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Weekly Roundup: Solskjaer under pressure? Bad week for Manchester United with two high scoring defeats; U18’s and U19’s both win

The past week has been very mixed for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford, which is a sickening defeat, especially in the way that the ‘team’ played. It may not look good for Solskjaer at this time with speculation linking him to being sacked and talk of Zinedine Zidane and Antonio Conte being linked to the job in the media, not to mention the so-called fans who have dreamed about United losing like this for weeks, still claiming that they care about the club, which is not going to be the case. They care about their agenda and want to be right – nothing more.

During the past week, United have been in action in the U18 Premier League Cup, a match that was cancelled from last week and played over the weekend. United were also in action in the UEFA Youth League, fielding an U19 side, which like the U18’s, won the game by the same 4-2 scoreline. It was the U23’s and the first team that let United down though as they both suffered devastating defeats with the U23’s losing 6-0 away to West Ham United and the first team losing to their bitter rivals, Liverpool. United did beat Atalanta 3-2 in the Champions League days before they faced Liverpool.

The women’s team were not in action this week because of the international break – they will be back in action in just under a fortnight.

Manchester United 4-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers

U18 Premier League Cup

Carrington, Manchester

This was a match that should have been played last week, but traffic saw it postponed and moved to Saturday, when United were scheduled to face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the U18 Premier League. Travis Binnion picked a strong side which included a young bench with two 15-year-olds and two 14-year-olds, one of the former being none other than Zack Giggs, the son of United legend Ryan Giggs, making his debut at U18 level in added time. Rhys Bennett assisted by Daniel Gore opened the scoring in the 21st minute of the match with Isak Hansen-Aaroen, assisted by Alejandro Garnacho doubling the lead in the 33rd minute of the match.

In the second half, Wolves scored a penalty in the 54th minute, equalising in the 86th minute, which gave United more to do to win the match in the cup competition. Charlie McNeill, assisted by Bennett put United 3-2 in the lead in the 89th minute, seemingly certain of winning the match, but then came Maxi Oyedele, who put United two goals clear in the fifth minute of added time. United are scheduled to face West Bromwich Albion in the cup on the 27 November. United have never won this cup, Chelsea won it in the inaugural season with Manchester City winning it the next two seasons – it was not contested last season due to Covid.

Manchester United 4-2 Atalanta

UEFA Youth League

Leigh Sports Village, Manchester

United’s U19’s were back in action following their 4-1 defeat to Villarreal in the last match, seeking to change their form in the competition this season. As United’s first team were set to face Atalanta at Old Trafford in the evening, the U19’s faced the Italian club at Leigh Sports Village in the afternoon. United started in great stead but Simeone Panada opened the scoring two minutes before Zidane Iqbal equalised, assisted by Isak Hansen-Aaroen in the 22nd minute of the match. Just two minutes later,  Joe Hugill, assisted by Alejandro Garnacho doubled United’s lead. In the 30th minute of the match, Garnacho got himself on the scoresheet.

In the second half, United continued their good performance and scored their fourth and final goal in the 63rd minute, scored by Omari Forson and assisted by Alvaro Fernandez. Atalanta got a late consolation in added time, scored by Tommaso De Nipoti. United sit second in the group after three matches and will face Atalanta in the competition next week as they look to continue their good form and have a chance of getting out of the group this season. Neil Wood’s side may be affected by injury but they have some quality players at this level and they will keep performing for United.

West Ham United 6-0 Manchester United

Premier League 2

Rush Green, London

United have not had a good season at this level. It has been a mixed start with just four wins, two draws and two defeat in the eight matches played before this one and this United side were missing many players with injuries at U23 and U18 level which needed to be managed, meaning eligible players moving down a level. This was a devastating defeat for United – and not the first big defeat this season. United had already lost 4-2 to Manchester City and 3-1 to Arsenal – but this one would hurt, especially added to the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool the first team suffered. United were 3-0 down at the end of the first half with Teden Mengi scoring an own goal.

