Tag Archives: Manchester United

Eric Djemba-Djemba: “When you work hard, you can make it”

Former Manchester United player Eric Djemba-Djemba has recently opened up about his time as a professional football player. Speaking to Cal Blankendal and Vernon Springer on their Football Insight Podcast, the now-retired midfielder reflected on 15 years as a pro footballer.

Thankful for everything

Djemba-Djemba has been dubbed by Red Devils fans as the player so good “they named him twice”. While he never managed to live up to that hype at Old Trafford, the Cameroonian international is thankful for the opportunity to play at the top level.

Moving to United fulfilled a boyhood dream for Djemba-Djemba. Image: Shoot

“I enjoyed every moment, every second, every day. It was a dream for me to play for Manchester United, because when I was a kid, I loved to watch them on TV.” Djemba-Djemba told VA Sports.

“After three years in Nantes, I joined United and it was a dream.”

The 40-year-old also explained how he achieved his dream and sealed a £3.5 million move from Nantes in France:

“Some scouts came from England to watch me play. After that, I remember [Sir Alex] Ferguson came to watch me play. I think the decision came from him (Sir Alex) to buy me.”

Djemba-Djemba went on to say that Ferguson was like a father figure to the younger players in the Manchester United dressing room.

Mentality is key

Djemba-Djemba was also asked what players nowadays have to do to succeed and how much things have changed in football since he burst onto the scene 20 years ago:

“If you have a strong education, you will learn very fast. Today’s it’s not like 20 years ago, you can play in the Premier League at 16 years old. At that age, it’s very difficult to move to another country, you have to be strong mentally. You have to train hard and have respect for your teammates.”

Playing with the biggest players in world football was an honour for Djemba-Djemba. Image: Goal.com

One pressure associated with modern football and sport is that related to social media. There has been no-end to the abuse that professional sportspeople face on the internet, so what’s Djemba-Djemba’s advice to them?

“It’s easy to deal with that [online abuse]. Like I said before, it depends how they and your parents educate you and it depends where you want to be in life. So, you can have these social medias, but if you don’t know where you want to get to in life, you can’t deal with that.”

“Sometimes you need to be out of social media, because it can get to be too much and you can lose your concentration.”

Eric also said that he had never personally experienced racism while playing football.

Be sure to check Sportlightpro.com for more excepts from this interview!

This interview was in association with Islands Cup Open Football.

Full podcast

If you want to check out the full interview with Eric Djemba-Djemba, we’ve linked the podcast below.

Baptised in Brilliance, The Legend of CR7 Scales a New Peak

Last night, a few thousand supporters at the Estádio Algarve witnessed a miracle, possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to the beautiful country of Portugal.

The enigma called Cristiano Ronaldo, the G.O.A.T of world football surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei to become the highest goal scorer in the international game with his 110th strike against the Republic of Ireland

You read that right 110 goals, a figure which most international footballers don’t reach in appearances let alone goals.

Well, if this wasn’t reason enough to cheer, in a matter of moments as the clock struck the last minute of injury time, CR7 netted in a second to reach 111 and hand Portugal a well deserved 2-1 victory in this European Qualifier for Qatar 2022.

Surely, the Portuguese captain is like the best wine going around, getting better and hotter albeit in looks and performance with each passing year.

At 36, he gives a run for their money to every young footballer with his sheer brilliance in dribbling, mounting those magnificent runs and to top it all, putting the ball in the back of the opposition net with much ease.

Simply brilliant!

World’s Envy, Portugal’s Pride.

A five-time Ballon d’Or award winner and four-time European Golden Shoes conqueror, the most for any European player, this enigma par excellence was instrumental for Portugal winning the 2016 Euros in France.

While he sustained an injury in the 25th minute of the historic Euro 2016 final against hosts France, his sheer determination to get Portugal to the finals and his team winning the tournament to honour this bastion of the game was worthy of every praise.

Well if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate this icon, one need not look further than the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which too was conquered by Portugal beating Netherlands in the final under his captaincy.

Add to this, his thirty title victories in Club Football including five Champions League hurrahs, does it get better for any footballer. Ever?

Surely not!

For me the greatest strength that this legend exuberates is despite being a number 7 in football which essentially is a winger and second striker role, he can put most number 9s, the main strikers to shame with his sheer ability to mount goal after goal.

The number 7 jersey in football received cult status when this man of God like ability put a new sheen on it, after legends of the past in Robert Pires, Luis Figo and Sir Kenny Dalglish had done their bit to honour this jersey.

Throughout his historic 18-year international career he has been the king pin of Portuguese football around whom multiple stars have revolved.

To be relevant for 18 long years is testament to the fitness of this man who till date can put models with the best chiseled physiques to shame.

