Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has commanded Manchester United to douse the blazing brilliance of Liverpool's "on-fire" forward Mohamed Salah.

The United manager knows Salah is capable of turning up at Old Trafford on Sunday and making a game-winning contribution, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games this season.

Six of those goals have come in Salah's last four games, including Champions League doubles against Porto and Atletico Madrid, and the Egypt international has only failed to net in one game this term: the 2-0 win over Burnley in August.

Although Solskjaer said he would side with Cristiano Ronaldo in any debate about who is the best player in the world, his admiration for Salah shone through.

"I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique and his goalscoring record has been fantastic and he keeps on scoring," Solskjaer said.

"But that being said, Salah at the moment is on fire. You've seen some of the goals he's scored lately. We know we need to be at our best to defend against him.

"Players like this don't come around very often and we've got to enjoy them when we watch them – from afar, not on Sunday, that's too close for me."

Wonder strikes against Manchester City and Watford in Liverpool's last two Premier League games have illustrated how well Salah is performing, and he sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart.

Along with those goals in Europe, that lift him into double figures, Salah has found a consistency this season that makes him Liverpool's number one threat.

"So we've got to do a good job, but not just against him," Solskjaer said. "I'm a big admirer of the frontline they've had for many, many years now, with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows?

"They're players you have to focus on and you've got to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet.

"When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool at the moment, they're on a great run of form, with some individuals' skills that you cannot almost defend against. But as a team we need to be compact, we need to be aggressive, we need to go out there and give every drop of nous and knowledge, strong mindset and physical energy.

"It's going to take everything to get results against the best teams in Europe and the world, and Liverpool are one of them at the moment."

Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season, netting twice in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat before hitting the fourth as Liverpool won 4-2 in the Premier League.

No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against United, while the Merseyside giants have not earned consecutive league wins at Old Trafford since January 2002.

Should Jurgen Klopp's men follow up last season's Premier League success at United with another victory, they would hold a seven-point cushion over their great rivals.

United have a disappointing recent record in league games against Liverpool, winning just one of their previous 10 encounters. This game has often failed to live up to expectations in recent seasons, with six of the last 10 ending in draws, and Liverpool coming out on top in the other three.

Solskjaer said he hoped the 3-2 win over Atalanta on Wednesday signalled "the end of a bad period for us" and that it might be "the start of something big". That is bold talk, given United have lost three of their last four domestic games, including a 4-2 setback at Leicester City last Saturday.

Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 in the Premier League, with the turmoil that plagued them at the start of the year banished and replaced by an optimism they can challenge for a second title in three years.

United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest such run since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

Although United finished ahead of Liverpool last season, Solskjaer was realistic enough to recognise it was injury chaos in the Anfield ranks that blunted the 2020-21 challenge from Klopp's men, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sitting out most of the season.

"They're one of the teams we're trying to chase. What they've done in the last four years is something we're striving towards and [trying] to go past them," Solskjaer said.

"We ended above them last season, they had a very bad spell of injuries, so now they're back to their best."

Bruno Fernandes could be missing through injury when Manchester United face Liverpool at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed.

The United playmaker suffered a knock in the dramatic 3-2 win against Atalanta on Wednesday, and along with Fred he is among a small group whose fitness is under observation.

Solskjaer said ahead of Sunday's Premier League headline fixture: "Games like Wednesday's are always going to bring knocks and bruises.

"Bruno might be one of them that might be a doubt, but he's doing everything he can to be ready. It's still just Friday, the game's on Sunday, so it will give everyone time.

"We might be two or three players down. Today [in training] we weren't everyone, so let's see Sunday."

To lose Fernandes would be a big blow to United's hopes of inflicting a telling early-season blow on their north-west rivals, with both teams having Premier League title aspirations.

The Portugal international has scored two goals in three games against Liverpool since arriving from Sporting CP in January 2020.

Solskjaer will send his players into battle against a Liverpool side who enter the weekend in second place, one point behind Chelsea. United sit sixth, four points further back, and to concede more ground even at this early stage of the season would be a troubling outcome for the Red Devils manager.

Should in-form Liverpool win, a seven-point gap would be a lot for United to claw back.

Solskjaer said: "It's a massive rivalry. Every time being a Manchester United player and getting the responsibility and honour to step out at Old Trafford against Liverpool, you give everything you have, and we know these games don't need any bigging up, it's a massive game.

