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October Review: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, David De Gea and Marcus Rashford for POTM?

Manchester United played five matches in October and it was not a great month for the club or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United started the month with a 1-1 draw with Everton at Old Trafford, which then made way for an international break. After that, United lost 4-2 to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, ending their unbeaten away run in the Premier League. Solskjaer’s side returned to winning ways beating Atalanta 3-2 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League, coming from 2-0 down. A 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League followed, adding pressure to Solskjaer before his side beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0.

October Statistics: A month of pressure for Solskjaer which ended more positively than it begun.

Five matches played; two wins one draw and two defeats. Four Premier League points won out of 12, and three points won in the UEFA Champions League, which put United at the summit of the group table and in with a good chance of getting out of the group. A total of nine goals were scored for United in October; Marcus Rashford scored three goals, Cristiano Ronaldo scored two and Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial scored one each. Bruno Fernandes got five assists whilst Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Ronaldo and Luke Shaw all got one assist each.

2 October – Manchester United 1-1 Everton – Premier League

Goals: Anthony Martial 43′; Andros Townsend 65′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 43′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 65′

Manchester United drew 1-1 with Everton in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial opened the scoring in the 43rd minute of the match, scoring his first goal for the club this season, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United should have perhaps scored more than one goal in the first half, seeking more in the second half. Andros Townsend equalised for the Toffees, after Fred lost the ball with Abdoulaye Doucoure equalising before Yerry Mina scored again five minutes from time, which was ruled offside. United needed to win this match and will go into the international break frustrated.

16 October – Leicester City 4-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Youri Tielemans 31′, Çaglar Söyüncü 78′, Jamie Vardy 83′, Patson Daka 90+1′; Mason Greenwood 19′, Marcus Rashford 82′

Assists: Kelechi Iheanacho 31′, Ayoze Pérez 78′, 83′, You Tielemans 90+1′; Bruno Fernandes 19′, Victor Lindelof 82′

Manchester United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. It was another big defeat for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the stadium, losing last season in the FA Cup. United unbeaten away run was now over. Mason Greenwood opened the scoring in the 19th minute of the match but Youri Tielemans equalised in the 31st minute. Leicester then found a second goal, scored by Çaglar Söyüncü in the 78th minute before Marcus Rashford levelled in the 82nd minute for United. Jamie Vardy put Leicester ahead again a minute later before Patson Daka completed the rout in the first minute of added time.

20 October – Manchester United 3-2 Atalanta – UEFA Champions League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 53′, Harry Maguire 75′, Cristiano Ronaldo 81′; Mario Pašalić 15′, Merit Demiral 29′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 53′, 75′, Luke Shaw 81′; Davide Zappacosta 15′, Teun Koopmeiners 29′

Manchester United beat Atalanta 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League. At half time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were 2-0 down after Mario Pašalić and Merih Demiral scored in the first half. United seemed dejected, devoid of confidence, inspiration and motivation. Something must have been said during the break as eight minutes in, Marcus Rashford got a goal back with Harry Maguire equalising in the 75th minute and none other than Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner in the 81st minute of the match. It was a poor first half, the second half was better but winning this match from a losing position means the world.

24 October – Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool – Premier League

Goals: Naby Keita 5′, Diogo Jota 13′, Mohamed Salah 38′, 45+5′, 50′

Assists: Mohamed Salah 5′, Trent Alexander-Arnold 13′, Naby Keita 38′, Diogo Jota 45+5′, Jordan Henderson 50′

Manchester United were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were toothless, lacked any kind of ability to play this game and will be under so much pressure, which will either make or break them. Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in the game, scoring in the 38th minute, five minutes into added time and one against five minutes into the second half. Naby Keita opened the scoring and was stretched off after Paul Pogba was sent off the the foul. Diogo Jota scored the other goal in the game that saw Liverpool run riot at the Theatre of Dreams.

30 October – Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo 39′, Edinson Cavani 64′, Marcus Rashford 86′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 39′, Cristiano Ronaldo 64′, Nemanja Matic 86’

Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in the Premier League. It was a good comeback for United after their humiliation against Liverpool last week. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 39th minute of the match, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United doubled their lead through Edinson Cavani in the 64th minute of the match, assisted by Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford scored the third goal of the match in the 86th minute, assisted by Nemanja Matic. United face Atalanta on Tuesday evening, then Manchester City in the first Manchester derby of the season next weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo – five appearances, 374 minutes played, two goals, one assist and two MOTM awards.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the Manchester United Player of the Month for September and should probably win this one, considering his goal against Atalanta won the game and he scored and assisted against Spurs. He was awarded two Man of the Match awards by the club for his performances against Atalanta and Spurs and his goal against Spurs will be a Goal of the Month contender, for the angle which he found the back of the net. Ronaldo has been a breath of fresh air since returning to the club, despite the poor team performances that followed the last international break. United with Ronaldo is a much better team but needs to be unbeatable.