Well, The Rock of Gibraltar in footballing terms would seem tiny in front of the Rock of Portugal.

A boon for Manchester United

Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

It was at Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo first wore the number 7 jersey under possibly the greatest manager that club football has ever seen in Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wearing the number 7 jersey became an extra source of motivation for Ronaldo to honour legends like David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona who had previously donned this number for the Red Devils.

And now the great man is back, having signed a new contract at Old Trafford and will again don the number 7 for Manchester United. Certainly, a boon if you’re a United supporter and more misery for fans like me who worship their fiercest rival, Liverpool.

The Premier League will surely be ready to get Ronaldoed again as goals will flow like wine from this legend.

And why not, to make the impossible possible is to be Cristiano Ronaldo!

Manchester United With One Foot In Europa League Semi-Final

Manchester United will return home with a 2-0 aggregate lead in their Europa League quarter-final tie, and have surely cemented a place in the semi-finals. 

Spanish Minnows Overwhelmed

With Granada looking overwhelmed by their more famous opponents under the bright lights of the big stage, United took the lead after 31 minutes courtesy of a Marcus Rashford strike. 

In the second half, the home side came into the match, and had spells of pressure of their own, but couldn’t find an equaliser. 

With the game heading toward the final moments, and still just a solitary goal separating the teams, it looked like it would still be all to play for next week at Old Trafford. 

However, in the dying moments, Granada’s Yan Brice Eteki inexplicably knocked Bruno Fernandes to the ground in the box, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. 

The decision was confirmed by VAR, and Fernandes stepped up to take the penalty. 

It wasn’t the Portuguese playmakers best penalty in a United shirt, and it was a moment to rue for Rui Silva who guessed correctly, got down to the shot, but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net. 

With two away goals to take to Old Trafford, a comeback is surely beyond the Spaniards, even though United will be without captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Scott McTominay, who all picked up bookings that rule them out of the return leg. 

Manchester United Approach Won’t Change For Second Leg

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the approach of his club will remain the same for the second leg of the quarter-final of the Europa League tie.

“It’s not a prefect night, of course we get three yellow cards and three suspensions for the next game, but a 2-0 result is a very good result. Of course we know how difficult it is coming to Spain to get these kinds of results, we have to play well to get them and [I’m] very happy with the result.”

“We want to win every game of football, because this is still a young team, it’s a learning team. We have to improve over time, we know in football it catches you so quickly if you rest and we cannot have any other approach than go forward and try to create chances and score goals, Especially at home, Old Trafford, we feel good at home of course,” said Solskjaer.

Praise For Rashford, Fernandes, Lindelof

While Solskjaer often says his squad win and lose as a team, and rarely praises individuals, he did note some stand out performers on what proved to be a tricky away fixture. 

“They’ve been exceptional, they have been so good for us and they’re so important for us. The first goal, very good run by Rashford and he takes the ball fantastically and a fantastic finish, and Bruno, I know he’s so confident on penalties. Even though the goalkeeper almost saved it, it was enough to give us a good lead.”

“Victor [Lindelof]. He kept us glued together. He was good on the ball, took command, and what a pass for the first goal!”

Another Clean Sheet

As United reach the critical run in to what they hope to be a second-place Premier League finish and Europa League triumph, the team will come to rely on their defence to be rock-solid. 

As their manager noted, another clean sheet was an important step in the right direction. 

“It’s a foundation to build a performance from. Today we didn’t hit the levels we normally do with the ball: passing and the combination play. We didn’t really hit the standard that we’re used to but we did enough to get a good result to take back.”

Before the return leg, United visit Tottenham, and will be reunited with their former manager Jose Mourinho who inflicted a 6-1 drubbing on his former side at Old Trafford earlier in the season. 

While both teams fortunes have changed dramatically since then, another defensive performance such as tonight’s effort in Spain could set the stage for yet another away win in 2021 for the Red Devils. 

Manchester United Come Back To Beat Brighton

Manchester United got off to a characteristically slow start, going a goal down at home, yet came back to beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 to strengthen their grip on second place in the Premier League. 

Former Striker Haunts united Again

Not for the first time since leaving Old Trafford, Danny Welbeck scored against his former club, heading home the rebound after a fine reflex save from Dean Henderson looked to have kept him out. 

The strike was Welbeck’s fourth against his former club, and put his club on course for an unlikely result in their much-needed fight against relegation. 

However, United came out a much more positive side in the second half, and equalised thanks to a fine finish from Marcus Rashford in the 62nd minute 

Mason Greenwood The Difference Maker

In a second season that hasn’t quite lived up to that of his debut, Mason Greenwood has re-found his scoring touch, and at just the right time as United limp towards the finish line. 