"Of course, to be seven points behind, it's going to be a big distance. [If United win and the gap is] one point between, it's close."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Donny van de Beek is "not happy" and "frustrated" with a lack of opportunities at Manchester United.

The Netherlands international arrived from Ajax for a reported £40million last season but chances have been few and far between for the 24-year-old at Old Trafford.

Van de Beek has been afforded just 140 minutes of action across in competitions this term – 90 of those coming against West Ham in the EFL Cup – and the midfielder's frustrations were picked up by television cameras in a win over Villarreal last month.

The former Ajax man was spotted throwing his chewing gum in the direction of the United bench after Jesse Lingard was brought on from the bench.

However, asked about the incident after the Atalanta win – in which the Red Devils overturned a two-goal deficit to triumph 3-2 – Solskjaer joked to deflect any conflict, while admitting Van de Beek's frustrations.

"It’s wiser to throw away your chewing gum and not to swallow it," Solskjaer said to Dutch outlet RTL7. "We learned that as children.

"And giving your chewing gum to someone else is not possible in these Corona times either. Sensible, so I could see he was throwing it away.

"Donny is still working hard, of course, and at the moment it’s hard. I understand Donny is frustrated, he’s disappointed but he keeps on working every day with a big smile.

"I know he’s not happy, but he works hard and he’s a top professional. He knows that that’s the way that sometimes it works in football. At the moment he’s not playing but he doesn’t let himself down."

United came from two goals down in the Champions League to win for the third time on Wednesday – the joint-most in the competition.

Marcus Rashford's strike, which was the 300th goal of Solskjaer's tenure, started the comeback before Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo completed a remarkable turnaround.

Bruno Fernandes also created eight chances – the most by a United player in Europe since the 2003-04 season – and Solskjaer insisted Van de Beek, who was once again an unused substitute again, must remain patient in waiting for a chance.

"I can’t go into every single player," the head coach continued. "But if you see our team I thought our performance was really good. He’s got some good players that he plays with.

"He keeps training well and I enjoy having him there and I hope for him that he gets his chances."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was "sure" Manchester United would beat Atalanta after match-winner Cristiano Ronaldo completed a dramatic Champions League comeback on Wednesday.

Ronaldo was the hero again at Old Trafford, where United overturned a two-goal deficit to stun visiting Atalanta 3-2 on matchday three in Group F.

United trailed 2-0 before the half-hour mark in Manchester after Mario Pasalic and Merih Demiral shocked the Theatre of Dreams.

Reeling after a 4-2 Premier League defeat at Leicester City last time out and just two wins in their previous seven games, the Red Devils were given a glimmer of hope when Marcus Rashford pulled a goal back eight minutes into the second half – the club's 300th strike in all competitions under Solskjaer.

United captain Harry Maguire equalised with 15 minutes remaining before superstar Ronaldo stepped up to complete the fightback nine minutes from time.

On what he said at half-time, Solskjaer told BT Sport: "I said make sure we get the next goal, because then we win the game.

"As long as we don’t concede I was pretty sure we would win the game. It was just about taking chances."

"I thought we played well first half too. Two chances, two goals. It had to stop if we are to survive," Solskjaer said after United rallied from two or more goals down for the third time – no side has done so more often in the Champions League.

"We have a habit of doing this at this club. I thought we played well and they scored a goal out of nothing and then another set-piece. But they never stopped believing and kept going."

"The fans are a big, big part of this club," Solskjaer added. "The singing section here today kept the players going in their belief. That is what you do at Manchester United on a Champions League night."

Solskjaer defended Ronaldo following some criticism that he does not work hard or defend enough for the Premier League giants.

Ronaldo has now scored in three consecutive Champions League games for United for the second time – the 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner previously doing so in November 2007 en route to lifting the trophy with the Red Devils.

“If anyone wants to criticise him for work rate or attitude, just look at the way he runs around in this game," he said.

Solskjaer has found himself under growing pressure amid United's poor form and performances and when it was put to him whether the squad had played for him midweek, the Norwegian responded: "Don't disrespect the players.

"They played for Man United and they are the luckiest men in the world because they're the ones who get to play for Man United and millions of boys and girls would love to do that."

