow to prove we can go again."

Bruno Fernandes, sat alongside Solskjaer, was asked about the slightly different role he was asked to play on Saturday, as he featured behind two strikers rather than a lone frontman who was flanked by two wingers.

The Portugal international had a fine performance individually, playing three key passes – including a wonderful assist for Ronaldo's stunning volley – and also had a major role in Cavani's well-worked goal as he robbed Oliver Skipp in the build-up.

But as long as he is able to supply the frontline, he is not bothered who Solskjaer picks in attack.

"I think, honestly, we have such good quality, not just them [Cavani and Ronaldo]," he said. "They scored so take a big part of the result, but honestly I think the quality we have makes it easy to play behind any striker and serve them. All of them can score goals. They're all different but can all score goals many times and from any place on the pitch.

"We have many talents in this team – Edi, Cristiano, Anthony [Martial], Marcus [Rashford], Jadon [Sancho] – it doesn't matter who plays. I know I'm there to try to serve them and make them happy."

United – who had to come back from 2-0 down to beat Atalanta in their last Champions League outing – are aiming to avoid losing four consecutive away games in Europe's elite competition or its predecessor the European Cup.

What does the future hold for Paul Pogba?

Pogba, who re-joined Manchester United from Juventus in 2016, is set to become a free agent at season's end.

Juve are believed to be trying to lure Pogba back to Italy.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE LEAD RACE FOR POGBA

Juventus are in pole position to re-sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, according to Sportitalia journalist Rudy Galetti.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly not prepared to sign a new contract with United.

The World Cup-winning France international left United for Juventus in 2012 before returning to Old Trafford in 2016.

Le10 Sport, meanwhile, claims Paris Saint-Germain are circling amid interest from Real Madrid also.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports Xavi wants to sign Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman if he is appointed head coach of LaLiga giants Barcelona . Barca great and Al-Sadd boss Xavi is favourite to replace Ronald Koeman.

Theo Hernandez is set to snub a move to Premier League champions Manchester City or Ligue 1 powerhouse PSG in favour of re-signing with Milan, per Calciomercato.

- The Mirror says Newcastle United are struggling to prise Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag from Amsterdam. Also linked to Manchester United amid pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer , Ten Hag is reluctant to move to Newcastle due to their position in the table.

Inter have planned talks with Marcelo Brozovic regarding a new contract amid interest from PSG , Manchester United , Barca and Atletico Madrid , according to Corriere dello Sport.

Cristiano Ronaldo hailed an "unbelievable" Manchester United performance as they delivered for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a thumping 3-0 win at Tottenham.

While Spurs now clearly have their own problems, United eased the pressure on their Norwegian manager with a resounding result in London.

A tremendous volley from Ronaldo put United in front after 39 minutes, and the 36-year-old played in Edinson Cavani to dink home the visitors' second just after the hour, with substitute Marcus Rashford adding a late third.

It gave United their biggest away league win against Tottenham since February 2007, when they won 4-0 at White Hart Lane. Coincidentally, Ronaldo gave United the lead in that game too, during his first spell at the club.

Last weekend's 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool left United at a low ebb, but this was a marked improvement, with Solskjaer picking three centre-backs and seeing the tactical shift bring about a sturdier display.

Ronaldo told Sky Sports: "We knew before the game that we had a tough week. We had results we didn't really expect. The team was a little bit under pressure, a little bit sad, but we knew that today we would give a good answer. We played good, we started the game really well.

"My job is to help the team with my experience, with goals, with assists, and I did that today. In terms of the team, it was an unbelievable performance in my opinion."

United had taken just one point from their previous four games in the Premier League, and a title challenge has begun to look unlikely even at this early stage of the campaign. Talk of Solskjaer being at risk of losing his job has ramped up, to the point that the Tottenham game looked like a must-win fixture.

"It was tough; we didn't expect the last results in the Premier League. But I hope this time we changed the page," Ronaldo said.

"It is not only the coach, that many people point out – it is the players as well. I believe that some things happen for a reason, and we have to be happy for this amazing afternoon.

"We won 3-0 in an away stadium against a difficult team, and we are so pleased for that and happy. Not only for the coach, for the club, for the players, it's normal. The club is so big and the criticism is always there."

Ronaldo had just three touches in the Tottenham penalty area, Opta match data showed, but he made the best of the half-chance that came his way from a raking ball by Bruno Fernandes.

When it comes to reaction to a team's results, Ronaldo feels he has seen it all. Since the early days of his first stint at United, and through his time at Real Madrid and Juventus subsequently, his performances and those of his teams have always come in for the closest scrutiny.

