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Return To Glory : Manchester United

Manchester United's Return To Glory
Started on 20 November 2019 by OohAhCantona
Latest Reply on 16 September 2020 by Lankyman22
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A shame that a number of transfers were either blocked or cancelled as that will surely impact Ole's plans for the coming season. But the signing of Bruno is a great one as he is a player of real quality who will bring much needed creativity to the midfield.
Building for the future but I am a bit surprised there wasn't more action in this window

AUGUST : EARLY MANCHESTER DERBY

Premier League (A) : Crystal Palace 1 - Manchester United 3


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have a very winnable game to open the Premier League, but two injuries would spoil the positive atmosphere he was trying to develop. The day before the game Fred would twist his ankle in practice, knocking him out for 3-4 weeks. Worse news would be David De Gea pulling an abdominal muscle, which would knock him out for 6-9 days and open up the possibility of missing the Manchester Derby.

Victor Lindelöf would score United’s opening goal of the season on a corner, sending a ball at the back post back in the opposite direction to find the side netting just 8’ into the game. United firmly controlled possession but failed to convert that into shots for much of the game, it took another corner for them to put the ball in the net with Scott McTominay doing the honors this time. A corner would be headed back to the side of the box with Anthony Martial pouncing on it before passing to the top of the box to find an unmarked McTominay who had ages to fire the ball past Vicente Guaita to make it 2-0.

Martial made it 3-0 thanks to a nightmare back pass by Andre Townsend that gave him a free shot on goal that Guaita wasn’t ready to face. This put an exclamation point on a solid game by the Frenchman who looks to have revived his fortunes under Solskjaer. He would narrowly miss out on the PoM award to Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic, a real diamond in the rough during the game, who would give Solskjaer something to fret over. Up 3-0 and looking a bit complacent, Guaita would boot the ball across the half way line into midfield for Milivojevic to run through the middle of United’s defense and score. Lindelöf and Harry Maguire could only point at each other on that one, with Manchester City looming it wasn’t a good look for the pair.

“I’m happy for the lads, they were ready for this and played with passion” said Solskjaer after the game “we just need to remain focused and take this into the derby.”

Premier League (H) : Manchester United 2 - Manchester City 2


Heading into the Manchester Derby this early was not an ideal situation, especially with De Gea appearing to be unavailable, but Solskjaer got some good news with De Gea being able to start. The media coverage around this game was so odd, it was hard to tell United were facing off against a hated rival favored to win the league. Just two games in it’s hard to tell how good either team really is, but one is clearly headed for bigger things.

“We expect them to play their best, to defend well” said Pep Guardiola, looking bored to be addressing the media “the pressure to win will come from the fans, not from me.”

“There are expectations, the fans are very excited for this one” said Solskjaer calmly “we will do our best, play to the best of our abilities.”

Far from the José Mourinho mind games of last season, both coaches seemed to be trying to manage expectations so early in the season. It may have been a wise move by both managers as the flow of the game challenged everyone’s expectations until the scoreless draw was broken. United dominated possession, similar to the Crystal Palace game, but this time they managed to convert that possession to shots which kept Claudio Bravo occupied. Unfortunately all of those shots came to nothing and made things worse when Bernardo Silva scored at 22’ to put things as they should be.

City only had a few minutes to enjoy their 1-0 lead as Marcus Rashford converted a penalty to even things up again. United continued to enjoy possession when a corner resulted in a Harry Maguire goal and a 2-1 lead. This time it was United who only managed a few minutes of joy when Aymeric Laporte scored off a City corner at 41’ and brought the score even once again.

Anyone hoping for more goals after the half were quite disappointed as both teams failed to realize the potential of the first half. United continued to enjoy possession but failed to create much beyond that and things really fell apart for Guardiola after Raheem Sterling went out injured at 72’ and both teams looked resigned to walking away with a point. A heel injury would turn out to be the cause, robbing Guardiola of his services for the next two weeks. In the end United dominated on paper, but City was able to outclass the hosts and hold steady. Perhaps round two will have more at stake aside from bragging rights.

Premier League (A) : Chelsea 0 - Manchester United 1


Solskjaer is not well known for negativity, a man who spent the peak of his career witnessing the famed Ferguson hairdryer might be expected to make use of it, but just a few weeks into the season the tension on his face would be evident. The injuries have been mounting, and in the worst place possible as his options at wing back quickly dwindle.

“Yes, he [Luke Shaw] will be missed.” said Solskjaer with a thousand-mile stare on his face. “We will need to make due, we have players ready to step up.”