Bruno Fernandes – five appearances, 408 minutes played, five assists and one MOTM award.

Bruno Fernandes has performed this month, despite United’s poor results. The Portuguese magnifico got himself five assists in the month, matching the seven assists held by Paul Pogba this season. Fernandes has four goals too, but non of those were scored in October. The midfielder was awarded the Man of the Match in the 1-1 draw with Everton, which was a poor result for United and one which continued throughout October, ending with a win. He assisted against Everton, Leicester, twice against Atalanta and once against Spurs. There are times when his form has tailed off but he always strives for high level performances at the club.

David De Gea – five appearances, 450 minutes played, one clean sheet – a goalkeeper in form.

The Spanish goalkeeper has performed exceptionally well during October, raising his game and showing many glimpses of the player he was before last season, when his form was questionable. He ended the month with his second clean sheet this season, which is no really achievement, but will be a starting point from a period where United were conceding goals at the fault of the defence rather than the goalkeeper. De Gea made any saves, helping to keep United in matches, especially the 3-2 victory over Atalanta in the Champions League. The past month will have made him more determined to succeed at United.

Marcus Rashford: four appearances, two from the bench, 172 minutes played, three goals.

Marcus Rashford only made he return from shoulder surgery against Leicester City, making four appearances in October, two of those from the bench. The three goals that he scored were needed for United, even the one against Leicester which levelled the score to 2-2 but United capitulated a minute later, then again in added time. Rashford also scored against Atalanta and Spurs – two matches which were wins and much needed at that. Having Rashford fit this season will be great for United and it’s clear he wants to achieve things at the club and will do all that he can to get United heading into the right direction.

Who is your Player of the Month for October 2021?

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Who is your Manchester United Player of the Month for October 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in November…

United will play five matches in November. It will be another busy month for United with two matches to be played before the final international break of 2021; Atalanta in the Champions League and Manchester City in the Premier League. Two weeks later, United will face Watford away in the league before the penultimate Champions League match away to Villarreal. The final match of the month will be away at Chelsea. United were supposed to face Arsenal at the end of November, but that match was rescheduled because it will be shown on television. United will have a busy December with eight matches being played. Here are November’s matches;

2 November – Atalanta, Stadio di Bergamo – UEFA Champions League

6 November – Manchester City, Old Trafford – Premier League

20 November – Watford, Vicarage Road – Premier League

23 November – Villarreal, Estadio de la Cerámica – UEFA Champions League

28 November – Chelsea, Stamford Bridge – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Rashford’s Return: Another Attacking Dimension?

Marcus Rashford looks set to return for Manchester United, after facing a lengthy spell out on the side lines following a shoulder operation in August. Rashford, who featured for England in the summer at the Euros, had claimed that he had been plagued by shoulder pain for most of last season. The England international will hope the shoulder operation and subsequent recovery period will have alleviated the issues from last season, meaning the quick footed forward will have more mobility and not have to play through the pain anymore. 

With Rashford’s impending return scheduled for some time after the international break, the 23 year old will hope he can break back into United’s starting line-up, although competition for places is currently very high. Since Rashford last featured for United, the club has secured the signings of forwards Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, meaning breaking back into the starting eleven may not be as easy as it once was.

Before Rashford’s shoulder surgery, the young forward was an integral player for United last season, racking up 21 goals and 15 assists, this was over 57 matches across all competitions throughout the 20/21 season. These kinds of numbers are expected for a Manchester United forward but are still impressive given Rashford’s age, even more so considering the amount of pain he was purportedly enduring. 

The talented youngster had a near spotless injury record up until the 19/20 season, where he suffered from hip and later back injuries. It’s interesting to note that Rashford has been suffering with shoulder pain from around the same time as those injuries, meaning the 20/21 campaign was particularly gruelling. 

Despite this, Rashford was available for every game but one last season, and whether that’s a testament to sheer will power or a mark of youthful naivety is up for debate, but it’s clear there was no questioning the forwards commitment. However, playing through pain is not good in the long term, particularly for a young blossoming talent with most of his career ahead of him, therefore it seems the correct decision was made to have the shoulder surgery this summer.

It was Rashford in tandem with Bruno Fernandes who were in blistering hot form early last season, Rashford rather impressively scoring six goals in the Champions League group stages. However, his form did drop off, a likely consequence of the enduring shoulder pain he faced. When Rashford was at his best last year, he was able to offer United unrelenting pace and fairly consistent finishing. 