He was in the right place at the right time in the 83rd minute, much like his manager was throughout his playing career, and capitalised on the open space he found inside the box to head home his first senior United goal. 

Finding A Way To Win

Sir Alex Ferguson’s title-winning sides were renowned for finding ways to win, and that quality has sadly been lacking at Old Trafford since his retirement. 

Today though the team showed the composure, character and quality needed to fight at the top of the league, something that pleased their manager as they ground out a hard-fought win. 

“I thought we started well but when they scored, after that we couldn’t find our rhythm again and we needed half-time to compose ourselves and go again. In the second half we played some good stuff.”

“The second half was nothing tactically [different] from what we wanted in the first half. It was more runs in behind, more movement, better movement. Sometimes after international breaks it takes time and then maybe the fireworks have to be lit at half-time. It was a very good second half,’ said Solskjaer.

After being wasteful for much of the season, the manager was pleased to see the hard work in training paying off, with clinical finishes from both Rashford and Greenwood. 

“The first one was from good play by Bruno, with a great finish by Marcus. That’s my favourite type of finish, when the striker’s in control. He’s in control of the whole situation. The corners are always open and it’s a big goal, so a good finish. And the second goal overall [from Greenwood] was a very, very good goal – a diving header, or a header inside the six-yard box.”

“He’s (Greenwood) coming good at the right time. We’ve said it for months really, he’s played some great football, he’s maturing. Today I thought he was one of our best performers in the first half. Neat and tidy, he got hold of the ball. Sometimes he had a change of pace, he drove past people, he hit the post. He hit one that goes over the bar which was a bit scuffed, but he was there, he’s always there.”

“He [Mason] has learned from Edi! And of course it’s important when Edinson is here now, he’s not going to play football forever, but the traits, his movement, he [Mason] has probably picked up. Mason needs to add goals like that to his tally, because we know what a wonderful talent he is. He played really well tonight and when he can add those goals, we know we’ve got a top forward there.”

Manchester United Making Incremental Improvements

Solskjaer has made much of the improvements made under his watch, both on the pitch and within the dressing room environment. 

However, fans want to see wins and trophies, not talk. 

One key marker of how far the club has come on the pitch is this season they have secured 25 points from losing positions, something that was unthinkable as little as 12 months ago. 

“[That shows] excellent spirit, attitude, character and of course, quality to come back. Sometimes the game doesn’t work you the way you want it to. I thought we started brightly, played some good stuff, but if you make some easy mistakes in your own half too many times, you’ll get punished and they punished us. So we had to react again – as you’ve said, we’ve done that so many times. It’s not a position you want to be in but these boys now have showed time and time again that we can compose ourselves and keep building momentum and creating chances.”

“You always want to perform because the better you perform, the more chance you have of getting a result. But sometimes you’ve just got to find a way to win. We’ve built momentum, we’ve built pressure, we’ve got players with quality and we managed to find a way.”

The Race For Second Intensifies

Manchester United are now four points clear of Leicester in second position, with the two sides squaring off at Old Trafford on May 11. 

Before then though, United have tricky away games at Tottenham, Leeds, and Aston Villa, as well as a home game against Liverpool to navigate, so every result will be crucial in the run-in. 

“Yes but we’re not going to rest. We fight for our lives, the boys fight to play in the team. I’ve got a good squad, they know that there’s competition for places. We fight as long as we can to move up the table. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else does, as long as we win and we get our points because we’re in second place. It’s a long way up [to first] but second place we want to consolidate that one. We want to at least keep that one and we’ve got a big game on Thursday [in the Europa League] as well,” concluded the manager. 

Thoughts of second place will be put on hold for now though, as United turn their attention to the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Granada on Thursday. 

Inept Manchester United Crash Out Of FA Cup

FA Cup Leicester City v Manchester United

An abject performance from Manchester United has seen them crash out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage, losing 3-1 away to a rampant Leicester City side who took full advantage of several calamitous moments from the Red Devils. 

In a week that saw United defeat AC Milan away to book a spot in the Europa League quarter-finals, confidence was high heading to the King Power Stadium. 

Possession Game Fails Again

Not for the first time this season, Manchester United were caught trying to play out from the back, and once again, it would prove costly. 

For reasons only he can explain, £80 million centre-back Harry Maguire played the ball out from the back to Fred, who was being closely marked by Youri Tielemans at the edge of the area. 

Under pressure from Tielemans, Fred inexplicably passed the ball back toward goal, and straight to the feet of Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanachoi, a mere seven yards out. 

The in-form striker stepped around goalkeeper Dean Henderson, and fired the ball into an empty net to open the scoring. 

Such comical defending wouldn’t be out of place in a pub team, and sadly this isn’t the only instance this year where both Maguire and Fred have seemed better suited to Sunday league football than the upper echelons of life at Manchester United. 

