Author Archives: Jarrod Partridge

German Sub Sinks Hungary, Books England Showdown

Euro 202: Leon Goretzka & Joachim Low

German sub Leon Goretzka has come off the bench to salvage a 2-2 draw with Hungary in Munich, condemning the plucky Hungarians, who deserved better, to elimination at the group stage, while booking a huge England v Germany showdown in the Round of 16. 

After a dramatic evening that saw France draw 2-2 with Portugal, the 2016 World Cup champions finished second in Group F.

On 11 minutes, Hungary opened the scoring with a diving header from captain Adam Szalai, who finished off Roland Sallai’s whipped cross behind the German defense.

Kai Havertz gave Germany a lifeline on 66 minutes when he netted his second goal of the tournament. Following Hungary’s Peter Gulacsi’s goalkeeping error, Chelsea’s midfielder headed the ball into an empty net.

Minutes later, the Hungarians responded when midfielder Andras Schafer nodded the ball past an onrushing Manuel Neuer to re-take the lead.

Leon Goretzka levelled the match once more on 85 minutes to put Germany into the round of 16.

“We made mistakes but we fought, showed character, it was not for the faint-hearted. At the end, to come through this group was good and that was the aim.

“All the ‘small’ teams invest so much work and defend well. Hungary played with ten men in their own half and they had nothing to lose. It’s great that we got through in this tough group. Now we can look forward to a match against England.

“What matters is that we are through. Now we play with England and we can look forward to that match. It is an absolute highlight to play at Wembley against England. We will be a different team than tonight, I can promise you that,” said Germany coach Joachim Low. 

Man of the match Joshua Kimmich is looking forward to the showdown with England, and perhaps being afforded more room to move as England will likely be more adventurous going forward than Hungary. 

“Hungary were so compact and did very well. We were not great at finding a solution to the problem, but we showed great morale. In the end it is only important to go through. That will also be the case for the next match and I think we have a good chance to accomplish this,” added Kimmich. 

Germany Bounce Back To Thrash Defending Champions Portugal

After losing their opening fixture to France, Germany were on a knife-edge going into their game against defending champions Portugal, where a loss could have sent them crashing out at the group stage for the second tournament in succession. 

However, despite going a goal down early, the Germans roared back into life, scoring four unanswered goals to run out comfortable 4-2 winners in Munich. 

“Overall it was an outstanding performance from the team, great attitude, great spirit, we had many chances, outstanding.

“We have spoken about a few things over the past few days. We were still looking for balance after the France match and knew that we had to add a gear to create more chances. We fought brilliantly and showed great spirit. We had a lot of good attacks against really strong opponents.

“We wanted better movement up front. From the start there was tempo, good combinations, from the wings with [Joshua] Kimmich and Gosens… That was our plan and it worked,” said Germany coach Joachim Low after the game.

In Munich, Germany attacked from the beginning, thriving on the dynamism of their wing-backs. 

Despite finding the net early with a well-taken finish, Robin Gosens was ruled offside after a VAR check. 

The Portuguese repelled wave after wave until Cristiano Ronaldo kicked off and finished a thrilling counterattack, giving the reigning champions an unlikely lead. 

Once Die Mannschaft recovered from their shock, they resumed their barrage. 

Late in the first half, two own goals in five minutes proved disastrous with Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro inadvertently beating Rui Patricio. 

Portugal was stunned, unable to respond; and things got much worse before they got better.

By the hour mark it was 4-1 and the holders were floundering as Kai Havertz tapped in before the brilliant Gosens headed in a cross from Joshua Kimmich. 

With one eye on Wednesday, Joachim Löw made the changes, and Portugal improved, getting a goal back from Diogo Jota. A stunning strike from Renato Sanches rattled the post as well, but it was too little too late for Portugal. 

After staring down the barrel of an early exit, a victory in the final game could see Germany top Group F should France and Portugal draw in their match. 

Mats Hummels Own Goals Sinks Germans

Mats Hummels

In a tight and tense battle between France and Germany at Euro 2020, only a Mats Hummels own goal separated the two sides, giving pre-tournament favourites France an opening-match win. 