Cristiano Ronaldo once again scored a late winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit against Atalanta to win 3-2 and move top of Champions League Group F at the halfway point.

Mario Pasalic broke the deadlock after just 15 minutes at Old Trafford, with Merih Demiral heading home to double the blow before the half-hour mark on Wednesday.

Marcus Rashford pulled one back after the break as he scored the 300th goal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure before Harry Maguire levelled with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.

Ronaldo, who scored a stoppage-time winner against Villarreal, then climbed the highest to cap a memorable comeback and move the Red Devils to the summit.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came out swinging as he hit out at the media for the coverage and interpretation of his recent comments about Marcus Rashford.

England international Rashford made his first appearance of the season in the 4-2 weekend defeat to Leicester City, scoring one of United's goals.

But in his pre-match news conference on Friday, Solskjaer appeared to pedal a trope that was used to undermine Rashford's charitable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic by certain sections of society, urging him to "prioritise" football.

Solskjaer said: "You know what he has done off the pitch as well, because he has done some fantastic things, and now to prioritise, maybe prioritise his football and focus on football because he's got a challenge on his hands here at Manchester United, he has a challenge on his hands to play for England."

Many considered Solskjaer's comments to be a veiled criticism of Rashford's off-the-pitch endeavours, which helped raise enough money for the FareShare charity to distribute the equivalent of more than 21 million meals to struggling children and families.

His continued efforts saw him honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and he also became the youngest ever recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Manchester.

Media speculation suggested Rashford and his entourage were annoyed by Solskjaer's comments last week, and ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Atalanta, the Norwegian addressed the "elephant in the room" immediately with the 23-year-old sat next to him.

"We are so unbelievably proud of what Marcus has done off the pitch," he began.

"You [journalists] know what was said and you made headlines out of one little comment that I never intended to be the focus.

"I was speaking about Marcus and how it must be nice for the boy to be going into training not focusing on his shoulder or ankle or his back, and I think you know that. Now he can just enjoy his football.

"So, no questions on that, I just wanted to start with that one."

Media speculation suggested Rashford and his entourage were annoyed by Solskjaer's comments last week, and ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Atalanta, the Norwegian addressed the "elephant in the room" immediately with the 23-year-old sat next to him.

"We are so unbelievably proud of what Marcus has done off the pitch," he began.

"You [journalists] know what was said and you made headlines out of one little comment that I never intended to be the focus.

"I was speaking about Marcus and how it must be nice for the boy to be going into training not focusing on his shoulder or ankle or his back, and I think you know that. Now he can just enjoy his football.

"So, no questions on that, I just wanted to start with that one."

The awkward headlines came at a particularly troubling time for United and Solskjaer as they have endured an underwhelming start to 2021-22 that has comprised of just five wins in 11 matches across all competitions.

Solskjaer is under increasing pressure with performances leaving a lot to be desired, and his job security was a key subject during Tuesday's news conference.

But he mostly cut a calm figure as he faced the tough questions.

"It doesn't affect me but of course you see some of the comments," he said when asked about Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher's assessment United should have a better manager than Solskjaer.

"We've got Liverpool on Sunday as well, so Jamie is always looking at these little things.

"I've got my values, my way of managing, I believe in myself. As long as the club believes in me, I'm pretty sure Jamie Carragher's opinion isn't going to change that.

"We've progressed over the years. Since I was here for half a season, we've finished third, second – you could see progress, development.

"This season we still want to improve. We signed players who raised expectations.

"There's pressure on me of course, but we've come through this before stronger as individuals and as a team.

"I'm in dialogue with the club all the time, so that's an open and honest discussion all the time."

Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer running out of time at Old Trafford?

Manchester United are already five points off the pace in the Premier League and pressure is mounting.

United, though, are believed to be firmly in favour of sticking with their manager.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER WANTED AT THE WHEEL

Manchester United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United slumped to a 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester City at the weekend, which has left the Red Devils with just two wins from their past seven games across all competitions.

As pressure mounts on Solskjaer, United still reportedly have faith in the Norwegian amid links with the likes of Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter are ready to battle Arsenal for Madrid forward Luka Jovic. The Serbia international has struggled for form and fitness in the Spanish capital.

PSG want to swap Mauro Icardi for Barcelona's Sergio Aguero, claims El Nacional. The reports says Lionel Messi wants to reunite with countryman Aguero, who left Manchester City for Barca, only for Messi to join PSG.

- Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel, Denis Zakaria of Borussia Monchengladbach and Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch are among Juventus' transfer targets as they look to add options in midfield, per Tuttosport. Tchouameni has also been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United, Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City, while Roma have been eyeing Zakaria.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that he "made a couple of bad decisions" as Manchester United slipped to a 4-2 defeat against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

The loss saw United's 29-game unbeaten away run in the Premier League come to an end, and the Red Devils have managed just one point from their last three league games.

Solskjaer's men took the lead, but they were then overhauled and conceded a third goal less than a minute after pulling level again, before a stoppage-time goal for the Foxes sealed the result.

The Norwegian manager was unhappy with the manner of the goals his side shipped, but he shouldered the responsibility for the result which means United have won just once in their last five games across all competitions, losing three.

"When you look at the game, the four goals we conceded are all very poor," Solskjaer said to Sky Sports. "We didn't deserve to carry on the [unbeaten away] run. The performance was not good enough.

"We got a very good goal with Mason [Greenwood] and we were knocking on the door for another, but then some sloppy play and we concede. It was end to end but they created more chances. Two goals from set-pieces is disappointing and then seconds after equalising that should not happen [for Jamie Vardy's goal].

"I pick the team and Harry [Maguire] has showed no reaction [to his injury]. I hold my hands up if that doesn't work out and I probably made a couple of bad decisions.

"Lately, we have not been in great form and lost too many points. Something may have to change. Do we need more legs in there? What do we need? It is one that we have to really analyse. The one positive was Marcus [Rashford] coming back in. He’s got legs and is sharp so that's a big bonus.

"I've got many good players and every game is a different game. I am not going to put excuses up for the team I put out because it is full of top footballers and that was not good enough."

Despite United's poor form, Solskjaer insists he is not feeling the strain and is confident the team have the capacity to improve under his guidance.

"Every time you lose, the pressure builds of course, but we are used to living with that pressure," Solskjaer told the BBC. 

"We are Man United; setbacks have happened before, worse performances, and we've got to bounce back on Wednesday. I'm going to do the job as well as I can; I believe in this team."

United's first opportunity to rectify their issues comes on Wednesday as they host Serie A side Atalanta in the Champions League.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants star forward Marcus Rashford to focus on football following his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Rashford underwent shoulder surgery in August and is in line to make his first appearance of the season when United visit Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

The 23-year-old England international has been hailed for his off-field work, awarded an MBE in his campaign to end child poverty.

But Solskjaer urged Rashford to prioritise his football career moving forward.

"I know that we will see the best of Marcus in the years to come," Solskjaer told reporters. "He has done remarkable things at a young age but he is now coming into the best age for a footballer and he is more experienced.

"He has [had] time to reflect. You know what he has done off the pitch as well, because he has done some fantastic things, and now to prioritise, maybe prioritise his football and focus on football because he's got a challenge on his hands here at Manchester United, he has a challenge on his hands to play for England.

"I think Marcus is one of those who takes up those challenges and is going to.

"He is going to express himself and his talent and he knows that we want a lot from him but we are going to give him the time to get back to what he was and what he can be."

United – fourth in the Premier League and two points off the pace – are looking to extend their record unbeaten away run in the league to 30 games (W19 D10).

The Red Devils have not conceded more than once in any of their last 15 on the road (seven conceded in total) – their longest such run in league football.

United have the player with the most overall chances created (Bruno Fernandes, 23), the most chances created from set plays (Luke Shaw, 11) and the most assists (Paul Pogba, seven) in the Premier League so far this season.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo before the international break, adamant he is trying to learn from his own mistake of overexerting his players.

Ronaldo was surprisingly named among the substitutes as United could only draw 1-1 with Everton in their most recent Premier League match.

United produced a disappointing performance as they were left with just two wins from their past seven home games in the league.

Ronaldo came on in the second half to make his 200th top-flight appearance for United, becoming only the fifth player since 2003 to reach that milestone in two of Europe's big five leagues.

The Portugal star looked furious as he walked down the tunnel after that match and a video posted by Mixed Martial Arts star Khabib Nurmagomedov – who was a guest of the club – showed Alex Ferguson questioning Solskjaer's decision to rest Ronaldo in a conversation with him.