Shaw would pull up lame in practice with a tight groin to miss this game, he would join Diogo Dalot on the physio’s bench during his recovery from a recent injury. Ethan Laird and Reece Devine, both from the U-23 team, would be on the bench for this game as potential subs. Ashley Young, just back from a short injury himself, would start in Shaw’s place.

Sure enough, just 18’ in Ethan Laird would get sent on as Aaron Wan-Bissake would go down with an injury and the thousand-mile stare would return to Solskjaer’s face on the sidelines. Despite the injury United would hold their own and both sides would maintain a 0-0 draw almost to halftime. Solskjaer’s stare would be broken when Bruno Fernandes would feed Anthony Martial for a goal at 44’, putting the visitors up in a game that looked like one goal might be enough.

Luckily for Solskjaer, Frank Lampard didn’t seem to have an answer at halftime as the Blues withered in the second half and couldn’t maintain their first half spirit. The one goal did turn out to be enough and United escaped their first major injury scare of the season with three points. Wan-Bissaka’s injury, a cut on his leg, would keep him out 3-7 days but still pile on the stress.
2019-11-27 21:02#263299 Griffo : Building for the future but I am a bit surprised there wasn't more action in this window

I'm not going to win the league (in theory), and I should have enough ammo to win the Europa, so I'm laying back in the hopes I can clear out some players / salary *cough* Alexis Sanchez *cough* and do a more focused rebuild next summer. I also need to rebuild the U-23 & U-18 roster, so I have to be very un-United in my spending for right now.
An incredibly tough start to the league there, facing Palace away is never easy and then two of the top 6. Great results to kick off the year, hopefully it can be built upon.
Not a bad start at all. Tidy work.
7 points from an incredibly tough set of games. Wonder if they could keep this going
Great month of results, would like to see a league table :)

SEPTEMBER : BUSY START TO CUP COMPETITIONS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opened up September knowing United’s fate in two competitions with a Carabao Cup draw followed by the selection of the Europa League groups. Both draws would be tempered by some internal issues as Daniel James would be ruled out for up to a month with shin splints, not something the team needed with the crush of league and cup competitions just getting under way.

The Carabao Cup wouldn’t cause much worry among fans, getting drawn against League One side Blackpool would be a relief even with the game at Bloomfield Road. The bigger problem would be the Europa League game scheduled just a few days before.

Europa League - Group A
Manchester United (ENG)
Getafe (ESP)
AZ Alkmaar (NED)
BATE Borisov (BLR)

This should be an easy group for United and the pressure will be on to keep the trophy in England, Solksjaer doesn’t have many excuses if he fails to reach the final. Arsenal, Sevilla, Lazio, and Roma find themselves in similar groups and United can look forward to facing them down the road. Most pundits point to Getafe as United’s biggest hurdle in this group, but there really isn’t any reason United can’t win the group easily and advance.

Premier League (A) : Burnley 1 - Manchester United 1


Solskjaer finally found himself between a rock and a hard place with the media questioning his focus, the first Europa League game against Getafe was coming up and United was fresh off a solid 4-1 home win over Bournemouth. United’s second squad would be in use as Solskjaer would be looking to keep his starters fresh for Getafe, and dual injured at RB (Diogo Dalot in the Bournemouth game, already subbing in for an injured Aaron Wan-Bissaka) would see the position in tatters for up to 5 weeks.

“The spirit of United continues on, we are focused on winning despite the injuries. We had a great week in practice and everyone is ready.” Solskjaer was his usual positive self when asked about injuries, the loss of prized Wonderkid Hannibal Mejbri to a damaged cruciate ligament has also added to the sense of dread among fans. Mejbri will be out for 6-7 months and there is no guarantee he will fully recover.

All of that aside, United practically walked into a trap game. Their fate was sealed just 3’ into the game when Phil Jones clattered into Chris Wood, putting on a clinic for how to get ejected from a game, and ended up being shown a red card. Solskjaer could only bite his lip as he gave Jones a pat on the back on his way down the tunnel, 87’ of 10-man football with your second choice squad isn’t a great way to win games. The loss of Jones would see Mason Greenwood come off for Harry Maguire as Solskjaer would change to a 4-2-3 and prayed things didn’t get ugly.

