Cristiano Ronaldo will be ‘make or break’ for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, says Gary Neville

Manchester United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus at the end of the summer transfer window, which is a reunion that has been suggested since the summer of 2013 – but never happened, until now. It is something that would have been great for United post-Sir Alex Ferguson too.

However, now that it has been done, a United legend and former teammate of Ronaldo has heaped pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggesting that the re-signing of the 36-year-old will either be make or break for him. It is not something that was said maliciously – but because people will turn on the manager even more if it fails.

The 46-year-old, who now works as a pundit and commentator for Sky Sports, amongst other things, recently spoke to BBC 5 Live about Solskjaer re-signing Ronaldo and he said:

“There is no doubt Ronaldo is a make or break signing for Ole.”

Of course, with that being said, without more context, there is going to be a massive number of criticism articles based on so few words. I think Solskjaer knows that Ronaldo returning to the club, even at 36 is a big deal and he knows that if everything starts to go down the pan, he will be responsible.

Ronaldo has made a fine start to live back in Manchester, scoring a brace on his second debut at the club against Newcastle United in the Premier League, in which United won the match 4-1. He also scored in the opening UEFA Champions League group stage match against Young Boys, despite United falling to a 2-1 defeat. On Sunday, he scored his fourth goal since he return to United, helping the club beat West Ham United 2-1 in the Premier League.

Ronaldo looks set to miss the Carabao Cup third round match with the Hammers on Wednesday evening, but will be fresh for the visit of Aston Villa to the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday afternoon, in which the match has been brought forward from the original 3pm BST kick off, now being played at 12:30 BST – the same time as Chelsea host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

There is much for United to achieve under Solskjaer and despite the moaning about defeats or draws, the people doing the moaning do not seem t be saying much when United win, which has happened in five of the six matches played this season. It gives the suggestion that some of these critics on social media are hell bent on watching Solskjaer fail at United – just so they can say they were right – strange, right?

Solskjaer has done well at United thus far – aiming to clear the dead wood at the club, which is a work in progress but something the manager has started to achieve in doing. He also has brought in many of his own players, who have largely done well – despite criticisms on some of their performances, because some people seem to forget that footballers are no robots or the pixels they compare on the FIFA video games.

Neville has a point in what he has said and there is no way that he would set out to negatively affect United but only say what he has been feeling. So far, Ronaldo’s return to the Theatre of Dreams has been largely positive and when he failed to score or assist, of even show promise in a match, the critics will be out in force to earn some money from criticism, never mind how reactionary it might be.

United are on the right path to success. Solskjaer needs to win a trophy to kickstart his time at the helm of the Old Trafford club. He has been backed this summer in the signing of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo, although the club could have done more to help him get rid of some of the players he wanted rid of.

This could have allowed him to strengthen in a few more key areas, especially the defensive midfield position. If United had gone into this season with this area of the squad covered, they could have gone full speed into challenging for the Premier League title.

Rotation will become key this season and Solskjaer will need to keep the lies of Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay fresh, as they are the main players who will excel in the defensive midfield area. Fred has little worth to United and does not seem to fit into United plans moving forward, which is a shame as they will not recoup anything near the money paid for him in the summer of 2018.

Written by John Walker

Gary Neville’s prediction sees Manchester United and Chelsea hampered in Premier League title race

Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate Gary Neville believes that United and Chelsea have little chance of winning the Premier League title whilst Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola manager both Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. Both Liverpool and City have dominated the Premier League over the last three years with City winning the league twice and Liverpool winning their first Premier League title last season. Both United and Chelsea are aiming to close the gap on the two clubs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard both saw their clubs finish third and fourth respectively last season and so far this summer, Lampard has had the best transfer window in signing Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Malang Sarr, and Kai Havertz whilst United have signed just Donny van de Beek this summer and have been linked with numerous players which nothing of note happening with three weeks of the transfer window remaining. Speaking to The Mirror, Neville said:

“The one thing I can guarantee you is that United will win again. That might not be this year or next year, but it will be amazing when they win again, and the longer it builds up, the greater the actual feeling is when you do it.