Leicester City Showed More Desire

After the opening goal gut-punch, Manchester United responded well, and had their equaliser 14 minutes later. 

A well-worked pass from Pogba, flicked on by Donny van de Beek, was finished with aplomb by Mason Greenwood, and it was game on. 

Unfortunately for United fans, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had stuck with Fred, and the midfielder was responsible for the second goal too. 

Iheanachoi, scorer of the first goal, played in Youri Tielemans who was given the freedom of Leicester by United’s midfield, with Fred allowing his opposition number to waltz into the box and fire home unchallenged. 

The rout was complete when in the 78th minute Scott McTominay somehow contrived to not head the ball away, allowing Iheanacho to head home from close range, booking Leicester’s place in a semi-final showdown with Southampton. 

Squad Changes Lead To Instability? 

Manchester United made five changes to the team who beat AC Milan with Paul Pogba back, and a rare start for Donny van de Beek.

Despite having a two-week international break after the FA Cup quarter-final, Solskjaer left his most influential player, Bruno Fernandes on the bench, for the crunch tie. 

“Every team selection has reasons behind it. Bruno has played very, very much football. He broke all his records on Thursday night [at the San Siro] physically statistically, and the boy is not inhuman,” explained Solskjaer.

“He’s also a human being, he’s played a game every three or four days really. It was a chance to start to both Donny [van de Beek] and Paul [Pogba]. The accumulation of games maybe caught up with us.”

“I know Bruno wants to play but sometimes you make decisions for the benefit of both the team and him.”

Although Fernandes was introduced in the 64th minute, along with McTominay, Luke Shaw, and Edinson Cavani, it wasn’t enough to pull United level. 

Manager Left Disappointed

For all the talk of progress made over the past twelve months, United have once again been found wanting as the season reaches the pointy end. 

Having made the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season, this is a step back for Solkjaer’s men, as the squad shows signs of fatigue from their high-octane running game. 

“Of course, we’re disappointed we’re out but probably it’s just the sum of all the factors and all the games we’ve played lately, all the injuries. I don’t want to make excuses but I try to find an explanation and an explanation is we had a few players coming back who have not really trained a lot. They’ve not played for a while and there are others who have played a lot but lacked a little zip and energy that we normally see. We conceded easy goals we don’t normally concede and it’s difficult against a good team like Leicester.”

“That’s, as I say, all the games we’ve got. Normally we don’t get one-two’d. We get back and get a tackle in normally but we don’t have that zip. Without making excuses for the boys, that’s the explanation. We found our levels, not our sharpness tonight. Sometimes the Thursday nights in Europe, they catch up with you.”

“We picked a team that we felt would win the game or give us a foundation to win the game. We knew players like Donny and Paul wouldn’t last more than an hour-ish and we knew we had subs who could come on and make a difference if we needed them to. That was the hope when we made the subs – that they could come on and give us that extra energy and brightness. We weren’t really as sharp as we have been lately. The accumulation of games, as I said, is a factor maybe and the freshness of Leicester, of course, has made them sharper than us today.”

Injuries Catching Up With United

With games every three days in recent months, injuries have caught up with Manchester United, and the squad is starting to look thin in quality. 

It is a situation that will need to be rectified in the coming transfer window if United are to challenge the likes of Manchester City for top honours next season. 

“I think we’re building a squad that can cope with it, but we’ve had six or seven injuries at the same point, in the same positions to be fair, and that’s made some players play a lot. That’s something we have to get used to. If and when we are to be successful, we have to handle this and of course hit a higher level than what we did today. That’s what we’re striving towards. I’ve been impressed, under these circumstances, which are unprecedented. I don’t think anyone in the world, or in England, has experienced these times before and I’ve been impressed by my boys. They’ve been excellent and the run we’ve been on has been excellent. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find our normal selves tonight and sometimes that happens,” added Solskjaer.

International Break Is Much Needed

With the international break now here, several of United’s players can get some much-needed rest. 

Unfortunately for United, Bruno Fernandes has been called up by Portugal, who face Azerbaijan on Wednesday, Serbia on Saturday and Luxembourg next Tuesday.

“A change of scenery. Some go away with the national team-mates and some stay here and train. They’ve been at Carrington every single day, working together and training together every single day. So a change of scenery will do some of them good. They’ll come back for Easter Sunday [at home to Brighton & Hove Albion] and be ready to go again,” concluded Solskjaer. 

After the international break United take on relegation-threatened Brighton & Hove Albion where they will look to consolidate their grip on second place in the Premier League, before turning attention to their last chance of silverware this season – their Europa League quarter-final with Granada. 