But while Solskjaer says he would like to play Ronaldo – who scored four goals in two games for Portugal over the past couple of weeks – as much as possible, he insists he is looking out for United's collective conditioning in the long term.

"He's an exceptional player, finisher, goalscorer and professional," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Leicester City.

"It's hard to leave him out and everyone would love to play six games [in a row] and play the same XI, it's great, but it's rotation [they need].

"We need to get to May with everyone firing. We got to May and the final stretch last season and we were a little tired.

"I'm the manager, I manage for the club, but of course it's nice to have him on the pitch because he'll always come up with the goods, and the more we have him on the pitch, the better."

While many will expect Ronaldo to start at the King Power Stadium, he could potentially be joined in attack by Marcus Rashford for the first time.

England international Rashford has not played since Euro 2020 after undergoing surgery on a persistent shoulder injury in August.

Solskjaer confirmed the forward will be in the squad on Saturday and did not rule out him starting, though the game will come slightly too soon for captain Harry Maguire.

"[Rashford] is in the squad, yes. If he's starting or not, I can't tell you because it wouldn't be right, but he's been really bright this week.

"He had a 60-minute involvement in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, so he's fit and raring to go.

"Harry's just joined us on the grass this morning, so that was the first time he's been on the grass."

Fellow England international Jesse Lingard has been the subject of significant speculation in recent months after a blistering loan spell with West Ham last season.

His contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked with numerous clubs, including Barcelona, though Solskjaer was unequivocal in his desire to keep Lingard at Old Trafford.

"Jesse's had a good start to the season, come on and scored a few goals," Solskjaer said. "He's been important for us.

"We want to prolong his contract; we see him as an important player. It's up to him to get more playing time, and maybe it's up to me giving him more playing time because he deserves to [play], but I always have to leave players out.

"Hopefully we can get a deal sorted for Jesse, because we really rate him and value him around the club. He's a top player and a top person."

You wouldn't necessarily know it given some of the scrutiny, but things aren't going all that terribly at Manchester United.

With four wins and two draws from their first seven games of the Premier League season, they are just two points behind leaders Chelsea. It's a solid improvement from 2020-21, when, at the same stage of the campaign, they were four points worse off and with a negative goal difference.

Exiting the EFL Cup was frustrating, as was losing to Young Boys, but that last-gasp win over Villarreal means their Champions League fate remains firmly in their own hands. It also ensured their challenge for the two biggest trophies on offer are very much alive, and it's why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job is not currently under threat.

Their next 10 games could change that. It's very hard to predict United results and quality of performances from week to week, but their coming fixture list looks seriously daunting on paper. Before the end of November, they must face league visits to Leicester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, a Champions League double-header with Atalanta and a trip to Villarreal, LaLiga's only remaining unbeaten side.

Solskjaer could approach the third anniversary of his return to Old Trafford on the back of a buoyant run of results, with a renewed spring in his step ahead of the festive season. Alternatively, December may bring about a deafening clamour for a change of management, just as Jose Mourinho faced in 2018.

Hallowe'en season makes for scary reading

One thing that's marked Solskjaer's time in charge is a tendency to pull out big results when the pressure is on. He's lost just one of five league games against Pep Guardiola and is the only United manager to win all three of his first league visits to the Etihad Stadium. He is unbeaten in five against Chelsea and has been beaten just once by Tottenham.

With two wins in six matches before the international break, the Norwegian will need to summon something similar in the coming seven league fixtures. The trouble is, these games did not go according to plan last time.

United's next league fixtures are Leicester City away, Liverpool at home, Spurs away, Man City at home, Watford away, Chelsea away and Arsenal at home. Last season, the only one of those same games that resulted in a United victory was the trip to Spurs and the embattled Mourinho. Of course, Watford weren't in the top flight last season, but United's last visit to Vicarage Road in December 2019 ended in a miserable 2-0 defeat.

In the Champions League, Solskjaer's men face Atalanta at home and away before heading to Spain to play Villarreal. They edged out Unai Emery's side at home thanks to a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo goal at the end of a contest in which the visitors had 2.31 expected goals to United's 1.07 but were thwarted by goalkeeper David de Gea.

While that was an important result, it didn't gloss over wider concerns. United have kept only one clean sheet in 12 Champions League games under Solskjaer, losing seven of them in total. That's only one defeat less than predecessors David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho suffered in 30 matches combined in the competition.