“It will be, maybe, when Klopp and Guardiola leave Liverpool and City – hopefully in the next couple of years! That will be the chance, as they’re two outstanding managers who have built really good teams, but they’ll leave in the next one, two or three years.

“That will be the point when United can come back in and capitalise – I’m sure Chelsea are thinking that way as well.”

Neville has a point in what he says but it will be up to United to play catch up with all three clubs now and those that finished below them in the league last season will be seeking to do a lot better too. United will know what Solskjaer needs to get United firing in the right direction this summer, but there seems to be an inability to land the signings that the club should be going for and more desire to keep saving money, which is what the Glazers have been doing at the club for years now.

United have a big rebuilding plan and have a manager that has sent the club in the right direction for the first time post-Sir Alex Ferguson, whicbis something that David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all failed to do. Granted, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a financial problem for United this summer, but that should not be used an an excuse not to provide players for the manager to better his squad. United qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League this season and will be looking to take on the biggest teams in Europe.

However, that may be where much bigger problems lie as United have a good starting XI, which has been strengthened by the signing of Van de Beek this summer, but United could really do with a minimum of three more signings with a left-back, central defender and a right-winger the positions that need to be fortified this summer. United have been linked with Jadon Sancho this summer, but had a deadline to sign the England winger, which expired more than a month ago now with the player making his first appearances for Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal on Monday evening.

Written by John Walker

Gary Neville sees a problem coming for Manchester United

Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate Gary Neville sees a problem coming for the club regarding both David De Gea and Dean Henderson, who could be set to go head to head to battle for the clubs number one shirt this season. Henderson has returned to the club and signed a new long-term contract until the summer of 2025 after two good seasons on loan at Sheffield United in which he helped the club rise from the Championship to the Premier League, helping them keep their place in the top flight and almost reaching a European place.

Last season, De Gea suffered a few errors which led to goals, the most embarrassing being in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, but also quite a few times in the Premier League that season. Henderson suffered a few errors too, which is all part of his development and something that he should be learning from. Some supporters of the club suggest that Henderson could take on De Gea for the number one shirt this season but Neville feels that this is something that cannot just happen from the outset. Speaking to Sky Sports and reported by the Manchester Evening News, Neville said:

“The idea that Dean Henderson will just come in and replace David de Gea as No.1 goalkeeper at Manchester United straight away – it won’t happen, I can guarantee it won’t happen. I think this has got a problem written all over it.

“The one area of the pitch that you need stability and consistency in is your goalkeeper. You need to know who your No.1 is. You cannot have it where you’re flip-flopping. It does not work at all. I’ve never seen it work at any club or international level where there is a decision to be made between two goalkeepers.

“You have to fix your No.1, go with him and even if there’s a mistake, you stick with him. Once you take De Gea out of the team and put Henderson in, you may as well forget about De Gea.

“I think it’s a real difficult issue and that’s coming from my experience at United. In the period at United between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, when we had Ricardo, Barthez, Bosnich, Howard, Carroll, Taibi, we had many many goalkeepers over a five-six year period, there was an inconsistency. It wasn’t just the goalkeeper position but it didn’t help. You need stability in that position.”

United have had some very turbulent times with goalkeepers just in the Premier League era alone. Neville was part of the team that saw Peter Schmeichel leave the club after winning the treble and over the next six years, before Edwin van de Sar arrived at the club, United went through six goalkeepers, none of which seemed to fill the gloves of Schmeichel other than Van der Sar. United should not be seeking to head into a period whereby such a thing could happen once again.