That will not change because of this outcome, given United have a crunch midweek assignment against Atalanta in the Champions League, followed by next weekend's derby against Manchester City.

"For me, it is not bothering me because I've played 18 years of football," he said. "I know [the perception is that] one day is perfect and another day we are c**p. I know that, and we have to deal with that.

"But it's always better when the people praise you and are happy with you, and you win. Sometimes you have to pass through bad moments, and we have to change, and we changed today."

Edinson Cavani set the tone for Manchester United's response to humiliation at the hands of Liverpool by producing the best training performance Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seen in his three years as manager.

United were crushed 5-0 at home by Liverpool last Sunday, a defeat that for a time looked to have cost Solskjaer his job.

The Norwegian was given more time by the club's hierarchy and United responded well on Saturday, beating Tottenham 3-0 on the road in what was the Red Devils' biggest away win over Spurs since February 2007 (4-0).

Solskjaer switched to a back three and partnered Cavani up front with Cristiano Ronaldo, both of whom found the net. Their combination for the Uruguayan's strike was the first time two players aged 34 or older linked up for a Premier League goal for United since Paul Scholes set up Ryan Giggs in August 2010.

The average age of United's starting XI (28 years, 325 days) was the oldest Solskjaer has named for the club in the Premier League, but it did the trick, and he was glowing in his appraisal of the two experienced strikers afterwards.

Asked if it was a conscious decision to turn to experience, Solskjaer told Sky Sports: "I've been here more or less three years as manager and Tuesday's training performance by Edinson Cavani was probably the best anyone's put in here, so the old men led from the front.

"They play well together, they have loads of respect for each other. Of course, we have loads of talented players, and to learn from those two, they've got to learn as quickly as they can because these two, the work rate they put in, the quality they put in is second to none."

The victory will have eased the pressure on Solskjaer somewhat, though he did not see it as an example of the players specifically playing for him.

"They'll play for the club no matter what, this is not about me," he continued. "As I said before the game, it's about us improving as a group and if anyone doesn't give everything for Man United, they won't play, it's as easy as that."

United have not been strangers to playing three at the back under Solskjaer. While results in the past have been mixed when deploying such a set-up, he felt it was important to use it on this occasion to ensure greater defensive stability.

Asked why he went for a back three, Solskjaer said: "Solidity. We got experience together, with Cristiano and Edi; we got more control and we probably got a man-of-the-match performance from Scott McTominay.

"For me, he was unplayable. I thought they all played really well, and of course we had the experience of Raphael Varane to put in the middle of the defence. It helped."

A dire defeat against Liverpool proved to be fatal for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in 2018, but an even more humiliating loss to the Reds didn't – somehow – spell the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he continues to cling on.

That's not to say it was a comfortable week for Solskjaer after that 5-0 annihilation at Old Trafford – if you believe the speculation, he probably wouldn't have been in charge for Saturday's trip to Tottenham were it not for Alex Ferguson coming into bat for his former player in the boardroom.

Solskjaer was afforded time, how much we can't be sure, but it was enough to at least prevent United suffering three successive league defeats for the first time since December 1961, with the Red Devils so effective and clinical in a 3-0 victory that subsequently heaped the pressure on opposite number Nuno Espirito Santo.

Perhaps we should've seen it coming? "Lads, it's Tottenham."

There were a couple of major surprises when Solskjaer's team was announced: firstly, that he was making just two alterations to the side that was humiliated last weekend, and secondly, they were switching to a back three.

While United have played such a system numerous times under Solskjaer before, it's difficult to say that setup has been consistently effective for them, with results ranging from 2-0 wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, to 3-1 and 3-2 defeats to the Blues and RB Leipzig.

But it allowed United to address a couple of key issues from the Liverpool defeat – their defensive frailty and a lack of pressing from the frontline.

After all, precious few of United's pressures against Liverpool came in the opposing half. Edinson Cavani's presence alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at least alleviated that to a certain degree, and it might have paid off early on when the Uruguayan managed to get a tackle in on the dawdling Japhet Tanganga, only for Spurs to be let off the hook by a kind ricochet.

Nevertheless, United's start provided indications of how the opening 45 minutes was going to play out for them, with wing-backs Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka pushing high to good effect and the midfield trio taking it in turns to support Cavani and Ronaldo.

There was a sense that Solskjaer's decision to go with a back three was down to a lack of trust in his team off the ball, which would have been fair on the evidence of last week, but generally the switch worked well for United as Spurs struggled to impose themselves in the first half.

While they managed seven shots and had a goal disallowed for offside, none of those efforts were on target, with Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane – absent last week – working well in tandem.