The game started well for Germany, but France grew into the game and it was the man who now lives in Bavaria who helped create the own goal on 20 minutes. 

Bayern’s Lucas Hernández mishit Paul Pogba’s exquisite pass over to the left, but Hummels still shanked the ball into his own goal as a result, knowing Mbappe was behind him and ready to pounce.

As a result, France started sitting back, absorbing the pressure, and using Kylian Mbappé’s electrifying speed to launch counterattacks.

It was the Paris Saint Germain star who almost teed up a second goal, releasing Adrien Rabiot for a near-post shot that beat Manuel Neuer but crashed into the post, leaving Antoine Griezmann furious.

In a matter of moments, Joachim Löw deployed Joshua Kimmich in the midfield, and suddenly Germany were a force – Serge Gnabry coming within a whisker of equalizing. 

The French held on to earn three points in Group F, joining Germany’s next opponents Portugal at the top of the group standings. 

Paul Pogba set up the goal, and was awarded the ‘Man of the Match’ award for his performance in the midfield. 

“We all put the effort in. We’re all focused on our jobs on the pitch. We know we need to live up to our tag as world champions and come out on to the pitch with humility. When we need to suffer, we do it together and when we attack, we do it together,” said Pogba. 

France manager Didier Deschamps was thrilled with how his team dug in and fought against a well-organised German outfit, adding “We played a great game against very good opponents. I knew my players would be ready and we were up for the fight. We weren’t far away from scoring the second goal that would have made us safe, but we didn’t suffer that much in the second half. It was a strong match with quality and talent.”

For Germany coach Joachim Low, his final tournament as national team manager got off to a disappointing start.

“It was a really intense match and we fought until the very end. I cannot blame my team for not trying – they gave everything they had,” concluded Low.

Manchester United Sunk By Yellow Submarine

Manchester United’s season has ended in failure in Gdansk, as plucky Villarreal first took a surprise lead, then stifled and stymied the English side before winning on penalties. 

That Manchester United let the game get to the lottery of a shoot out is a sad indictment of just how bad they were on a night where they looked to take the next step in the ‘progress’ that has been bandied about for the past two seasons. 

Make no mistake – United were poor, and Villarreal fully deserves their first-ever European trophy. 

Captain for the night Bruno Fernandes was anonymous in the first half, but came to life after the break. Paul Pogba, who has often complained that he wants to be in a position to win trophies contributed nothing towards lifting one tonight, was rightfully substituted. Marcus Rashford was so wasteful he most likely only stayed on the pitch due to his penalty-taking abilities. 

United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also struggled on the big stage, and was out-duelled tactically by Unai Emery, who now has four Europa League medals in his back pocket. 

Mason Greenwood, one of United’s better players alongside Edinson Cavani, was substituted after 100 minutes for the ineffective Fred. 

With United chasing the game and needing a goal, the likes of Juan Mata, Amad, and Donny van de Beek all remained rooted to the bench, with Daniel James preferred when Pogba was finally withdrawn. 

When the game moved to penalties, Villareal seemed to have all the luck at the coin toss, first winning the toss for choice of ends, then the toss to take the first penalty. 

While Emery was fired up and injected his enthusiasm into his heroes, Solskjaer was passive at best, preferring his team to find their own motivation. 

In one of the stranger penalty shootouts in recent memory, not one save was made as both teams scored a perfect 10 before the goalkeepers stepped up. 

Villarreal’s keeper Geronimo Rulli had been unlucky not to save several penalties, most notably from Luke Shaw, stepped up and struck his penalty with confidence. 

Then, with the trophy on the line, up stepped David de Gea. 

The Spaniard hadn’t come close to making a save, and in what could turn out his last kick as United’s keeper, shot tamely. His shot was saved by Rulli, and pandemonium broke out in the stands and on the pitch as a jubilant Villareal team celebrated climbing to the top of their European mountain. 

After the match, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed his team didn’t show up – which is a sad indictment on how he prepared his team for a cup final. On the pitch, it was clear to see that it meant the world to the men from Spain, while United’s eleven didn’t really look bothered one way or another. 