De Gea has been a model professional at United for a lot of his nine years at the Old Trafford club, winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times, three of those in succession which shows the level he had risen to as a goalkeeper. The last few seasons have not been the best for the club with lots of rebuilding to be done. The fact that United conceded 54 goals in the Premier League alone in the 2018/19 season, reducing that to 36 goals in the 2019/20 season shows some progress. With the right signings this summer, United could be at their strongest point post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

Henderson has his best years ahead of him and it is going to be much different him playing for United as the scrutiny that will be up against him from the media, pundits, United supporters and opposition supporters will be intense to say the least. Every mistake will be placed under the microscope and made into something much bigger than it was and the 23-year-old will need to be ready for that. The fact that he has risen a league during every loan spell for United is a good thing, which has allowed him to grow each season.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United should have moved quickly to sign Jadon Sancho this summer

Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate feels that his former club should have acted quicker in their pursuit of Jadon Sancho this summer. United were given a 10 August deadline to sign the England winger from the Bundesliga club but did nothing of note to get the deal done – which would have cost the club £108 million (€120 million) which is a big amount of money to spend with all the financial uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football for three months.

United still seem to be linked to the England winger and it is suggested that he is still Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s number one target of the summer despite the club so far signing only Donny van de Beek from Ajax in a £35.7 million deal. Dortmund wanted the deal to be wrapped up quickly so they could bring in a replacement and start their pre-season training with the new player in the squad. This does not seem to be the way that United want to conduct business. Neville spoke to the Daily Mail, saying:

“Like everyone else they had three months off because of coronavirus, so I don’t think it should be the case they didn’t have the resource or time to get things done.

“Chelsea got their business done, [Manchester] City have got three or four pieces done. I don’t think timing’s the issue. It’s just a thing with United that every time they go for a player in the last four, five, six years it feels they are a little bit desperate.

“They think they can hang on but they always pay it [the asking price] in the end. That’s sometimes where I think you can take control, give a hard deadline and say ‘we’re moving away from this deal’.”

United did not seem to react to the 10 August deadline to sign the player and seemingly thought that their own plans to sign him were better than respecting Dortmund and their wishes. United should have got the deal done last month before the deadline or moved on if they could not. All the club has done is allowed the media, the ITKs on Twitter and others to keep the hopes of this deal being completed alive. The mood surrounding the club will change if nothing happens and Solskjaer is not backed this summer. Neville continued by saying:

“The fact that it’s dragged on. Just say to Dortmund ‘leave him there’ and go get another player. There are plenty of players around, there can’t be just one player you’re chasing.

“It is frustrating but I do think United have been better in these last couple of seasons, more careful and not making mistakes either. If you can’t get a deal done [for Sancho] you have to move on. You certainly have to give hard deadlines on players.”

It is not much to ask of United to get deals done quickly. The transfer window has been open for six weeks now and there are three weeks and five days of the transfer window left after today (Tuesday 8 September 2020) so the club is running out of time. United will need to sign a striker, which might not happen until January, a right-winger, a central defender and a left-back in order to strengthen the squad so the club has a chance to take on the might of both Liverpool and Manchester City but other clubs, such as Chelsea have strengthened too, so it makes it much harder for United to challenge for the Premier League title.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United should make big investment in their squad this summer says Gary Neville

Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate Gary Neville feels that United will need to invest in their squad this summer in order to continue growing as a team worthy of taking on the best teams in the Premier League – which are currently Liverpool and Manchester City. United have addressed a lot already by achieving a third place finish in the Premier League this season, returning to the UEFA Champions League after a season out of the competition.

United beat Leicester City 2-0 on Sunday afternoon to end the season on a high with a penalty from Bruno Fernandes, his tenth goal of the season for the club and a late goal by Jesse Lingard, who scored his first Premier League goal of the season, in fact his first since December 2018. United have now been unbeaten in 14 Premier League matches. Neville feels that United need to continue investing because they will need more to take on the might of Liverpool and City. Speaking to Sky Sports, reported by The Mirror, Neville said:

“They (United’s starting XI) were absolutely done in with 20 minutes to go and that just demonstrates that they need more players in the squad.