Manchester United To Face Giant-Killers Granada In Europa League Quarter-Finals

Manchester United have been drawn with Spanish giant-killers Granada in the Europa League quarter-finals, with the first leg to be played on April 8.

After defeating AC Milan in the quarterfinals at San Siro with a single goal, United reach the last eight, where they’ll face Granada, who are making their debut. The La Liga side reached the last 16 of this competition by defeating Napoli and beating Molde in the round of 16.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits Manchester United’s Europa League quarter-final clash with Granada will be ‘difficult’, despite the La Liga club being newcomers to European football.

As a seventh-place finisher in the Spanish top flight in 2019/20, the Andalusian club qualified for Europe for the first time, and have so far defeated PSV Eindhoven, Napoli, Molde and others to make it this far.

In light of this, the Norwegian says, the Nazaríes is a team to be wary of, especially as they have knocked off Sevilla and Real Sociedad, sides United knows well, this season.

“Well, it’s another difficult tie of course. They’ve done well in La Liga and we know we’re up against a team that will be technically very good and tactically very good.

“They beat Molde so they must be very good! [Smiles]

Even though they lost 2-1 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, where the game had to be played because of coronavirus restrictions in Norway, Granada defeated the Norwegians 3-2 on aggregate.

In his remarks, Solskjaer explained that his meetings with Molde would assist in United’s opposition analysis of the southern Spaniards, who are eighth in the La Liga standings.

“Yeah I’ll ring them and get the reports as well, but we’ll do our own homework.”

“I know that the analysis side and the scouting side in Molde do a very thorough job as well and I’ll watch those two games back of course because I just want to see Molde play again as well!

“It’s the first time they [Granada] are in Europe and of course it’s a new experience for them and hopefully we can end it here.

“They’re a good side and we know that, as I said, technically the Spanish teams are so good and we’ve got to be so good defensively to win the ball off them.”

Like their Round of 32 tie against Granada’s compatriot, Real Sociedad, United will play the first leg away before hosting the second leg at Old Trafford a week later.

Despite general wisdom that suggests the home game should come second, Solskjaer is being proactive and looking forward to his team performing at its best in Spain on 8 April.

“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just important that you get goals. Away goals of course are important and we want a good starting point from the first game,” concluded the manager.

The quarterfinals will be played on April 8, with returns on April 15, while the semifinals will take place on April 29, and the final will be played in Gdansk on May 26.

QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

Granada v Manchester United

Arsenal v Slavia Prague

Ajax v Roma

Dinamo Zagreb v Villarreal

SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Granada/Manchester United v Ajax/Roma

Dinamo Zagreb/Villarreal v Arsenal/Slavia Prague

Paul Pogba Fires Manchester United Into Europa League Quarter Finals

With his teams Round of 16 clash on a knife edge at the San Siro, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba made his return from injury in the second half of the second leg, and within minutes had fired his team into a 1-0 lead.

While the mercurial Frenchman often frustrates fans, many of whom didn’t want to see Pogba pull on a United shirt again after his agent claimed his player should leave in the January transfer window, there is no doubt United are a better team with him on the pitch.

Bruno Fernandes, who has carried the bulk of United’s creative work while Pogba was out injured, was visibly relieved to have his partner in crime alongside him in United’s engine room for the crucial second half.

While the Europa League Round of 16 isn’t the biggest stage of all, any appearance at the San Siro is a big moment, so when Pogba rifled his shot home from close range, it seemed as if the script had been written for him – not his good friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the opposition dugout.

Huge Week For Manchester United

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had earlier acknowledged that it was a huge week for the club, who were following up their vital 1-0 home win over West Ham in the Premier League with this second leg tie, before facing Leicester in the FA Cup quarter finals.

The manager was delighted with the performance, and goal, from the fit-again Pogba, and was full of praise for the influence of the Frenchman.

“I’m very happy of course. A very well-done job, because they were two very even games really. It was always going to be decided on a piece of quality, or a piece of magic from someone. A set-play maybe. Dean [Henderson] had a fantastic save towards the end from Zlatan’s [Ibrahimovic] header. It was a very good goal by Paul [Pogba]. I think we did enough to go through. We’ve come through a very difficult tie against a fantastic club and a very good team.”

“We’ve missed Paul. He’s been out for almost two months and of course any team would miss a player like Paul Pogba and he was just getting into his best form. And for us he’s going to give us a really big boost for the rest of the season. Today he made a very, very big difference for us. Technically, he’s one of the best footballers around. It was a very good slot. I’m very happy for Paul that he’s back now and the boys have done very well in the two months without him. We’ve worked hard, playing a game every three days and now we’ve added Donny, David’s back and hopefully Anthony and Edinson are back soon, so it’s looking bright.”