That extra protection at the back allowed for the United midfield to be more aggressive as well, both on and off the ball. Between them, Scott McTominay and Fred combined for seven tackle attempts in the first half, while both routinely helped on the attack – the Scotland international making the run and pass for Ronaldo's own disallowed strike, as an example.

Of course, having a finisher of the standard of Ronaldo in attack is always a bonus and his wonderful volley proved that point perfectly, as he lashed into the far corner from a tight angle as he latched on to Bruno Fernandes' lobbed pass in the 39th minute.

That goal meant Nuno's men had to become a greater threat after the break, and to their credit, Spurs' possession had increased to 59.6 per cent for the second half up to the 70th minute, but United's back three continued to provide a solid foundation – in the same time period, the hosts had just one shot.

The standing of the match was undoubtedly playing even further into United's hands – if there's any feature of their play that has been consistently good under Solskjaer, it's their counter-attacking, and they finished Spurs off just past the hour in a not too dissimilar manner.

Fernandes was the one to rob Oliver Skipp just inside the United half before darting forward and feeding Ronaldo. His clever flick opened up space and the Portugal talisman sliced open the Spurs defence for Cavani expertly make it 2-0.

The average age of United's starting XI (28 years, 325 days) was the oldest Solskjaer has named in the Premier League, and here were his two most experienced players doing the business when he needed them most.

Solskjaer got the players, system and substitutes – spoiler alert – right, with Marcus Rashford wrapping things up on the break towards the end shortly after his introduction.

Of course, it's worth saying that Spurs were always likely to be a potentially kind opponent for a United side desperate for a response. Prior to the weekend, Nuno's side had the second fewest shots (94) and joint-third poorest xG record (9.2) in the Premier League this season.

In the end, everything played into United's hands and Solskjaer got the response he needed – but with a trip to Atalanta and a Manchester derby coming up, the pressure is by no means off.

Manchester United delivered a hugely valuable performance for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they beat Tottenham 3-0 in London on Saturday.

A run of one point from four Premier League games, culminating in that embarrassing 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool last week, had left the Red Devils manager knowing a bad result at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could have left his position untenable.

Solskjaer responded with a change to his system, starting with a back three and partnering Edinson Cavani with Cristiano Ronaldo, who broke the deadlock with a fine finish shortly before half-time.

The front pairing showed their value midway through the second half when Ronaldo set up Cavani to score his first Premier League goal of the season, with substitute Marcus Rashford slotting home a late third to pile the misery on Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

After something of an anxious start in which a blocked Cavani shot in the box was the best of the openings, Son Heung-min wasted a great chance when he poked the ball over the crossbar after taking down Lucas Moura's ball.

Cavani glanced a header from 12 yards wide of Hugo Lloris' right-hand post before Cristian Romero bundled the ball in from Eric Dier's flick-on at a Spurs corner, although the assistant referee's flag was correctly – if belatedly – raised.

There was no question of disallowing Ronaldo's opener, though, the Portugal star timing his movement to perfection to meet Bruno Fernandes' precise delivery and volley low beyond Lloris.

A spectacular second for Ronaldo after the restart was ruled out for offside, as Spurs showed some renewed attacking endeavour without managing to threaten David de Gea's goal.

United were happy to wait for their opportunities and duly took the next when it arrived. After Fernandes robbed Oliver Skipp in midfield, Ronaldo's clever turn and precise pass sent Cavani through, and his strike partner provided a delicate finish past Lloris.

Nemanja Matic, brought on to strengthen United's grip on the game, provided the telling throughball that sent Rashford into the box where he calmly finished his second goal in three league appearances.

What does it mean? Solskjaer earns a reprieve – for now

United's win lifted them back up to fifth in the Premier League, only three points behind Manchester City, who were earlier shocked at home by Crystal Palace.

Solskjaer is likely to be back in the firing line should his side lose the derby next week when the champions visit Old Trafford, but his job certainly appears safe for the time being.

Spurs, with five wins and five defeats from 10 games, are two points further back in eighth.

Deadly duo keeps Solskjaer alive

There was certainly far more stability about United with their change in system, but another real plus point was the partnership between Ronaldo and Cavani.

Their finishing was immaculate and the interplay for Cavani's goal superb, while the extra body further forward helped to negate the need for the high-risk pressing that left United so exposed against Liverpool.

Trouble builds for Nuno

There were loud boos from the home fans when Lucas was substituted for Steven Bergwijn nine minutes into the second half, which said plenty about the difficult position in which Nuno finds himself.

A third defeat without scoring in four games means pressure is mounting on the Portuguese as Spurs head into what looks to be a kinder run of fixtures.

What's next?

United head to Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday before next Saturday's home derby with City. Spurs face Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday and then head to Everton next Sunday.

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