“The last time United finished in the top three they spent £170million under Jose Mourinho that summer and obviously didn’t invest it as wisely as they have this last year.

“I think United need to invest that money again but do it correctly this time to get anywhere need Liverpool and City. That squad needs improving, that team needs improving.”

Last summer, United did well to add Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. At the time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew that he needed more but was not able to sign a striker. However, in January, with problems in the midfield, Bruno Fernandes was added and the manager was also able to add Odion Ighalo to his squad, albeit on loan – which has been extended until the end of January 2021, meaning the player will experience Champions League football next season, in the group stages at least. Neville still feels the club needs more, continuing by saying:

“They need to improve the first XI, first and foremost. That’s not to the detriment of any of the players that have played today.

“There are players who were out there who are good enough to be part of the squad that can still compete if you’re going to play 55, 60 games in a season.

“It’s about making sure you get players in that want to play for the right club, who are coming for the right reasons.”

Neville is right. United have done well this season with that they had in the squad. There are players that will have already played their last matches for the club and some others that will be under the microscope. If United are to raise the bar this summer, they will need to add players off a better quality to the squad. When the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are not playing, quality is the real issue. Roy Keane, a former teammate of Neville added his ten cents to the conversation, suggesting where United should improve, saying:

“I think they need another centre-half, certainly one or two defenders. Gary [Neville] made a point that when you’re at a big club like United you want options all over the park.

“I think they’ll probably need another striker. We talk about [Mason] Greenwood coming through but he’s still a young player finding his way.”

Written by John Walker

Watford forward Ismaila Sarr should be cheaper alternative to Sancho – Gary Neville

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer look into signing Watford forward Ismaila Sarr amid reports that United’s move for Jadon Sancho is no further forward. The club legend has stated that the 22-year-old is a ‘big, big talent’. Borussia Dortmund want more that £100 million for Sancho with United only willing to spend £50 million, which is not going to be enough to land the England winger. United should look into other options.

Whilst Solskjaer seems set on signing Sancho, it is not likely to be an easy transfer, despite recent reports suggesting otherwise. Sarr is an alternative with Premier League experience and despite not being a big name like Sancho, he should be considered as Neville is not looking to send United in a direction whereby they will be making a huge error. Speaking to Sky Sports on the The Gary Neville Podcast, The Mirror reported Neville as saying:

“Manchester United need a right winger. He’s a big, big talent, honestly he really is.

“We’ve seen his performances before but tonight he was a shining light, even in that first half there were periods where Watford did attack and it was through him.

“So yeah he’ll be sought after and Watford will, I’m sure, cash in if they get the right bid.”

During the 2019/20 season, Sarr, 22, has made 28 appearances for the club this season, playing in the Premier League and the Carabao Cup, scoring six goals and five assists. It may not be good enough for a team such as United, but if you look at Daniel James’ rise from Swansea City this season, looking at what he has done at United, going from five goals and ten assists in 38 appearances for Swansea – in the Championship, to scoring four goals and seven assists in 43 appearances for United.

That said, with quality around him, and that is not a criticism of Watford, Sarr could become a much better player than he currently is, therefore Neville has a point to be made here. Just because a player costs £100 million or more does not guarantee that it will work for him. Look at Angel Di Maria, who cost just under £60 million. He stayed at United for one season and did not really fit. Granted, it might have been different under Solskjaer, but he was not at the club then so there is nothing to say otherwise.

It was last summer when the Senegal forward signed for Watford, for a record fee said to be more than £25 million from Rennes, as reported by BBC Sport at the time. The player, then 21, signed a five-year contract at the club, which is set to expire in the summer of 2024. That gives Watford all the cards as to whether they sell the player this summer or not. Considering at this moment in time that their future in the Premier League is not certain, sitting 17th in the Premier League, just three points from the relegation positions.