Paul Pogba was able to pick out several clever runs made by Rashford last season to create countless opportunities and goals, and it seemed when Rashford was at his best the whole team was too. Unfortunately for United (and Rashford) there was to be no recapturing of the early season form in the Europa League Final, as United struggled to make an impact on the game. After the disappointing defeat, Rashford came out and a gave a very raw and emotional interview, vowing United and himself would return stronger next season

This was a young player wounded by defeat and frustrated by his injury issues, but the eloquence and authenticity in which he spoke so shortly after the loss was another glowing reflection of the youngster’s character and integrity both off and on the pitch. Shortly after this, Rashford linked up with the England squad for the Euros, although game time was limited to a couple of substitute appearances and that fateful penalty miss.

Heading into the new season Rashford will hope to put the difficulties of last season behind him, re-joining the squad with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and assurance regarding his shoulder. Everything is not the same as it once was though, Cristiano Ronaldo now commands at least one of the front three starting spots and Mason Greenwood has been in inspired form

Additionally, what was once Rashford’s nailed on left-wing position has been taken up by Paul Pogba frequently in his absence, a position Pogba has generally done well in and one in which the Frenchman likes. These factors coupled with the arrival of another talented young English winger, Jadon Sancho, indicates returning as a starter is going to be very difficult. If Rashford is to regain his place, he will need to impress in training and look to recapture the excellent form of early last season. 

Realistically, the only position potentially open for him to occupy is his favoured left-wing, however Sancho will also be determined to start either on the left or right- although it looks very difficult to displace Greenwood from the right-wing at the time of writing. Assuming Rashford does beat Sancho to that left-wing spot, it will mean Pogba will move back into midfield once more. 

This shift could allow United to have a different attacking dimension to the one’s seen so far this season, Rashford adds significantly higher amounts of pressing and running than Sancho or Pogba would in the same position. The Pogba –Rashford combination has proven fruitful in the past and it seems United are in need of a bit more threat going forward over the last few weeks, United have lost three games before even the start of October

Rashford may also be able to stretch defences more with his running, freeing up space for Ronaldo to roam in which could be very beneficial for United’s attacking impotence. Alternatively, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could look to implement a new system that uses two strikers, one in which Rashford could play alongside Ronaldo with, Rashford’s pace complimentary to Ronaldo’s deadly finishing instincts. Once again though, this hasn’t even taken into consideration the presence of Edinson Cavani, who United retained for another year at the end of last season.

While the official return date is still unknown, Rashford is very likely to be involved in the squad for the away match against Leicester City on the 16 October. Long term, it’s hard to predict what the season will hold in store for the 23-year-old, but there are no doubts about the fact that Solskjaer is regaining a potentially lethal weapon for the rest of the season, whether that’s as a starter or a sub.

Written by Sam Wilson

Ranking Manchester United’s best front three

With the homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani opting to stay another year at the club, Manchester United have a plethora of options offensively. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a crucial job in identifying what his best front three will be to go into the rest of this season and how to keep the squad well rotated as well as maintaining the high quality throughout the team.

In previous seasons, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood/Daniel James has been the main attacking trio. But with the departure of James, the injury to Rashford and the loss of form of Martial, United’s current attack could look far different. Solskjaer has many options to choose from as especially last season with Martial’s inconsistency and Cavani’s superb form, Solskjaer looked to play Paul Pogba off the left wing so he could have more effect offensively. 

Thus, Solskjaer has even more versatility upfront especially with the signing of Jadon Sancho to add to the mix. The key thing for Solskjaer and his coaches is finding the right balance. On paper an attack can look strong but without balance and chemistry it won’t work. Since Bruno Fernandes’ signing, United have heavily relied on individual brilliance to get over the line, and in some games that is important but the constant need for the result to be secured as a result of a moment of magic is unsustainable. 

Therefore, Solskjaer must make sure the front three he opts with will have the right blend to create the right rhythm and impetus in their attacking play. With all the options Solskjaer has and the varying attributes each player has, it’s likely he will look to use different front threes in different games suited to the opposition. 

Against the big teams, Solskjaer has opted to use a pacey front three that could expose the oppositions defence on the counter-attack. The best front three fitted to that would be Rashford, Ronaldo and either Sancho or Greenwood. With Rashford’s successful surgery, he’ll be looking to get back into the first team by October and with his blistering speed he can humiliate defences especially if he has space to run into. 

Despite Ronaldo’s age, he still has some good speed in him and with Martial losing a couple yards of pace recently, and Cavani not being renowned for his pace, Ronaldo would provide the best balance to sustain this counter-attack. Off the right wing it’s a trickier decision as both Sancho and Greenwood are fast. Greenwood brings lethal finishing as he cuts in off the right whereas Sancho provides a more creative option with his silky dribbling and precise vision. 

As Ronaldo is a pure finisher and Rashford is more of a shooter rather than a creator, Sancho may fit this front three better as he provides the balance of finishing with that creative aspect, whereas Greenwood would make that front three quite predictable as they all would look to shoot and thus Rashford, Ronaldo and Sancho would be the best front three for a counter attacking game.