In short, it would take a serious optimist to expect United to get through this run of matches in overwhelmingly positive fashion.

What's the plan, Ole?

But hang on: two points off the top, only one defeat... United's Premier League form isn't that bad, surely?

Well, it's certainly not awful. United have scored more open-play goals than anyone else this season (14) and conceded four, a figure bettered only by Man City (three), Brighton and Hove Albion (two) and leaders Chelsea (zero).

There is often criticism around United's perceived lack of control over games, but that is perhaps not as bad as some think. Only Man City (63.4 per cent) average more possession per game than United (60.7 per cent), while their tally of 55 open-play shots against is the same as Liverpool's and only five down on Chelsea. Indeed, their expected goals against figure in open play (5.5) is slightly lower than that of Jurgen Klopp's men (5.9).

The problem is, as injury-time Ronaldo goals and De Gea penalty saves will tell you, United are treading a fine line between success and disappointment.

Those league-high 14 open-play goals came from 86 shots, a figure only bettered by Man City (94) and Liverpool (97), but one worth just 7.9 expected goals. That differential of 6.1 between goals scored and xG is by far the biggest in the league, and will almost certainly begin to level off at some stage.

That xG figure is in spite of United registering 1,256 passes ending in the final third, a tally only beaten by Man City (1,340). They also rank just fifth for passes into the box (234) and are well behind Liverpool (270) and Man City (273) for touches in the opponents' penalty area (206). Despite having lots of the ball, those clear-cut chances are scarce.

That relatively high possession figure apparently doesn't offer the security at the back that it should, either. But United have still faced 77 shots this season and are on an 11-game run without a clean sheet at home, their worst such sequence since 1964. Champions City, meanwhile, use keeping the ball as their first line of defence: they have only faced 42 shots, just 10 of which have been on target compared to United's 24.

At least United can't generally be accused of a want of trying. There are only two teams – Southampton (997) and Leeds United (1,210) – who have tallied more team sprints than United (991), which is impressive given the length of time they keep the ball rather than scurrying around trying to win it back.

Plus, only Liverpool (147) and Man City (127) have attempted more shots overall than United (120), while there are four United players among the top 18 in the division for attempts at goal this season. Those four – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba – have also created 50 goalscoring chances between them. In fact, Fernandes leads the league when it comes to shots attempted and chances created combined.

Solskjaer's ethos, it seems, continues to be based on individual inspiration: put enough talented attackers on the pitch, and, more often than not, they'll do enough to win you a game. But that tactic did not work against Everton, or Aston Villa, or Young Boys, or Southampton. Will it be enough against the rest of the 'big six' between now and December?

Will it be enough, indeed, to keep the wolves from Solskjaer's door?

Raphael Varane is set to be out for "a few weeks" after sustaining an injury in France's Nations League final win, Manchester United have confirmed.

Varane had to be replaced by Dayot Upamecano just before half-time in Les Bleus' 2-1 victory over Spain.

The centre-back went to ground off the ball and was quickly withdrawn from the match, with United now confirming he sustained a groin injury.

A brief statement read: "Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

"He will be out for a few weeks."

It comes as a massive blow to United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a potentially pivotal few weeks.

While it is unclear exactly how many games Varane will miss, the central defender will be absent for a chunk of what looks set to be a gruelling run of matches.

United face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City all in the next four weeks.

After a rather erratic start to 2021-22 consisting of just five wins from 10 matches across all competitions, Solskjaer heads into the upcoming run under pressure.

To make matters worse, there was already uncertainty over the condition of captain – and Varane's regular centre-back partner – Harry Maguire, who missed the clashes with Villarreal and Everton due to a calf injury before the international break that prevented him from linking up with England.

Whether Maguire will be fit to face former club Leicester at the weekend is yet to be determined, meaning the rather haphazard Eric Bailly and the dislodged Victor Lindelof could form an unfamiliar partnership at the back.

Although United have come in for criticism so far this term, Varane's early form has largely been considered positive and he has performed an important function in getting the team on the front foot, with his 7.6 passes into the final third per 90 minutes the most among the club's defenders.

What does the future hold for Erling Haaland?

The Borussia Dortmund forward is wanted across Europe.

However, Haaland could remain in Germany…

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND SET FOR DORTMUND STAY?