If Bournemouth beat Southampton on Sunday, Watford would need to beat both Manchester City and Arsenal to stay in the English top-flight. If they are relegated, Sarr might want to leave the club. All we can do is wait and see what happens. Obviously, if Bournemouth fail to beat Southampton, it will give Watford some breathing space but will need points on the board against both City and Arsenal, which is going to be a big ask at this stage of the season.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood compared to Liverpool’s front three by Gary Neville

Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate Gary Neville believes that Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have the ‘talent and ability’ to become United’s version of Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. This season, the United trio have been on fire, at times.

This season, Rashford, 22, has made a total of 37 appearances for the club, scoring 20 goals and nine assists, whereas Martial, 24, has made 40 appearances, scoring 20 goals and seven assists and Greenwood, 18, has made 42 appearances, scoring 16 goals and five assists. In total, the trio has scored 56 goals and 21 assists – 77 goal contributions.

United have done well since returning to action after the coronavirus pendmic suspended world football and have, in their last four Premier League matches, won each by scoring three or more goals in each match; 3-0 against Sheffield United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa with a 5-2 victory over Bournemouth.

The Liverpool trio have scored 50 goals between them; Salah 21, Mane 18, and Firmino 11 with the trio assisting 10, eight, and ten goals respectively. In total, the trio were responsible for a total of 78 goal contributions – one more than United. It shows that the future could be good for United, once this front three gain more experience together.

Seemingly pouring cold water on the current hype, Neville insisted that the United trio have raw talent which could help them become best attack in the league. On the United legends podcast, entitled the Gary Neville podcast, Neville spoke about the United trio, going into detail about his thoughts and opinions, saying:

“Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are matured, they are established, they are the real deal – the best front three in the Premier League. I was saying that even when Manchester City were winning the league.

“The three that United have got are not at the level of Liverpool’s front three yet, you wouldn’t expect them to be, but they have the talent and ability.

“There were questions whether Rashford was good enough, whether Martial was good enough and Greenwood hadn’t obviously emerged back then, but they are proving they are good enough, that they can play and that they will get better.

“The Liverpool front three are ahead, but it is exciting for Manchester United. If you believe in young players and give them opportunities in the positions they want to play in, you will be amazed what you can achieve.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer states that Manchester United must act in ‘important summer’ to mount title challenge

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agrees with Gary Neville that the club has to make sure their business conducted this summer is done properly in what will be an important summer if the club is to mount a Premier League title charge next season. United were seemingly back to their best in a 5-2 demolition of Bournemouth.

United have now been unbeaten in 16 matches this season, which has seem them keep chase on Chelsea to break into the top four of the Premier League in order to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. United leapfrogged Chelsea with the London club taking their fourth place position with a 3-0 victory over Watford.

The arrival of Bruno Fernandes during the January transfer window is a catalyst of United’s form in 2020 but former United right-back and captain Gary Neville feels that the club are a couple of players short of taking on the might of Liverpool and Manchester City. United have a good squad but lack depth in areas and could do with additions.

Solskjaer agrees with what Neville has said and will be seeking that Ed Woodward gets the ball rolling ahead of the summer transfer window, which was always going to be important for United. So far, the club has been heavily linked with Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Donny van de Beek and a whole host of other players. Solskjaer confirmed:

“Gary [Neville] is right in a lot of things he says and of course we cannot think we’re there.

“If you look at the table, we’re nowhere near where we should be. Consistency has to be improved and we still have to improve on many aspects of the game.

“I don’t know how many points we’re behind the top two, but Gary’s right – there’s definitely not going to be any complacency and thinking, ‘We’ve cracked it’ because we’ve got so much to do.

“It’s an enjoyable journey. We can see improvements but, yes, we need to make one or two – or more – very good decisions. It’s going to be an important summer, definitely.”