In games when the opposition sit back, it will need a mix of creativity but also the right finishers to take the few chances they get. With Fernandes’ unique ability to score lots of goals from midfield, Solskjaer could look to give him license to shoot with Ronaldo in-front of him creating the Portuguese linkup and then have Pogba off the left and Sancho off the right. 

Often when playing against the defensive teams, United struggle to create many chances but with Sancho, Pogba and Fernandes’ creativity it would be more effective at breaking down the ‘low block’ and with a lethal goalscorer in Ronaldo he will take the chances that are provided.

In some games its neither pure counter-attack or pure offense against low block, it has elements of both. Often, we’ve seen this against teams like Southampton, Wolves, Aston Villa and Brighton. These teams won’t go fully at you but will press high and won’t sit back. To combat this, Solskjaer should implement that pace on the counter-attack but also that high technical ability and thus should use Rashford off the left, Ronaldo through the middle and Sancho off the right. 

In all these teams, form is important and currently Greenwood is un-droppable, but due to his unbelievable finishing, this can be exploited late in a game off the bench when the opposition is more penned in.  The balance between Rashford’s direct running and speed with Sancho’s quality weight of pass and dribbling should provide a solid counter-attack but also enough if the game adapts to a low block and United will be able to break it down.

Ultimately, I think the front three is very dependent on the opposition as each forward has different qualities. Although Cavani doesn’t start in any of these, he like Greenwood could be very impactful off the bench and provide those trademark runs to find space and take a game and win it individually. 

Ronaldo’s signing provides proven quality in the box which will be influential throughout and then the alternation between Pogba, Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho on the wings will create pivotal squad depth and tactical flexibility for Solskjaer to ensure he has the right options to win the game to take United back to winning silverware.

Written by Ethan Bents

An Attacking Dilemma: How will Manchester United cope without Marcus Rashford?

In the 2020/21 season Marcus Rashford had a career best season, scoring 21 times and assisting 15 in 57 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United, this attacking return cemented Rashford as a key player in the United first team, with only Bruno Fernandes having a better attacking contribution with 28 goals and 17 assists in one more game than Rashford. With these attacking returns, it is easy to understand why many United fans are anxious about the prospect of not having the number 10 until October.

The reason for the absence of Rashford is surgery he decided to have on a shoulder injury, the Manchester Evening News reported that ‘the forward has been playing with several injuries for the last year, with the shoulder injury being the most troubling’, the fact Rashford had been playing through an injury barrier in the 2020/21 season and still managed his best attacking return implies that had he not been injured, those numbers may have been even better, proving how crucial a player he is. While Rashford is side-lined it is important to evaluate the options Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has available to him in that left wing position while and consider who may even thrive in that position while given the opportunity. 

The first, and perhaps most exciting, option that United have in that left-midfield area to fill in for Rashford is Paul Pogba, who played in that position in United’s opening game at Old Trafford against Leeds United. Pogba put in a “Man of the Match” worthy performance, contributing four assists during the 5-1 win. Playing the Scott McTominay and Fred pivot allowed Pogba more freedom down the left-hand side in comparison to the more reserved game he must play when he is played deeper and more central in a pivot role. 

This freedom not only allowed Pogba to go further forward down the pitch with the ball, but also allowed him to be more fluid in his positioning, an example of this being the position he was in to deliver the assist for Fernandes’ first goal, Pogba occupies a central position while Mason Greenwood turns and runs down the left hand side and Fernandes pulled ahead into the space Greenwood has just vacated to run between the defenders and slot home his first goal of the day. 

This fluidity is a crucial part of Pogba’s game and is something he did regularly during his time at Juventus, however, since signing for United in 2016, Pogba has more often than not been played in a midfield two, expected to create from a deep lying position, this injury to Rashford, and the managers trust in the McTominay and Fred partnership, has created the perfect opportunity for Pogba to show his ability when given freedom down his favoured left hand side of the pitch. After his five-star performance on the opening day of the season, maybe United don’t need to look much further than their record signing for the perfect option to fill the void left by Rashford. 

The key issue with relying on Pogba in that left midfield area is that as a team United are still relatively thin in midfield, it would only take an injury to Fred, McTominay or Nemanja Matic for Solskjaer to need to use Pogba in the central midfield role he can also play. Therefore, while for now, with a very fit squad, Paul Pogba is the most exciting and straight forward replacement for Rashford, he cannot be the one to completely rely on. There must be other options for games where Pogba will need to play midfield between now and October, which is the expected return date for Rashford as reported by Sky Sports.

A second natural fit Manchester United could use to play on the left, that wouldn’t take away from their midfield options, is winger Daniel James. Since signing for United in 2019 James has played 4,526 minutes in all competitions across two full seasons at the club, in that time scoring nine goals and getting nine assists, while these numbers are much weaker than Rashford’s, it must be noted that for the majority of James’s Manchester United career he has been played out of position on the right wing, instead of his favoured position of left wing, which is the position he played for previous team Swansea and his national team. 

