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Preview: Manchester United need to switch on the entertainment factor against Cardiff under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Cardiff City -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Cardiff City Stadium

Saturday 22 December 2018; KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: Michael Oliver

Manchester United will face Cardiff City in the Premier League in Cardiff on Saturday evening. It has been a turbulent week for United. Losing 3-1 to Liverpool at Anfield last weekend was enough for the club to make a change and that came after the sacking of Jose Mourinho on Tuesday morning. Former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been brought in to replace the Portuguese manager until the end of the season.

There has been some positivity this week, which has not been around the club since the first of Mourinho’s two and a half seasons at the club. Solskjaer has literally given the players a clean slate, also suggesting that the club will be playing attacking football, which will be a change based on the boring football that has been served up recently. Whether Solskjaer has what it takes to succeed at United remains to be seen but you cannot fault his positivity.

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Pre-Match Opinion: Something needed to change for Manchester United. Not the change has been made, the players need to earn their stripes again!

The problems at United were not just caused by Mourinho. Many seem to blame him for everything. However, similar problems, such as managers not being backed in the transfer market happened under David Moyes and to a point under Louis van Gaal. Also, the lack of footballing knowledge from above was inherent under all three managers. Some seem to solely blame Mourinho. He was at fault in places but many don’t give him credit for what he did.

At times, when United has lost matches, Mourinho made it all about him. Many scolded the former manager for this. However, few actually used the logic they were blessed with to think about reasons he made it all about himself. Mourinho was protecting his players from criticism. You only ever read criticism about Mourinho in the media after poor results, of which there had been a lot of this season alone. There are even people who suggested Mourinho abused players, such as Paul Pogba.

It just goes to show the character of people today. Criticism is seen as abuse. Supposed supporters of the club align support with individual players. Many of United’s players this season have not earned their stripes. The slate is clear for them now which gives them all a platform to put themselves on. However, after what some of these players have done, it is only time before attitudes take control and they assume they won against Mourinho, which in turn could see them do the same again.

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Team News: Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez are both out of contention for the Cardiff City match

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez will miss the Cardiff City match on Saturday evening. Chris Smalling pulled out of the Liverpool match with an injury in the warm-up at Anfield and Phil Jones and Luke Shaw had both been absent recently. Eric Bailly replaced Smalling against Liverpool and Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Anthony Martial all returned in the defeat at Liverpool. Solskjaer stated that Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna will have an influence on the team:

“Romelu [Lukaku] has had a couple of days off, so I’ve not seen him yet. That was decided before [I arrived], so that’s fine. I’ve not seen Alexis [Sanchez], because he’s on his way back as well. Of course, it’s Michael [Carrick] and Kieran [McKenna] who have been here for the whole season. They’ve had their say and input, but there are so many games in the next 10, 15 days, so it’s about picking a team that you think is going to get results.

“We need results but, then again, every player needs to know that they’re probably going to get their chance in this period because that’s just the nature of the game over here in England, that we have to rotate. Kieran and Michael have been great, I have to say. It’s great being back home and seeing the development already, because I played with Michael, how good a coach and man-manager he is already, so it’s been really helpful.

“The job now is to get to know the players, observe them, see the qualities that we’ve got. Of course, I’ve seen more or less every game from Norway when I’ve had time from the other job [as Molde boss]. But, to get to know the players and think about what I can do to improve them, that’s my job.”

Predicted Starting XI: Back to basics for Manchester United? Let the attack help the defence by constantly adding pressure to Cardiff’s back line…

Manchester United have some good players in their team, on paper anyway. I don’t think they have helped themselves recently by not performing. However, that is in the past now and the players have a chance to redeem themselves. at least until the summer when the club is expecting to have a permanent manager lined up for the club. With both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez both out of action still, I am expecting Marcus Rashford to lead the line, flanked by Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.

A midfield trio of Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba could get the best out of this team, cutting the shackles of defensive football away from the club. Diogo Dalot as the right-back and Luke Shaw, if fit, in the left-back role will work wonders. A centre-back partnership of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof could bring out the best of the players, settling for a stable defence and one which could be trusted for each game. Of course, David De Gea will be in goal, which goes without saying.

Match Prediction: Cardiff City have never beaten Manchester United in the Premier League. A precarious position may bring the confidence to win

Cardiff City currently sits 16th in the Premier League, just two points and two goals above the relegation positions. Neil Warnock will need to get things going in the right direction or relegation could well happen for them again this season. United are down but not out and Cardiff could try to take advantage of that. However, confidence will have been building at United this week with players looking to overcome the defensive dire football to turn on the entertainment factor…

Cardiff City 0-4 Manchester United

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