Another Clean Sheet

Although the goals had dried up in recent weeks, United’s defence have held their opponents at bay, giving the team confidence as they go chasing goals, such as the crucial goal in Milan.

“You give yourself a chance to win a game of football [with clean sheets]. Dean [Henderson] had a fantastic save towards the end from the big lad [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] and I’m very pleased with everyone’s defending. From the front you see Dan James, Mason [Greenwood], Marcus [Rashford] and Bruno [Fernandes] – the front four all pressing like they did. We always know that the back six, with Scott [McTominay] and Fred and the back four, always give everything,” added Solskjaer.

United Look To Take Next Step

With United knocking out AC Milan, who were arguably the favourites for the competition, they have given themselves a good chance to progress all the way to the final.

As their manager knows though, you do need a slice of luck in cup competitions…

“It’s going to be difficult, no matter what. We’ve beaten Sociedad, we’ve beaten AC Milan so we’re confident in our own ability. We know we have to turn up, we have to play well. We can’t play like we did, for spells in the first half at times in the last game against Milan, coming into it with no intensity. We’ve got league games, Europa League games, and we’re looking forward to it. That’s what we want. This is the only way we can improve, by getting used to winning games that matter. You’ve got to be spot on when you play in cup competitions as anything can happen. Today I thought it was a penalty for Dan James in the first five minutes or whatever it was. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. Anything can happen in cup competitions, but we’re through, we’re confident and looking forward to the draw.”

“Momentum is underrated in football. When you keep winning games, you get that boost of energy, you get that feeling when you go on to the pitch. You’re more confident. If you’re losing, you’re afraid of losing again and afraid of making mistakes. This means a lot for the boys and the atmosphere is good in the dressing room. We’ve just got to recover quickly because there’s a game again on Sunday which we’re looking forward to. We’ve got a breather from the league, but it’s a big game again, a quarter-final and we dust ourselves down and go again,” concluded Solskjaer.

With one game left before the international break, full focus now turns to an away game against Leicester in an FA Cup quarter final showdown.

Win that, and the belief will grow that United can get their hands on some silverware this year.

AC Milan In Box Seat After Last-Gasp Old Trafford Equaliser

AC Milan are in the box seat to progress from their Europa League Round of 16 tie with Manchester United after a 92nd minute equaliser gave them a priceless away goal to take home to Italy.

The match-up had all the makings of a big European night at Old Trafford, reminiscent of Champions League battles of years past, except it was Thursday night at an empty stadium, with big names lacking on both team sheets.

Milan was without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, injury ruling him out of an Old Trafford return, while the hosts were missing Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba, while Luke Shaw was only fit enough to make the bench.

AC Milan Started Brightly

Despite not having their talisman on the pitch, Milan started brightly, hitting the back of the net in the fifth minute with a goal that was chalked off for offside.

Seven minutes later Franck Kessie rifled a superb shot past Dean Henderson, but the visitors were to be denied once again, as VAR adjudged Kessie used his hand to control the ball.

With Milan in the ascendancy it could have been a horrible evening for Manchester United, but the hosts clawed their way back into the match, and should have gone ahead but for an inexplicable miss from captain Harry Maguire, who failed to tap the ball in from on the goal line, hitting the post instead.

First Manchester United Goal For Amad Diallo

Having gone into the break at 0-0 United could have thought themselves lucky to still be in the tie, and made the most of it in the 50th minute when Amad Diallo, on as a half-time substitute for Anthony Martial, got on the end of a beautifully floated ball from Bruno Fernandes to back-header the ball over Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the back of the net for his first goal in United’s colours.

The hosts should have gone on to score more, but in the 70th minute Daniel James conspired to miss an open goal, leaving the game on a knife edge going into the closing stages.

Late Equaliser For Milan

With time winding down, Milan had one more chance from a corner deep into stoppage time.

As the ball swung in, Simon Kjaer got a head to it, and Dean Henderson flapped at what should have been a routine save to give the visitors the upper hand going into the second leg.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Disappointed With Performance

After playing brilliantly to dismantle Manchester City 2-0 away from home on the weekend, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased with the individual performance of Amad Diallo, but disappointed with the teams performance as a whole.

“In possession today, we were too slow. Even though we had the same amount of possession as them, we never used the ball well enough and never played it quick enough. We started really slow and are disappointed in that.”

“He’s (Amad) creative and he plays with freedom. Great pass from Bruno [Fernandes] by the way, that’s what makes the goal. Amad, he has been on the pitch before, but a good goal. He has loads to learn and he’ll be better having had that [time].”