In his final season at Swansea, before he signed for United, James registered five goals and 10 assists in 2,815 minutes from the left wing, for a young player in the Championship, in a team like Swansea who will not be attacking as regularly as Manchester United, these are very respectable numbers. Similarly, in only 1,877 minutes for Wales, James has registered four goals and three assists, again this is in a much more conservative team than United, with weaker players around him. 

These numbers imply that James produces better attacking contributions when playing on the left-wing, it could be argued that the current predicament is a natural time for Solskjaer to give James a run of games in his favoured position to see what he is able to do there. It must also be noted that James is one of the fastest players in the league, an attribute that Rashford also has, this might help in games against teams who defend with a high line as James speed in behind, must like Rashford’s when fit, could be used as a tactic to break those teams down. This is an attribute Pogba lacks. 

The final player who could be used to fill the position left vacant by Marcus Rashford is Anthony Martial. Of course, since Solskjaer’s arrival at the club, Martial has been used primarily as a central striker which is his favoured position as reported by The Daily Mail, a move which paid off in the 2019/20 season when Martial delivered his best attacking return in a Manchester United shirt, scoring 23 goals and getting 12 assists in 48 appearances

However, in the following season, these numbers stalled significantly in the central forward position, with the number nine only managing seven goals and nine assists in 27 appearances, this meant that Edison Cavani took his spot as United’s starting striker midway through the season. Interestingly, in Martials first season at United in 2015/16 the attacker played a total of 4,128 minutes getting 17 goals and nine assists, from the left-wing position only, he played 2,132 minutes scoring nine goals and getting seven assists, showing that most of his attacking contributions came from the left-wing position, in 2,000 fewer minutes overall. 

This is a trend that continues throughout his United career, until he is moved to only play striker in the 2019/20 season. He consistently produces most of his attacking returns from the left-hand side, proving that he is a valuable player in that position. 

Another reason why Martial may be the perfect fit to replace Rashford while he is side-lined is because he is currently third in the pecking order in his favoured position of centre forward. After the breakthrough of Greenwood and the solid season in 2020/21 from Edinson Cavani, Martial may need to move position for the foreseeable to get the minutes he wants and needs as a player.

It is a position the fan base has seen him thrive in before and would leave room for Greenwood to flourish in the striker role after the summer signing of right winger Jadon Sancho, everything seemingly fits in place for Martial to make a comeback this season from the left-wing, staking his claim as a valuable attacking player for United. 

What this illustrates is that while the prospect of starting a new season without a talismanic figure like Rashford may be daunting for United fans, the squad is now deep enough that the team can not only survive the absence of Rashford, but perhaps even thrive due to the wealth of attacking ability now at the club. Pogba, James and Martial all have individual qualities that can fill the void left by Rashford, with Solskjaer even having the option of rotating these players in the left sided position to best fit the opposition.

It should also be noted that while Rashford will no doubt be missed, this forced break away from the game can only do the young star good after playing through injuries for the best part of a year and through Euro 2020, perhaps United fans will see an even better Marcus Rashford when he returns fully fit and ready to make his mark on the 2021/22 campaign.

Written by Jennifer McCord

October Review: Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Fred in the plaudits for Player of the Month

Manchester United played five times in October which started with negativity and ended with positivity. United’s season did not start as was expected, probably because of the coronavirus pandemic which saw last season delayed by three months, play into the summer with the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League being played into August. United did not have a pre-season this summer, playing just one match the week before they were due to start the 2020/21 Premier League season. United started the month at home, ending at home but with two very different matches being played.

4/10 – Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League

United started the month with a poor result at the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League as Spurs ran riot winning 6-1. The last result of this proportion was back in the 2010/11 season as United lost 6-1 to Manchester City. Anthony Martial was sent off for a violent conduct with Erik Lamela escaping punishment. Hueng-min Son scored a brace, also getting an assist, which was the case with Harry Kane. The other goals scored by Tanguy NDombele and Serge Aurier. United started well, winning a penalty inside two minutes which Bruno Fernandes scored. It all went downhill from there. United would have almost two weeks to dwell on this defeat.

17/10 – Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United – Premier League

After the international break, United had their chance to come back from their 6-1 defeat to Spurs. The match did not start all that well with Luke Shaw scoring an own goal inside two minutes but United fought back to get level with Harry Maguire heading home in the 23rd minute of the match. There were chances for each side during the match but the Magpies never really looked like they would score a goal for themselves. It seemed to be destined for a 1-1 draw, which was a positive result, however, a thunderous effort from Bruno Fernandes, a first United goal for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and a fourth goal from Marcus Rashford ended it on a high for United.