“We didn’t turn up. We didn’t play as well we know we can do. We started alright, but they got the goal, the only shot they had on target they score. I was disappointed we conceded a goal again on a set-play. We pushed, we pressed but after we scored we couldn’t control the game and dominate as well as we wanted. That is football at times. They made it hard for us and closed the spaces. We had the majority of possession and they defended well. We didn’t create enough big chances.”

“Now is not the time to point the finger on what I would have done different, but when you come out with no trophy you have not done everything right.”

“We are getting closer and closer and better. We are one kick away today from having a trophy and having a good night. But we have got to have the desire to come back next year and improve and get better, and that will be about the margins. The only way to get the margins on your side is to work harder and better.”

“We need to get better, as simple as. We have done really well this season coming through the start was really difficult. We had no pre-season whatsoever and lost three of the first six games, all of them at home. We pushed in the league, maybe got closer to the top than we thought and we got to a final, but you need to win these finals to make it a good season.”

“You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to learn from failure. You’ve got to learn from disappointment, because it’s a lesson. It’s a lesson that we’re not still where we want to be. We’re still not at the quality we want to be. We go away now. Some have the Euros, some have the holidays. The one thing that’s definite is that everyone has to come back with a desire to improve and I’m sure they will have this feeling for a couple of days and come back stronger,” said the manager.

Before the match, with United overwhelming favourites, all the talk was how a trophy would act as a springboard to future success. With that opportunity gone, one wonders how far they will sink next season.

After being tactically beaten on the pitch and failing to get his side motivated off it, Solskjaer has shown he is the right man to help steady a ship, but not to get his team over the hump. 

Earlier in the day Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane both resigned from their posts, and these two serial winners could both be the men needed to help United take that next step in their ‘progress’ on the pitch. 

The door is open to level up, will the United brass walk through it? 

Manchester United Ready For ‘Season Defining’ Europa League Final

Manchester United have touched down in Gdansk ahead of what manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called a ‘Season Defining’ Europa League final against Villareal. 

Whilst his team have made progress under his stewardship, finishing second in the Premier League behind Manchester City, you don’t receive silverware for simply being a bit better than before, and runners up are quickly forgotten. 

Trophies define careers and create legacies, Solskjaer knows that from his playing days at the club, and he knows he needs to bag his first winner’s medal as the manager to show that he belongs in the hot seat. 

“You go into every game as the next one is the most important one. This now is a final that happens to be at the end of a season.

“You can define the season after tomorrow. So far we’ve improved but we’ll only all go home happy if we win.”

For United, the last time the team tasted success was way back in 2017, in this same competition but under Jose Mourinho. While the club haven’t won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and failed to capitalise on their 2017 success, Solskjaer is hoping a win will act as a springboard this time around. 

“I think players, when they get the taste of success, when they win trophies, win something, it can go two ways; we’ve done it now and we can relax or, as I’ve had a few times, it just gives you more of that feeling.”

“You want more, you want it all the time, you want the feeling again with your teammates, with your club.

“This group of players has been working hard for a year, a year-and-a-half, together and it’s the next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this,” said Solskjaer.

While United go into the final as heavy favourites against a Villareal side who finished seventh in La Liga, winning just six of their past 12 games in all competitions, they will be facing off against Europa League specialist Unai Emery. 

Emery guided Sevilla to three Europa League victories, and managed to steer an unfancied Arsenal team to the final in 2019. He is now looking to make history with Villareal.

“One of the aims of Villarreal was to break down barriers. We’ve broken the barrier of the semifinal in Europe and we feel proud of the work we have done,” Emery said in a news conference. “We now have a responsibility to take a step forward. We need to enjoy this final and think about winning. We deserve to be in the final and to give our players the best tools possible to perform well in this final.”

“All finals are different. The past four finals I’ve been a part of, I’ve had some where my team was favourite but that was before the game. When the game starts, there are situations that can change the course of the game. We are eager, enthusiastic.”

“I feel a duty and obligation towards Villarreal. I want to defend this project and everyone that has worked throughout the years to build a big football project in a village. I have nothing to avenge. I’m very proud to have reached this final with Villarreal.”