Erling Haaland is a player in demand but he is not certain to leave Borussia Dortmund, according to Sport Bild.

Haaland has been tipped to depart Dortmund at the end of the season amid links with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

But Norwegian pundit Jan Aage Fjortoft suggests Haaland could remain at the Bundesliga outfit for longer than many expect.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sports Italian claims Fiorentina chairman Rocco Commisso is concerned whether star forward Dusan Vlahovic intends to sign a new contract with Viola. Contracted until 2023, the Serbia international has been in talks regarding a new deal as the likes of City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Inter reportedly circle.

- United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Tuttomercatoweb reports Atletico have joined the race to sign Chelsea's Timo Werner, who has found himself behind Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge. Bayern and Dortmund are also reportedly eyeing Werner.

Madrid have been offered the chance to sign RB Leipzig Christopher Nkunku in 2022, says Mundo Deportivo.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant he will be able to get the best out of his Manchester United squad this season despite an erratic start to 2021-22.

Solskjaer's time in charge at United has generally been seen in a positive light among supporters, with first-team recruitment improving and many players considered deadwood under previous managers finally offloaded.

Additionally, the Norwegian secured back-to-back Champions League qualifications in his two full seasons at the helm — Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal only managed one each, while David Moyes was sacked before the conclusion to 2013-14, with United ultimately finishing seventh.

But arguably for the first time since becoming United manager, Solskjaer is now under pressure to challenge for the biggest titles following the recent arrival of big-name recruits Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Performances so far in 2021-22 have fallen short of expectations, however, with United winning just five of their 10 matches across all competitions — only two were by more than a single goal, and those were against a Leeds United side that is notoriously open and Newcastle United, who have not won any of their first seven league games.

United's latest disappointing result was the 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, which made it nine home league matches without a clean sheet, one shy of equalling a club record.

Everton were the more threatening team in that match, their 1.22 expected goals (xG) an improvement on United's 0.88 xG while the Toffees also had a goal disallowed, but Solskjaer retains belief in his team and staff.

Asked if he should be getting better results from the squad at his disposal, a prickly Solskjaer said: "That's the same question you asked on Wednesday night… Of course, I'm very confident we'll get the best out of this squad.

"A lot has happened this month. We've had Raphael, Cristiano and Jadon with us since August — well, Cristiano only September.

"We've loads to work on, we need to improve. We know that, I know that, but I do believe in this group of players and the coaching staff I've got. Yes, is the short answer."

A gruelling sequence of matches awaits after the international break, with United set to face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in a six-game spell.

While Solskjaer's record against Liverpool is not great, with him yet to beat the Reds in the league, he has at least had some joy in meetings with City, against whom he has won more games (four) than lost (three) across all competitions.

But some consider this upcoming sequence to be a make-or-break run for Solskjaer, and he stresses that past results against those opponents need to be disregarded.

"I believe in these players, in the coaching staff. I believe we have something going," he continued. "But the proof is in the pudding, so we need results and you have to turn up.

"We can't say we did well against City and Tottenham last year, we need to do it during the 90 minutes, that's the challenge.

"Every game in the Premier League and Champions League is a big game against a good team, and every game at Man Utd is a potential banana skin because we're expected to win every one."

Could Darwin Nunez be the next Benfica star to make a big move?

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid in a club-record deal in 2019.

Now, Uruguay international Nunez is attracting interest from across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FRONT OF QUEUE FOR NUNEZ

Manchester City are leading the race to sign Darwin Nunez from Portuguese giants Benfica, according to the Daily Star.

Premier League champions City are desperate to sign a forward amid links with Tottenham's Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Nunez has also reportedly attracted interest from BarcelonaLiverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

– United forward Edinson Cavani could join Real Madrid in January, claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Cavani finds himself battling Cristiano Ronaldo for regular game time at Old Trafford, where the club's hierarchy are concerned amid their form under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- The Daily Star reports Arsenal are weighing up a move for out-of-favour City forward Raheem SterlingBarca are also believed to be interested in Sterling, according to The Sun, as they face the prospect of missing out on Leipzig's Dani Olmo. The Spain international has been linked with United, Juventus and Bayern.

Liverpool are eyeing Pogon Szczecin midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, says the Mirror. The 17-year-old has been linked with Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, RB Leipzig and Salzburg.

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