20/10 – Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Manchester United – UEFA Champions League

That was United’s first match back in the Champions League since the 2018/19 season, spending last season in the Europa League and reaching the semi-finals of the competition. It was perhaps the biggest match of the season so far and the most difficult match, at least on paper, in the group stage. United won at the Parc des Princes at the round of 16 stage in the 2018/19 season, and they did the same here to get three points on the board. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot before Anthony Martial scored an own goal in the 55th minute. Rashford won the game for United as he did the season before last.

24/10 – Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea – Premier League

Frank Lampard has only beaten United once in four matches last season, winning the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup, only to get beat by Arsenal in the final. Returning to Old Trafford where his club was beaten 4-0 at the start of last season could have garnered a similar consequence despite the money the club has spent in the summer to rejuvenate the squad, which is not happening to a consistent level at this moment in time. United were the better team in the 0-0 draw and should have at least scored one goal. Edinson Cavani made his debut and almost bagged a goal instantly. It was not meant to be for United – still unbeaten against Chelsea in the league.

28/10 – Manchester United 5-0 RB Leipzig – UEFA Champions League

The last match of the month for United and despite the stutter at the start of the month, United have turned their form around. Leipzig had never faced United before, so this was another unknown fixture. United took the lead through Mason Greenwood in the 21st minute with a superb finish. United seemed to be on top despite some chances by the German side and David De Gea making a few good saves. Marcus Rashford scored United’s second in the 76th minute, which was flagged for offside but given by VAR. Two minutes later he had a brace. Anthony Martial then won a penalty and scored with Rashford competing his hat-trick in added time.

Bruno Fernandes – five appearances (four starts), 335 minutes, two goals, two assists and one Man of the Match award.

The Portuguese midfielder has really taken to United like a duck to water in his short time playing for the club. He only made his debut at the start of February and has already scored 16 goals and 12 assists in 30 appearances for the club. Popular with the supporters of the club but also able to back that up on the pitch. There are very few matches that he has not been an inspiration in, even this month. Some say that he only scores penalties, which was quashed with that thunderous strike against the Magpies. Fernandes has registered more assists that any other United player in all competitions under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Marcus Rashford MBE – five appearances (four starts), 387 minutes, five goals, two assists and one Man of the Match award.

From taking on the Government to feed children who are on the poverty line to pulling out the performances for United to fire the goals is something that Rashford has done throughout the month of October. Since earning his MBE the 22-year-old has continue to give both on and off the pitch, earning the plaudits for both. He scored his first senior hat-trick against Leipzig on Wednesday evening, showing his true grit and ability to drive United forward. He also scored at the Parc des Princes once again, the second time he has done so in his career – the winning goal each time. His hat-trick was the quickest ever in the Champions League (27 minutes from start to finish).

Fred – five appearances (four starts), 384 minutes – becoming a big game player?

The Brazilian has been paired with Scott McTominay in a midfield pivot in three matches in October; Newcastle United (4-1), Paris Saint-Germain (2-1) and Chelsea (0-0), coming off the bench against Spurs and starting in a midfield diamond against RB Leipzig (5-0). Fred’s positional intelligence was one of the main reasons for him starting this month but his work-rate against Leipzig was immense which became his and United’s best performance of the month going from that big defeat to Spurs to a big victory, seemingly turning a full circle. United are yet to lose a match that Fred has started; in six starts United have won five and drawn one.

Notable Mentions: David De Gea, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba.

David De Gea has played 450 minutes of football in October and started the month with an all time low conceding six goals at Old Trafford for the second time in his career. As the month grew on through, his confidence and form started to get much better. Against Newcastle, he started to inspire, continued that in Paris, then against Chelsea putting in a great performance against Leipzig on Wednesday. Harry Maguire played 360 minutes in October, again started badly conceding six to Spurs but grew as the month went on despite missing the PSG match to injury. He scored the equaliser against Newcastle and led by example during the month.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has received praise this month for his performances. He scored his first goal for the club against Newcastle and has played 441 minutes and had some good performances against Newcastle, PSG and Leipzig. Scott McTominay played a total of 290 minutes in October, starting three of the five matches, coming off the bench for another. He played in a pivot with Fred for most of his matches, doing well for his club. Paul Pogba has played 247 minutes, coming off the bench more than starting. He seems to have found a new position in a diamond with Solskjaer playing with his tactics. Two assists for the Frenchman will hopefully inspire him more.

Who is your Player of the Month for October 2020?