Things got really weird for United at 17’ when Tahith Chong came up big time and scored to take a 1-0 lead. Nick Pope would deflect the ball after an errant Fred cross looked more like a bad shot, and the looping deflection landed on Chong’s foot and was sent right back into the net. The roar of the red-shirted crowd quickly turned to looks of concern as Chong lay on the ground near the corner flag clutching his leg. Those looks quickly turned to anger and embarrassment as replays of the goal showed Chong injuring himself during the ensuing celebration, perhaps he picked up the wrong lessons during Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s time in Manchester.

Juan Mata would score late in the game to make it 2-0 but VAR would wipe it out, showing Mata a step offsides. At 79’ Ashley Westwood would send a free kick into the back, taken nearly from midfield, and Samu would navigate the scrum to head it in and shock United. Burnley was happy at 1-1 and United couldn’t do anything down a man so the last 10 minutes felt like 90.

Europa League (H) : Manchester United 5 - Getafe 1


Hard to believe the Europa League opener would be a huge let down after all the excitement leading up to it, the 1-1 draw against Burnley seemed like a wasted opportunity with Getafe folding so easily. Aside from the shower of goals, which was a good sign considering Solskjaer has struggled to get the offense going, this game became notable for unexpected reasons.

Adding to the stock of photos of Solskjaer staring blankly into the distance, Wan-Bissaka pulled up lame shortly before the middle of the first half to make way for Iestyn Hughes’ first senior start. The frustration of having to play a teenager who really has no business being on the field yet managed to top the frustration of having to put that teenager on the bench in the first place. The whole thing turned into a dream come true for the Welshman as Hughes would score a solid goal, receiving a pass from Fernandes and cutting inside to shoot from a steep angle near the corner of the goal area, and become the youngest Europa League scorer in history at 16 years and 323 days. The distant stare on Solskjaer’s face would become a beaming smile as Hughes danced the gwara gwara with Paul Pogba in celebration of his goal.


Baby faced assassin.

Getafe really didn’t have much for United, they were totally brutalized and pushed around all evening. Pogba, Victor Lindelof, and Bruno Fernandes had huge games and all rated over 9.00 on the way to an easy three points.

Carabao Cup (A) : Blackpool 0 - Manchester United 1


The blank stare was back, warming Solskjaer up for a grimace as United struggled to score against a League One side. The media and fans spent most of the week thinking the Getafe game had solved the problem, but this game looked like the breaking point. Adding to the in-game struggles was the news that Jones, the King of the ill-advised tackle, would be facing an additional (2) match ban for his work in the Burnley game. Suspensions and injuries were pushing Solskjaer to dip into the U-23 roster, and it didn’t look like things were going to get better any time soon.

The lone goal helped ease tensions, but that grimace Solskjaer had been warming up for made its appearance at 70’ as Wan-Bissaka pulled up lame yet again. This time is was just a tight thigh that would keep him out for a few days, but it still meant injuries would be a constant concern. The 1-0 final would be a weak result considering the competition, but a win is still a win. Somewhere José Mourinho is smiling.

The 4th Round draw would net United a visit from Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Three very interesting games. A disappointing result against Burnley, but really pleased to read about Hughes taking his opportunity and scoring! Incredible moment.
A massive missed opportunity against Burnley it feels especially with that easy win over Getafe to follow. However, you weren't to know and it's good to see a couple of youngsters on the scoresheets so far in Chong and Hughes. Interesting that Lindelof is popping up with some himself!
I'm surprised by those transfers, as you say in the squad report that RW is a position to spend on, yet no RW came in
That Europa group looks eaaaasyyyyyyy
That group *should* be easy to breeze through - as shown against Getafe. I would say that United should have their eyes on the whole thing this season!

OCTOBER : INVINCIBLE SCHADENFREUDE

October opened with some off-field issues taking attention away from the action on the pitch. News would leak out that Avram and Joel Glazer would attend the Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia. The two were scheduled to attend the event in Riyadh last year, but the international scrutiny surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi forced the Glazers and many other businesses to pull out. Many assumed their attendance last year would create an opportunity for Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, to make a bid for Manchester United and finally wrestle ownership from the Glazer family. Many news outlets have reported their attendance this year as a renewal of interest by bin Salman and a precursor to the sale of the club.


Is Manchester United headed for Saudi ownership?

Europa League (A) : AZ Alkmaar 0 - Manchester United 1


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trip to Alkmaar would come at a critical juncture in the season, even a game that looked to be an easy win would represent a difficult challenge with his roster crumbling around him. He dealt with an absolutely brutal rotation in their last Premier League game, a 3-1 win against Norwich, dipping into the U-23 squad and playing guys he never thought he would have to. The only bright side was Antonio Marin scoring his first senior goal and earning a stay on the roster, with Tahith Chong and Daniel James out with injuries he gets a battlefield promotion to the second choice LW. He nearly played in this game with Anthony Martial suffering from food poisoning, but Martial made it back in time to start.