It’s 30 years since Manchester United beat a star-studded Barcelona team in the Cup Winner’s Cup final in Rotterdam to spark a dynasty that lasted almost three decades, can they relight the flame tomorrow in Poland?

Manchester United Finish Season Unbeaten Away From Home

With a host of new faces in the first team, Manchester United have beaten Wolves 2-1 at Molineux to finish the 2020/21 campaign unbeaten away from Old Trafford, becoming only the fourth side to achieve such a feat. 

It was the clubs first win at Wolves since 2012, and extended their unbeaten away record to 26 games, stretching all the way back to February 2020. 

Arsenal hold the record of 27 games unbeaten away from home, something United will have in their sights when the new campaign gets underway. 

Result Gives Manager Great Pride

After making 10 changes to his side with the Europa League final just three days away, the mix of youth and experience put in a superb display, giving manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer great pride. 

“[I’m] very happy. Proud of them. [The lads] took the ball well, created chances and got the win they deserved,” he said speaking after the final whistle. Today just made me smile, all these players expressing themselves like we want to see and no injuries. We had the pace and enthusiasm of [Anthony] Elanga and Amad, Dan James, then you’ve got Donny [van de Beek], Nema [Matic] and Juan [Mata] who have got all the experience and quality. It worked well.”

A View To The Future 

Manchester United have always prided themselves on giving youth in a chance, so Solskjaer was happy to continue the tradition laid out by Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, and was delighted to see Anthony Elanga score his first senior goal in a red shirt. 

“You’d like to say you that you would see some of these in the future, of course. I think it was a game in the spirit of Man United, Sir Alex and Sir Matt, that you give kids the chance. My job is to do my best for Man United, and I felt today, as I said before, it was a Man United-spirited performances with loads of kids that made their debuts, Elanga scored his first goal, so today I was really proud of them.”

“He could have scored once or twice before but to keep getting in there, keep making the runs, keep being positive. He’s got such an enthusiasm and energy for football and a desire that I love. He deserved it. What you maybe don’t see is his attitude, desire, a personality. He’s a very humble lad, works really hard, he’s got some attributes that you could wish for as a player. As you said, that pace, directness, he’s right-footed but equally good on his left. I’ve not really seen him score headers like this, so that was a big bonus as well. The future’s bright for him I think and I know and trust him to keep his feet on the ground and make the most of his talent.”

Away Achievement

To go a whole season undefeated away from home was an incredible achievement, and can form a foundation for a sustained title challenge next season – if the home form improves… 

“It was about time we did it, we haven’t done it before. What an achievement by all the players, they’ve been excellent and I knew we put this record on the line by making all these changes but we had to. One because we believe in these players, and two because the other players that have played so much this season needed an energy boost for Wednesday.”

Ready For Europa Glory? 

There has been much talk of progress at United this season, and the next step is to go on and life a trophy. However, the boss doesn’t feel any additional pressure to achieve this, and believes progress has been made no matter the result against Villareal. 

“You always feel pressure at Man United to win things, to win trophies, of course. That’s one of the steps. I’ve said it before, a trophy can hide other imperfections. I think the progress in the league, going to semi-finals, I think it shows progress. My discussions with the club, the dialogue we have, we see we have improved. The next step is to win trophies and hopefully challenge the champions in the Premier League as well,” concluded Solskjaer. 

Manchester United Limping To Finish Line With Fulham Draw

10,000 fans inside Old Trafford for the first time in 14 months wasn’t enough to rouse Manchester United from their slumber, as the Red Devils limp towards the finish line of the 2020/21 season with more dropped points – this time in a 1-1 home draw with Fulham. 

Manchester United’s mercurial number seven, Edinson Cavani, had those inside Old Trafford on their feet in the 15th minute when, after receiving a delightful flick from Bruno Fernandes, the Uruguayan chipped Fulham’s keeper from a full 35 yards out. 

As the game wore on, United failed to put away their chances, and were made to pay when Joe Bryan waltzed in unchallenged to head home the equaliser for Fulham in the 76th minute. 

While manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted to see fans in the stands again, his teams form gives him cause for concern as he looks to lift his first trophy as United’s manager next week… 

Fans In The Stands

Solskjaer is looking forward to the day when Cavani scores in front of a packed Stretford End, and he got a small taste of what it will be like after the strikers wonder goal. 

“Walking in here with the buzz, the energy, hearing the chants. I know the players really appreciate it. They maybe overdid the play at times. I thought we were too loose, too fancy, wanting to do flicks and backheels. Tricks when you don’t need to. That was the disappointing bit, but it was with good intentions. They wanted the crowd to have a good day.”

“How good was Cavani’s goal? Oh, top. That was the highlight obviously. What a way to introduce himself to the Stretford End. I know I’ve said it a long time, but we need fans here and they’re going to see him score many goals for us. That was an excellent finish, and the way he works to get his chances as well is exceptional.”

“I’ve missed the Stretford End sucking the ball in towards the end of games and I’m sure when we get everyone back in, we’ll get some more joy.”

Poor Decision Making

Solskjaer was left to lament poor decision making that ultimately cost his side, and hopes it serves as a wake up rather than a knock to their confidence. 

“Yeah, we played well, we created chances, but we couldn’t take them. But then, if you don’t take them, anything can bite you in the Premier League. Good players, good teams. It was a good cross and a good header. We should have dealt with it better though.”

“We wanted to win. Not because of second or third position – we wanted to gain momentum, gain confidence, because we’ve lost too many points in the last week. Hopefully that won’t dent the confidence. Hopefully it will just wake them up. We made too many decisions that I didn’t like,” concluded the manager. 

While a point against already-relegated Fulham was enough to secure second place in the Premier League, there is no trophy handed out for ‘making progress’ and the clubs fans demand title chases, not plaudits. 

The true measure of progress will be next weeks Europa League final. While the trophy will be a reward for Champions League failure, it could serve as a springboard for further success as the team builds their own belief. 

However, based on current form, and with Harry Maguire being a serious doubt for the final, winning that first trophy is anything but a certainty…

Lacklustre Manchester United Leave European Door Open For Liverpool

A lacklustre Manchester United performance, their second in two days, has seen the Red Devils lose 4-2 at home to Liverpool, leaving the door open for their bitter rivals to seal Champions League qualification for next season. 

After going ahead early through a deflected Bruno Fernandes strike, United were second best for the remainder of the match, with their ‘McFred’ partnership in central midfield looking a million miles away from being able to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title. 

The absence of the much-maligned Harry Maguire from the centre of defence was also telling, the Brit looking the much more assured option when compared to Eric Bailly who always has an error in him or victor Lindeloef who lacks any kind of presence. 

While many fans and pundits have been clamouring for Dean Henderson to be the number one keeper going forward, his performance at Old Trafford served as a stark reminder of why it is so important to hold onto the world-class talent of David de Gea if there is to be a title challenge next season. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was disappointed with the result, and expects a reaction as United go into their final two league matches before their Europa League final. 

“Liverpool deserved the win. But it was a game that we should have capitalised on. That start we had, we should have capitalised more on that one and that’s something we have to learn from and will learn from. I don’t think the boys understood that they [Liverpool] were here for the taking. We played well and we played some great football, but when we lost the ball we were a little bit on the back foot. We let them play out and we should have pressed more and made it more difficult, but we’ll learn from it,” said Solskjaer.

Second Goal The Turning Point

Gifting a goal to Liverpool on the stroke of half time was a body blow, changing the complexion of the second half. 

“Just before half-time, just after the second half starts and of course injury time are bad times to concede goals. We gave them three goals really – at least two of them we gave them. And after we scored again at 3-2, when we had our own momentum, we had a massive double chance then. I’ve got to say, how that ball doesn’t go in after that pinball game in there… that was the moment we should have capitalised on. Key moments went against us.”

Work Needed On Set Pieces

Without the commanding presence of Harry Maguire, United were undone at set-pieces, and will need to work on their defending should the captain not be available to face Villareal. 

“You never like to concede on set plays. We’ve done that too often, so we need to work on that. As for the way we started the second half, we want to play out from the back and we trust the players to do that. Once in a while it can go wrong and unfortunately today it did go wrong. We’ve seen so many times that it’s worked and we’ve played through teams. Unfortunately it’s against Liverpool when it didn’t work. It was really, really poor, the start of the second half. We gave them that third goal.”