A look at what lies ahead in November…

United will play six matches in November and Solskjaer will be looking to improve in the Premier League, carrying the form from the UEFA Champions League into the competition. United will play three matches at Old Trafford and three away from home in November, seeking to continue their good start to the Champions League season (two wins from two). United finished October sitting in 15th place in the Premier League, topping their group in the Champions League. If United can start November with a victory over Arsenal, carry that into their clash with Everton, those two matches could propel them up the table. November’s matches are against;

1/11 – Arsenal, Old Trafford – Premier League

4/11 – Istanbul Basaksehir, Fatih Terim Stadium – UEFA Champions League

7/11 – Everton, Goodison Park – Premier League

21/11 – West Bromwich Albion, Old Trafford – Premier League

24/11 – Istanbul Basaksehir, Old Trafford – UEFA Champions League

29/11 – Southampton, St Mary’s – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finds the key to success for his front three with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in with the goals this season

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be very happy with his squad at this moment in time for what they have achieved on the pitch since the Premier League restart. His squad has thrilled with their attacking endeavours with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood providing 56 goals and 21 assists in all competitions.

United are currently on a 17-match unbeaten run and will go against at Old Trafford when they welcome Southampton in the Premier League on Monday evening. United have something to achieve in this match, not only stretching their unbeaten run to 18 matches but to break into the top four of the Premier League, leapfrogging Chelsea and Leicester City.

Both clubs lost this weekend in humiliating fashion, Chelsea lost 3-0 to Sheffield United with Leicester losing 4-1 to Bournemouth. If United can take advantage of this, they could be third later this evening with advantage ahead of their rivals, now that Manchester City’s ban in European competition has been reversed after appeal.

United seem to be playing free-flow attacking football at this time, which is all I have ever wanted to see since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season. Some suggest a degree of attacking freedom is the reason for this. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says differently with a strict framework across the front three of his team.

Both Rashford and Martial have scored 20 goals this season, both reaching their best ever season for United with teenage attacker Greenwood scoring 16 goals so far, four of them in United’s last three matches alone. Solskjaer was asked about the trio, how they rotate and if they are modelled on Barcelona trio Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar. Solskjaer said:

“It’s not new for United! Did you not watch Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez when they were playing when Sir Alex gave them some freedom?

“Within a framework and structure, we do work a lot on patterns and positions and where we want the players to be, but within that we understand that you might pop up on the right or the left or be in different positions, but we have to fill different positions.

“There has been too much, last year, sometimes this year, players want to gravitate over to the left, and go on there and play tippy-tappy football.

“That is something we wanted to get rid of, and we have been more progressive and more disciplined in our positions.”

United have just four matches to play in the Premier League, including Monday’s match with Southampton. They play again on Thursday, travelling to London to face Crystal Palace before their Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Sunday. Then, to complete the domestic season, a visit to Old Trafford for West Ham United before United face Leicester City away on the final day fo the season.

Manchester United are ‘the real deal’ and whoever finishes ahead of them next season ‘will win the league’ says Robbie Savage

Manchester United have seemingly started their rise in the Premier League to grasp a higher-placed finish this season with an aim to secure UEFA Champions League football next season, taking on Leicester City now to finish in fourth place, unless then can aim higher. In the past four matches, they have broken a record, which is a good thing.

United, led by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, have become the first Premier League team to win four matches in a row by scoring three or more goals in each match; beating Aston Villa, Brighton and Hove Albion and Sheffield United by 3-0 scorelines and beating Bournemouth 5-2, which has set the ball rolling for more improvement this season.

Former United academy star, Robbie Savage has written a complimentary article on his former team in The Mirror, in which he praised 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, who has hit 16 goals for the club this season, which could see the teenager match or even break a club record, providing he scores two or more goals this season. Savage said:

“Mason Greenwood is not just the future of English football and a phenomenal young talent.

“If he manages two more goals on the run-in for Manchester United, he will have scored more in his first season for the club as a teenager than George Best, Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd.

“Greenwood has not just appeared from nowhere on the United conveyor belt. Inside the club, he has been earmarked as a bright prospect for some time.

“But 16 goals to date in his debut season at first team level speaks for itself. Greenwood is the real deal. He is being managed perfectly by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is giving him due praise in public but reminding him to live his life the right way off the pitch.

Savage also talked about United’s interest in Jadon Sancho, which has been running for some time with significant developments in the fact that United have seemingly stated what they will pay with Borussia Dortmund stating what they would accept and various rumours impending from there. The context was about United attack with Sancho and Greenwood included, saying:

“And if United try to sign Jadon Sancho or Harry Kane in the transfer window, we could be watching England’s front three at Old Trafford next season: Sancho or Kane, Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.”

Savage also spoke about United next season, suggesting that whoever finished above them in the league will win the league, which makes you think about what he is saying. He complimented United’s form at this stage of the season but suggested that they need improvement to bring something to the league. Speaking about this, Savage said:

“United have been so impressive since football’s return from lockdown that I believe, with only two or three additions down the spine of the team, they are genuine top-two contenders next season.

“In fact, I will make this prediction: Whoever finishes above United in 2021 will win the title – especially if they strengthen the squad.

“I would go for Kalidou Koulibaly, the Napoli captain, because he would bring pace to the heart of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s back four.

“I would go for a playmaker to provide competition for Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, who was absolutely majestic at Aston Villa on Thursday night – maybe Jack Grealish or James Maddison.