In the second half, United conceded three more goals, also seeing Alvaro Fernandez sent off, meaning he will be missing for the clash with Spurs on Saturday, which will be a big blow for Neil Wood’s side. United sit in sixth place in the Premier League 2 Division One at this stage of the season, earning 14 points in nine matches, similar to the first team in the Premier League. The U23’s have scored just 15 goals, conceding 17 so far, having a goal difference of -2 at this stage, needing a lot of improvement ahead of the remainder of the season. United are just six points off the summit though, so there is still a lot to play for this season.

Manchester United 3-2 Atalanta

UEFA Champions League

Old Trafford, Manchester

After beating Villarreal in the second group stage match of the Champions League this season, losing to Young Boys in the first, United were back in the hunt to get out of the group stages this season, having failed last season – falling into the Europa League, only to fail to beat Villarreal in the final. United needed all three points against this Atalanta side, who had injury problems and would suffer more during the match. That did not help Solskjaer’s side who found themselves 2-0 down at half time following a poor first half performance. This looked like a disaster for United and Solskjaer did not look too happy heading to the dressing room.

A different United side came out in the second half, with Marcus Rashford (53′) and Harry Maguire (75′) getting United level in a sublime second half performance, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to win the game for United in the 81st minute of the match. It had been a turbulent time for United over the past month with defeats to West Ham United (Carabao Cup), Aston Villa, a 1-1 draw with Everton and a 4-2 defeat to Leicester City (all in the Premier League). This saw United rise again but it would be a turbulent time as the upcoming matches were going to be tough for United with Liverpool, Spurs, Atalanta and Manchester City all on the horizon.

Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

This was the match that everyone was waiting for. The North West derby against United’s bitter rivals – Liverpool. United failed to beat Jurgen Klopp’s side in the Premier League last season and this season was going to be tough based on the form of the visiting side and the lack of confidence in this United side. Solskjaer was determined to prove his doubters wrong but that did not happen. United were 3-0 down at the end of the first half after Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah all scored. Solskjaer brought Paul Pogba on as the only change during the half time break but that was nothing but a hinderance for United.

Salah completed a hat-trick, scoring twice in the second half and 11 minutes after completing their 5-0 rout, Pogba was sent off for a bad foul on Keita, who was stretchered off the pitch. United were dire. A combination of defensive errors, a lack of commitment, determination, ability and more importantly, respect for this great club was the cause of this defeat. United had chances in the match, scoring in the second half through Ronaldo, but he was ruled offside. United were not good enough and with no match this week until Spurs on Saturday, the external pressure would be intense for Solskjaer, his coaches and the players.

What lies ahead for Manchester United this week?

England’s Lionesses face Latvia in a World Cup qualifier at 18:30 BST on Tuesday evening and the likes of Ella Toone, Mary Earps, Katie Zelem, Alessia Russo and Lucy Staniforth will be hoping to have some involvement in the match. Norway face Belgium at 18:30 BST and Vilde Boe Risa and Maria Thorisdottir will be hoping to be involved. Jackie Groenen’s Netherlands face Belarus at 17:30 BST, Ona Batlle’s Spain take on Ukraine at 15:00 BST with Hayley Ladd’s Wales facing Estonia at 19:15 BST. United’s Women’s players will all be seeking to help earn places in the World Cup in 2023.

Facundo Pellistri’s Deportivo Alaves will take on Elche at 18:00 BST on Tuesday and he will be hoping to have some involvement in that match, having played 56 minutes in the 2-0 victory over Cadiz on Saturday – but he has only played a total of 328 minutes of first team football for the club so far this season, not scoring or assisting any goals thus far.

Wednesday will mark the 89th birthday of the late Harry Gregg – the hero of the Munich air disaster and supporters old and young will be remembering the former goalkeeper who gave a lot more to this club than anyone could possible imagine.

On Thursday, United will be stepping up their preparations for their Premier League encounter with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening – which could add more gloom and doom to the club, or see this United side hold their heads high and fight for their futures, as this poor run of domestic matches has not just been caused by the manager and the coaches – the players have their part to play in this also. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, if he survives the week, will face the media on Friday for a pre-match press conference.