“Harry’s been really important for us. He’s been absolutely top since he came to the club. So of course we’re going to miss him, but he’s out so we’ve got to deal with that. We’ve got good enough players to be able to deal with it, we should be [able to], so now it’s about regrouping. Start building our own confidence and momentum again because we’ve got two games in the league and then a final.”

Final Focus Starts Now

After four games in eight days, United have an opportunity to press the reset button before facing already-relegated Fulham next Tuesday, as they look to prepare for the Europa Cup final and potentially the first trophy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge. 

“We need to find ourselves straightaway. We’ve got Fulham on Tuesday and we need to start, as I said, building that momentum and confidence because we have two league games left. It’s not a lot of preparation but we should go into that Europa League final ready. So I expect Tuesday to be a good one. Hopefully when we can let the fans in on Tuesday, it’ll be a good atmosphere here,” concluded the manager. 

Much Changed Manchester United Stumble To Leicester Loss

A much-changed Manchester United to the one that beat Aston Villa 3-1 just two days ago has slumped to defeat at home to Leicester City in a match that has much bigger ramifications for other teams than it does for United. 

By losing the match, City were crowned Champions, sparking absolute scenes at the Etihad where 20 or so supporters turned up to celebrate. 

The three points for Leicester helped halt their run of poor form, and sees them strengthen their grip on a Champions League place, most likely at the expense of former champions Liverpool. 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had warned that it would be impossible for those who had played against Villa to play again so soon, so it was no surprise to see the likes of Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek, Amad, Juan Mata, and Anthony Elanga named in the starting lineup, having not featured much previously this season. 

Despite going behind early to a Luke Thomas goal, the inexperienced line-up gave a good showing of themselves, equalising through a Mason Greenwood goal. 

Leicester looked much the stronger side however, and took the lead in the 66th minute thanks to a Caglar Soyuncu goal, and held on to take another step towards Champions League qualification. 

Solskjaer Still Happy

With the tight turnaround and no time to prepare, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was happy with the performance of his team, and felt they could have nicked a point at the end. 

“We started off a bit slow, as you might expect, because they have not had any time to prepare for the game. Maybe there were a couple of nerves but, after they scored, we had nothing to lose and I thought we played some very good stuff and I was pleased with it. We did not have too much time to prepare and we went into half-time quite pleased but then didn’t quite get out of the traps. They got a goal from a corner that was never a corner. It was a throw-in. So that is very disappointing for us. I thought we played well and could have got a point near the end. Maybe we should have created more in the second half but I am happy.”

Fixture Scheduling Unacceptable

Solskjaer was vocal in the lead up to the game, angry that his side needs to play four games in eight days, and he continued to complain after today’s match. 

“It can’t be like this again. You can’t play Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday – it is impossible. So that’s the reason why we had to make these changes because it is unheard of. I say it again, if this game was tomorrow, no problem and if we have another game on Saturday. If you have two days in between, there is no problem but this is impossible for the players to perform at this level Thursday night, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. It is impossible.”

City Set The Standard

Although disappointed to have lost the title to City, Solskjaer was quick to acknowledge their achievement, and understands they currently set the standard that his United side needs to rise to. 

“You know if you want to take up the challenge with them, of course we have to strengthen our squad. Congratulations to them, they have had a fantastic season. I’m very pleased with my boys because they have made it into the last 10 days of the season with a Man City team ahead of us, lauded as the best in Europe. So we have done well. But we want to take the next step and it might be that we need a couple more to have a stronger squad.”

“That’s what we want, we want to push them, we want to go one step further. I don’t think it’s a shame when you look at their team, you don’t have to be embarrassed. They’ve had a great season – you’ve got to be big enough to say congratulations and they’re worthy champions – they have played really well this year. We pushed them until the last 10-12 days and that’s quite an achievement after losing three of the first six games. The way we had to start, there’s so many circumstances that made this a difficult season. You can’t win the league in the first eight but can you lose the chance to win the league in the first eight and, when you lose half of your first six games, it’s going to be difficult.”