“And I would go for Sancho or Kane, which would send a signal to the rest of the Premier League: United are back in business.

“Obviously we can’t be sure, at this stage, how heavily the coronavirus pandemic has impacted on clubs’ spending power.

“But I get the impression Solskjaer is close to assembling an irresistible attacking force who can play with the swagger, intensity and tempo United fans have come to expect down the years.

“A front five of Fernandes, Pogba, Rashford, Greenwood and Kane or Sancho would take some stopping.

“As it is, Solskjaer has beaten Manchester City three times this season and one way or another I expect United to qualify for the Champions League next year – either through a top-four finish or by winning the Europa League.

“And they are free-scoring – the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin.”

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.”

Marcus Rashford praises Mason Greenwood and tells him to keep doing what he is doing

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has given some important advice to teammate Mason Greenwood, who has announced himself on the Old Trafford stage this season. The 18-year-old score three goals in the past two matches, raising his goal tally to 15 goals for his club this season. Rashford, who has lived what Greenwood is living, talks about it.

The 18-year-old has been a different player since the return to Premier League action last month. He scored and assisted against Brighton and Hove Albion at the start of the week, scoring a brace against Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday in a 5-3 victory, United 16th match unbeaten at this stage of the season.

So far this season, Greenwood has made a total of 41 appearances for United, playing in the Premier League, the UEFA Europa League, the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup. He has scored 15 goals and five assists for the first team, having 20 goal involvements, an average of 0.49 goals per match, which is a great record for a player of his age.

There are few players better placed than Rashford to give Greenwood some advise on the situation he now finds himself in. Rashford rose to the limelight during the 2015/16 season, scoring a brace against Midtjylland in the Europa League, then in his next match, only days later, a brace against Arsenal in the Premier League. Rashford said:

“He’s a fantastic player. I’ve watched him before he got to the first-team. It was never a matter of if he was going to play with us, it was just when – when can we get him involved?

“You’ve got no reason not to have confidence in a player like Mason [Greenwood]. I just tell him to keep doing what he’s doing because what he does is score goals, so he doesn’t need to do anything else.

“Forget everything, whatever people are doing outside, whether it’s praise or negativity.”

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believed that Greenwood is the best finisher at the club at present and has scored goals which season with either foot, which is a good sign of the career he could have for both club and country. Greenwood is a breath of fresh air in front of goal and a player that can raise the fear from the opposition.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial told to up their game by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have been told by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to up their game or he will seek to find replacements in the transfer market this summer. This season, both Rashford and Martial have each scored 19 goals, which is a good achievement but consistency is needed.

United are on a 14-match unbeaten run at this stage of the season, which is the best form the club has been in this season. United will return to Premier League action on Tuesday evening as they travel to the Amex to face Brighton and Hove Albion, needing another win to keep the pressure on Chelsea. Speaking about Martial and Rashford, Solskjaer said:

“We’re too far away from where we need to be and want to be.

“We have always got to look at improving and if they don’t improve, we might have to look somewhere else to get better because we have to be better.”

Solskjaer had to fight for his place in the squad under Sir Alex Ferguson during his playing career due to the many good attacking players at the club at the time. He would like Rashford, 22, and Martial, 24, to experience the same fear at the Theatre of Dreams during their careers, which should bring out the best in them. Solskjaer also said:

“If you think you’ve got a divine right to be playing every game and are doing so well that we’re not going to look for players to replace you, you’re in the wrong place.

“I’ve been here myself for so many years as a striker and Teddy Sheringham comes in, Dwight Yorke comes in, Ruud van Nistelrooy comes in, Wayne Rooney comes in.

“You need competition for places at Manchester United.”

Rashford and Martial are good players but knowing that you cannot be dropped because you are the only experienced attacking players at the club, at least before Odion Ighalo arrived in January, is not exactly the best thing to have at the club. If a player knows they are undroppable, it could contribute to more failure than success.

Solskjaer has Ighalo and Mason Greenwood to call upon at the present time if either Rashford or Martial, or both, are off key. However, Greenwood is in his first season as a regular first team player at the club and despite scoring 12 goals, he is not the player to solve the problem, at least right now it could be too much pressure for him. Solskjaer continued by saying:

“They’re good boys to talk to, discuss and sit with and they know that I trust them, they know I want the best for them.

“But they also know I’ve got to make decisions for the team and the club.”

Rashford was in good form this season then suffered an injury to his back which looked set to keep him out for the rest of the season. However, the coronavirus pandemic gave him time to recover before football returned and now he is on the way to getting back his form again. Rashford has improved for United each season and having scored 13 goals each season for the last two, has broken that by six this season. Solskjaer concluded by saying:

“Marcus is on his way to his best season ever, so I’m looking forward to him getting more minutes. He’ll definitely score soon.”

copyright: JW