“I’m sure the players, the ones who get chances, they take them. Amad took his chance today when he came on. We hope Anthony is not too bad, we hope Marcus [Rashford] may hopefully [be back]. Definitely for the away tie, we don’t know about the weekend but let’s see. We’ll get players back hopefully, they’ll get players back, so it’ll be a good game with two good teams. Hopefully, Marcus is ready for next weekend on Thursday, I’m not sure about the weekend. [Edinson] Cavani, maybe as well for the Milan game away. We should be putting a stronger team on paper anyway.”

As a ruthless finisher in his playing days, Solskjaer felt Maguire should have made more of his effort, which could have changed the complexion of the tie.

“It’s a decent-sized chance that to be fair! I think the keeper gets his hand to it and changes the direction of it. It’s a reaction and unfortunately it hits the inside of the post and goes out. That’s a big moment. Dan [James] had a big moment in the second half, he could have slid instead of trying to score. We’re here, we know where we are and we need to go there and score. We’ve done that many a time in Europe.

While many felt Henderson should have kept out the equaliser, Solskjaer felt the defending should have been better at the death.

“Well, it’s a header from six yards. He can save it from there; I’ve seen him save from there. But it’s the structure we lose, we dropped a yard or two too deep and we get blocked. Kjaer makes a good run, he’s strong and his marker is blocked off and he gets the header on it. We should have attacked the ball with the men we had there. It’s disappointing but that can happen. I’ve been part of a team that scored in injury-time in Europe myself from a set-play!“

While confidence was high after the derby win, the team came crashing back down to earth tonight, but the manager feels the teams away record will hold them in good stead when the team travel to the San Siro next week.

“It’s sometimes hard on the back of the game [at City] we had, but that’s the learning we have to get into ourselves and you have to perform every single week against good teams, because these are definitely a good team.”

“Of course our away form has been really good and we’ve created chances enough. We’ve scored goals away from home and we’ve got the character, personality to bounce back. We’ve been exciting and efficient away from home, especially in the last round against Real Sociedad. That’s a template on how we want to play in games. First of all though, West Ham then Milan,” concluded Solskjaer.

United have made a habit of making things difficult for themselves over the years, even with Sir Alex Ferguson in charge. That tradition has been continued under Solskjaer, who will hope to find some of the magic that pushed United through their European challenges back in 1999.

Manchester United Derby Win A Bolt From The Blue

Manchester United have stunned neighbours Manchester City, winning 2-0 at the Etihad and reducing the gap to 11 points, keeping their faint title hopes alive.

United have been horrible of late, failing to score in their three previous matches, yet they extended their imperious away record, while snapping City’s 21 game winning streak in all competitions.

Throwing recent form out the window, United flew out the blocks, with striker Anthony Martial brought down in the City box by Gabriel Jesus after just 39 seconds, with Bruno Fernandes converting the resultant penalty.

It could have been two just minutes later, as Luke Shaw had a rasping strike well saved by Ederson.

The England left-back would get his goal in the second half. After goal keeper Dean Henderson released him on a counter attack, a lung-busting run from Shaw and a link-up with Marcus Rashford culminated in a well-placed finish from Shaw on 50 minutes that put United two goals to the good.

It could have been more, but for a wonderful save from Ederson to deny Martial and keep City in the game.

United defended well though, and recorded another memorable win against Manchester City, 12 months to the day that they recorded a 2-0 win over their noisy neighbours at Old Trafford.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had refuted claims that United were in crisis earlier in the week, and he was delighted with both the performance and the result.

“It is fantastic. The start of course sets the tone for the game and after one minute we have a penalty and a goal. After being positive! Anthony gets the ball and looks forward, he drives inside the box. Be positive, that’s what we want from our players. I am delighted for everyone and especially Anthony, who has had a hard time. I thought he was Man of the Match.”

“Martial was superb today. He was a doubt before the game and Luke was a doubt before the game, the two of them – what a performance by the whole team, but especially the two of them when you think they had to do the warm-up before they could say to me they were alright to go. I am very happy with them and it just shows that we are getting more and more robust, more resilient to little things that maybe before that been ‘oh no I can’t’. We needed them, the team needed them and they knew. I am delighted with the attitude because in games like this you don’t belong to yourself anymore, you belong to Man United. You go out there and do your best for Man United.”

After several slow starts throughout the season, Solskjaer was delighted with how his charges flew out of the blocks, winning an early penalty.

“It sets the tone for the game a little bit and I thought the first 10 to 15 minutes were excellent. We were on the front foot, pressing, making them make mistakes and I thought the tempo was really high. They settled into the possession and pushed us back too much for my liking, and we gave the ball away too much, but still we got to half-time and we could adjust that a little bit, be more positive, don’t think about the result, just have a good performance and win the second half as well.”

With de Gea still on personal leave, Dean Henderson deputised in goal once again, and was singled out for praise from his manager after both keeping a clean sheet and setting up the second goal.