You won’t find many United fans disappointed in a loss that makes Champions League qualification a tougher task for bitter rivals Liverpool, and attention has already turned to two days time when a stronger United line up can finish the job they started tonight.

Manchester United Ensure Top-Four Finish With Villa Park Win

After punching their ticket to the Europa League final in mid-week, Manchester United have ensured a top-four finish for the 2020/21 season with yet another come from behind victory, this time winning 3-1 over Aston Villa at Villa Park. 

Despite being behind in the match, Manchester United again managed to come back from behind and claim all three points away from home, much to the delight of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Goals from Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani ensured United headed home with a 3-1 win from the Midlands. Given their heavy fixture schedule, the boss was even more thrilled.

Come From Behind Win – Again

United have picked up a staggering 31 points from losing positions this season, something that has delighted the manager. 

“Yeah, sometimes, you know, you want to up the tempo a bit. I was confident. I was very confident. I felt we played okay in the first half, we created chances but didn’t take them. They didn’t have too much, Dean [Henderson] didn’t have too much to do but it was a very good goal. You can’t stop those quality moments. It was just about confidence, believing in what we are doing and they showed that in abundance.”

Away Form Continues

With their away form the catalyst for a second-place finish in the Premier League, the manager was delighted to pick up three points after also travelling to Rome earlier in the week. 

“It’s always going to be difficult after you’ve been in Europe, in Rome. We didn’t come back until half past four/five o’clock in the morning [on] Friday. I can’t blame them, the advantage of being fresh going into a game like this is quite high and it’s just coincidence that tells you we could have scored the first goal once or twice before they scored. They scored from nothing – a good goal by the way – but I’m pleased with everyone. I know how hard it is towards the end of a long season.”

Squad Spirits Are High

With the wins piling up and both Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani in red-hot form, the spirit in the squad is high as the team looks forward to the Europa League final. 

“Mason’s turn and finish was absolutely top. The boy is learning. He’s learned the hard way and he’s got to play, he’s learning on the job. It is the intensity of this league, it’s high, and he had a hard game on Thursday and plays today and produces that goal. Well done. More to come, definitely. One hundred per cent. The boy is learning, hungry to learn and his desire and attitude is improving all the time.”

“His movement, his desire to score goals, it’s a great cross from Marcus. We’re getting to learn [about] Edinson as well and hopefully we can use him more next season.”

“We’ve got a final to look forward to. The boys are learning and getting better and better as a group, as a unit, and the spirit in the group is getting better. You can hear them in the crowd, supporting their team-mates. These eight days, we knew the squad had to come together and everyone has got to be available to play, they have to play, and they’ve been excellent.”

Rotation The Key

As the campaign comes to a close, there are still plenty of tricky fixtures to be negotiated, meaning rest and rotation will be key as the squad look to arrive in tip-top shape for the Europa League final. 

With a game on Tuesday against Leicester, who need points to secure their own Champions League position, a much-changed line-up will take to the pitch at Old Trafford. 

“I think everyone is capable of doing a Thursday-Sunday. But to put in Tuesday is more or less demanding too much of them. Adding Thursday is impossible – absolutely physically impossible. So I have to now make sure that I don’t run the risk of getting injuries. So recovery time, more or less all the time you have, two days in between and play on the third day. At this level, it is impossible. The boys who played Thursday night and today will not play 90 minutes on Tuesday, for sure.”

“There’s no training. It’s [in the] classroom. Now you’re a teacher. It’s the sports scientists – they do their job, they have all the facilities and have the help that the players can get. We will sit down on Tuesday afternoon and see who is ready. I can have a picture in my mind now theoretically, but it might be that things could crop up tomorrow after this game that we don’t know until tomorrow.”

“Sometimes the player you leave out can come onto the pitch and win you a final. That’s no problem; I’d rather have that than have not enough. From personal experience, it is hard to not play in finals. But when you come on, you do your bit. I think Mason has done it so many times for us, and Edinson has done it so many times. Marcus has done it so many times – he came on against Leipzig and scored three. Hopefully we will get Anthony fit as well,” concluded Solskjaer.

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