Arne Slot apparently went into this game just trying not to get blown out, and he managed to pull it off for most of the first half. United enjoyed a rather substantial percentage of possession and took (15) shots to keep Marco Bizot busy. Martial, who would unfortunately be caught vomiting on the sidelines during warm up, would break the game open at 32’ after stealing the ball off a passive Ron Vlaar. Bizot was literally looking the other way, much like Vlaar, and didn’t know what was going on until the ball was in the back of the goal. United would enter the half only allowing a single shot by AZ Alkmaar, but despite that it was only 1-0.

The second half was similar to the first, but this time AZ Alkmaar avoided fatal defensive mistakes and kept the game tight despite a rain of shots. Slot would be lucky to walk away from this one with a 1-0 loss, AZ Alkmaar would still be alive in the group and things could have very easily been much worse. Solskjaer was happy with the win, points are points and Liverpool is coming up next.

Premier League (H) : Manchester United 3 - Liverpool 0


The last time Solskjaer faced Liverpool they played to a 0-0 draw, and then Jürgen Klopp went on to win the Champions League and headed into this season as heavy favorites to win the league. United have an uphill climb, and coming into this game fans might have taken a 0-0 result if it wasn’t for the fact that Liverpool has had a horrible start to the season. Currently sitting 11th, and at Old Trafford, it seemed like United had an opening for a signature win.

“We hate them” laughed Solskjaer, with a wide grin “this is a big game no matter where we are in the standings, it always matters.”

It wasn’t apparent until much later in the game, but Solskjaer would make some tactical tweaks to try and limit the damage. No matter where Liverpool sit in the standings they would be exceedingly dangerous with some of the best players in the league if not the world. A balanced approach, as opposed to the attacking mentality used so far, and playing Mohamed Salah onto his weaker foot would be key to limiting their attack.

Perhaps it was the Stretford End, or perhaps it was Salah practically vanishing, Liverpool just never got going and things really started to fall apart after Marcus Rashford scored a great goal at 28’. Jesse Lingard threaded the needle with an amazing pass to Rashford right in a crowd of defenders and he managed to get his foot on it and deflect it past the diving Alisson for a 1-0 lead. Rashford made it two at 47’ and despite being up 2-0 against a hated rival, things really started going south for the long term. First Aaron Wan-Bissaka suffered a slight injury and come off for Ashley Young, and then things got really dark as Luke Shaw clattered into Adam Lallana and didn’t get up. Shaw had to be stretchered off, a damaged spine would keep him out 2-3 months and give Solskjaer serious heartburn.

Playing with backup backs didn’t seem to matter and United continued to roll right over Liverpool, more specifically Rashford continued to make Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip look bad on his way to a 9.3 and PoM honors. He would miss a chance for a hat trick late in the game, but Bruno Fernandes stepped in at 83’ to make it 3-0 for good. Nobody saw this coming, especially the media, and Klopp was more than upset for the majority of the game.


Rashford had a huge game when it mattered.

Europa League (H) : Manchester United 2 - BATE Borisov 0


The high of beating Liverpool 3-0 carried right through the next game, a 1-0 win over Brighton Hove & Albion that featured a patchwork of U-23 players and yet another injury. Losing Ethan Laird, for 3 weeks, to a pulled thigh put Solskjaer in a serious bind for BATE Borisov. With the group shaping up in United’s favor the second choice squad would play to the first team could be fresh for Newcastle and a Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Forest in a few days.

Solskjaer would be blessed with the return of Daniel James and Diogo Dalot, avoiding U-23 players would be a huge relief at this point in the season and Dalot has been pushing Wan-Bissake for first team starts. Even with the second choice squad, BATE Borisov didn’t really have a chance today. From the start of the game United’s high press was killing them at the back, time and time again United would regain possession in their third or force a wild pass from a defender receiving the ball from Sergey Chernik in goal. Chernik was very busy, seeing United get off a whopping (32) shots with (14) making him work. On the other end David De Gea could have taken a nap, BATE Borisov only managed a single shot in the first half and it sailed into the stands.

Mason Greenwood and Andreas Periera, the PoM, would score early and very late to put this game away. The primary gripe would be that a team in so much control should have put it in more than twice, but Solsjkaer isn’t going to complain about winning. Greenwood would come off late with an ankle bruise, but it would only cost him a few days of rest.

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