“He’s just growing, maturing, getting more and more mature, so very, very happy with him and just his presence out there you know there’s a future top, top keeper there.”

“You have to defend for so long and they have got players who are incredible. The tactics are brave and they play in such a way where there are threats everywhere – right, left, centre. There is penetration so you have to focus for 90 odd minutes so the boys deserve all of the praise that they will get tonight, but then forget about it because it is AC Milan on Thursday,” concluded Solskjaer.

United have re-found their scoring touch as they approach a crucial part of the campaign, and will hope for more goals when they entertain AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday.

Toothless Manchester United Fail To Score On Frustrating Night At Selhurst Park

A toothless Manchester United side have scored another 0-0 draw, their sixth of the season, and third in a row in all competitions. Tonight’s tepid encounter saw the Red Devils fail to find the back of the net at Crystal Palace.

Despite having 62% of possession, United could only muster one shot on target for the evening. But for a top-drawer save by Vicente Guaita from the thunderous Nemanja Matic shot, United could have gone home with a somewhat undeserved 1-0 and put some breathing space between them and their top 4 challengers.

But it wasn’t to be, and Manchester City now disappear further into the distance.

In fact, Crystal Palace can also feel aggrieved not to have come out victorious, as right at the death Patrick van Aanholt was clear through in a one-on-one duel with Dean Henderson, but a world-class save from United’s stopper preserved the clean sheet and extended United’s unbeaten away record.

That Henderson was awarded United’s ‘Man of the Match’ for his last-gasp heroics speaks volumes of just how bad United were, and what a slump they find themselves mired in.

With fixtures against Manchester City, AC Milan, fourth placed West Ham, and Leicester to come before the international break, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his work cut out for him if he wants to avoid yet another late season slump.

The manager was disappointed, and felt his side weren’t at their best on a cold night in South London.

“[It was] Disappointing. Just a little bit off and I think I said to you before the game when you’re off and not spot on you’re not going to win games. Palace are a side that always make it hard for you and they did again. In the first half we were too slow to start with. They had a bright start. We played well for a little spell, but couldn’t score the goal. In the second half we never got going. We made some changes and we had one or two decent opportunities, but not enough of course. We had a couple of moments but we didn’t take them. They didn’t have much either. It was a game that probably deserved to be a draw and none of us probably deserved to score. That’s sometimes just the way it works out. We didn’t find the quality that we normally see because we know the attitude and the approach to the game is right.”

“The last week has been three games, we haven’t conceded, we haven’t scored, but we’re talking about a week in a year that has been so strange and so demanding with all the games we have played and all the recovery and training, everything we have done. If all we have to worry about is one week during a season, that’s not too bad. We kept giving the ball away. There were times in the first half when we had some crisp passing and players in the right positions with simple passes, but quality passes, and we built some pressure and had some half-decent chances. Marcus [Rashford] had a good chance in the first half with some good play, but we kept giving it away easily and then you don’t build momentum and that’s the game you get.”

“Sometimes it’s human nature, sometimes you don’t work at your best and today we didn’t unfortunately. It’s been a long season… I’m not going to put any blame on that because everyone has got the same season. That’s part of it. You’re playing against a good team that make you play the way they want you to at times and when you don’t have the quality and tempo we should have had.”

“It’s not what we want but that’s football. We’re in the Premier League and you have to play better to win games. We know we’re in a battle to be as high in the table as possible and we’ve seen other results sometimes go like we don’t expect. We know we’re in a fight and we need to pick up every point we can.”

First-choice keeper David de Gea was given the evening off for personal reasons, and Solskjaer had much to be thankful for when his replacement Dean Henderson ensured the result wasn’t worse than a scoreless draw.

“That’s [how it is for] a Man United goalkeeper sometimes, you have to keep your concentration and he’s growing into that position. It was a great save, I didn’t know if the player was off [side] or not, but Dean showed good concentration and good reactions so I thank him for one point and not zero, well done.”

Up next Solskjaer takes his men to Etihad Stadium to visit a rampant Manchester City side who can smell another Premier League trophy, but the boss hopes his boys can help delay their neighbours celebrations.

“The attitude, the approach, everyone here is giving everything they’ve got. That’s the brilliant thing with these boys, they always give everything so don’t worry about not getting going. We’re getting going and of course, there’s extra spice when there’s a derby. And the little bit of frustration or disappointment or feeling sorry for themselves tonight, that will come back to motivation and inspiration for the next game because when you play them, you know that means a lot for us and that means a lot for the fans, and we’re going to give everything,” concluded Solskjaer.

Often a derby win is just the tonic a faltering team needs to turn their fortunes around. However, on current form, one wonders where United’s next goal will come from, let alone their next win…

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