United have been heading in the right direction under Solskjaer and it would seem that his detractors are starting to see what the Norwegian is doing to the club, which is not something they could see before, seemingly about to admit that they were wrong. United conceded the first goal against Bournemouth and that anger then came out to play with United doing all they could to get a result.

Gary Neville urges Manchester United board to seize the moment, add quality and challenge for Premier League title

Former Manchester United right-back and captain Gary Neville has urged the board of the Old Trafford club to siege the moment this summer and bring in the required quality so the club can become Premier League title challengers next season, aiming to restore a two title lead over Liverpool, who won their first league title in 30 years last week.

United have seemingly turned a corner since New Year and seem to be playing free-flowing football and are close to their best form in a long time. 3-0 victories in the Premier League against Sheffield United and Brighton and Hove Albion have given United a change of finishing in the top four of the Premier League this season.

Although, Chelsea’s defeat to West Ham United on Wednesday evening has given United a much better opportunity to break into the top four, along with Leicester City’s earlier defeat to Everton, which means with wins in their next few matches, they could be in a great position to securing UEFA Champions League football next season.

At times this season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been questioned about United’s form with some decisions being criticised. However, the Norwegian’s philosophy seems to be paying off. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes changed a lot at the club and with the academy being trusted too, things are heading in the right direction. Neville said:

“There’s no doubt that a year ago there was a massive worry about the club’s direction, where it was going, the recruitment.

“There’s a huge improvement, the club has been sanitised from a point of view of players who just come in for money.

“When you look at the players out on the pitch, there’s a mixture of ones who weren’t working who are now working because they’re surrounded by better players.

“Young players who are desperate to play for the club and some players who have got great ability, who have realigned their commitment over this last few months and are certainly in a lot better frame of mind.

“However, now is the time to go for it, get those three of four players in are needed close the gap now when the rest are maybe not investing and get closer to that title.”

Gary Neville suggests that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes Liverpool’s path to the Premier League title

Former Manchester United right-back and captain Gary Neville has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer follows the steps that Liverpool took to deliver their first Premier League title, and league title in 30 years. Liverpool signed central defender Virgil van Dijk in January 2018, which seems to have been used as a catalyst, driving them to league title glory.

Van Dijk cost Liverpool £75 million two and a half years ago and helped drive them to challenge Manchester City last season, ending by winning their sixth UEFA Champions League trophy, after being beaten in the final the year before. It might not be good reading, but I feel that Neville does have a point here.

United signed Harry Maguire for £80 million last summer and Neville believed that it could have been United’s Van Dijk moment, however, it has not worked that way thus far, and probably won’t be anything near as similar as United are not Liverpool and Liverpool are not United. It is not something that is guaranteed to work with different clubs.

The rise of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could be the start of success for United with both players seemingly hungry to achieve things at the club, which is great to see after seven seasons of United failing to challenge for a single league title, despite finish second once, 19 points behind Manchester City. Neville feels that an elite signing could help United in the right direction. Speaking to Premier League Daily, he said:

“I think one more signing. You think about Liverpool signing [Virgil] Van Dijk and Alisson in goal.

“One or two more signings or [Paul] Pogba and one more signing playing to their absolute best. I think United can get closer.”

When he was pressed as to which position this elite signing would play in, Neville confirmed that it would be a central defender. It is an area that United need to work on but the addition of Maguire last summer, not to mention Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has seemingly solve the right-back problem, money would need to be spent elsewhere in the squad. Neville, however, said:

“Centre-back, you look at the impact Van Dijk had. Maguire has had a really strong impact but another real strong centre-back.

“They’ve still got to be defensively sound. One more signing and United can challenge.”

United could go a long way to listen to former players but also listen to the manager, his coaches and even the players, who will have their own ideas. However, United need to secure the right-wing position, in my opinion, possible add another midfielder, if one of two leave this summer and a central defender would be needed if the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Marcos Rojo end up leaving the club this summer. It could work.

copyright: JW