Also on Friday, former United goalkeeper Edwin van de Sar will celebrate his 51st birthday. The Premier League and UEFA Champions League double winner in the 2007/08 season is currently the chief executive for Ajax, who seem to be continuing the clubs good history in the Netherlands, handing out big defeats to Borussia Dortmund (4-0) in the Champions League and PSV Eindhoven (5-0) in the Eredivisie in the past week.

On Saturday, the U18’s will face Derby County away in the U18 Premier League, kicking off at 12:00 BST. The U23’s will also be in action, seeking to make a come back from their 6-0 defeat to the Hammers, this time facing Spurs at 12:00 BST – the U18’s will be broadcast live on MUTV with U23 highlights at some point over the weekend. Solskjaer’s first team will also face Spurs, kicking off at 17:30 BST with United expected to kick back from their 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

Saturday will also make a year since World Cup (1966) and European Cup winner (1968) Nobby Stiles died with many paying their respects to the legendary Manchester United midfielder. He was one of the clubs greats who helped United to achieve the massive feat of winning the European Cup in 1968, a decade after Munich, which was, at the time, seen as the end for United. The phoenix will always rise from the flames.

On Sunday, United legend Denis Irwin celebrates his 56th birthday. The treble winner is a highly respected former player and ambassador for the club. I am sure many supporters of the club will wish him well. Marcus Rashford will also celebrate his 24th birthday on Sunday, and hopefully United will get a good result against Spurs to help him celebrate on style.

The past week may have been a bad one for Manchester United, but it will get better, but it may get worse before that happens. If the club stick by the manager, as they have done in the not too distant past, the manager and the player’s will need to stick together. Granted, changes are needed but under Solskjaer, United have a good plan and the Norwegian has bettered United since Jose Mourinho was sacked. That cannot be disagreed, no matter who you are talking too. Even the fans with an agenda will realise that soon.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United midfielder Charlie Wellens signs first professional contract – reports

Manchester United midfielder Charlie Wellens has signed his first professional contract at the club. The player turned 17 back in December and was eligible to sign a professional contract at the club, which did not happen right away and was presumably held up by the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football mid-March.

The teenager has signed the two-year contract after a season in the U18s not even a year after signing a scholarship contract last summer. Wellens has done well in the U18s this season, playing 21 times, scoring five goals and a further three assists helping the club achieve a sixth-placed finish in the U18 Premier League after the season was cancelled last month.

Wellens is the son of Swindon Town manager, Ritche Wellens who also came through United’s academy, making his debut in 1999. The player’s father announced the news on his Twitter account, stating that his son ‘had signed for the biggest club in the world’, seemingly feeling pretty proud of his son. His tweet said:

“Twenty-three years ago I signed my first professional contract at the biggest club in the world.

“To say I’m proud to see Charlie sign his is an understatement. Well done mate it’s only the start but you deserve it.”

Wellens was training with United’s first team ahead of the trip to Kazakhstan to face Astana back in September 2019 and made his U23 debut this season, coming off the bench one, which would have been an eye opener for him, giving him a taste of the level he will need to be at to play more often. First team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his eye on the youth.

At the time the player was training with the first team, Nick Cox who is the head of the academy, taking over from Nicky Butt last summer after he changes roles at the club, stated that young players being involved with the first team was a regular every day occurrence at the club, which will show the players how they need to develop, learning off the first team players at the same time. He said:

“I think sometimes we get carried away, by the way. Kids training with our first-team is a day-to-day occurrence, it’s just part of the process here, it’s just what happens. At other clubs it might be the exception to the rule. Here it’s the norm.

“It’s easy to get carried away, it doesn’t mean anything. It means that a kid’s got a different learning opportunity, a different environment to train in and an experience that will hopefully help them in their journey, but we don’t get carried away.

“It’s just a thing that happens. I quite often see it pop up all over social media and it shouldn’t be something that people get too carried away with.”

Solskjaer will be keeping tabs on Wellens during the 2020/21 season, although it is not yet known when it will take place and if there will be a delay considering the your players had their seasons cancelled last month with safety the main concern. Wellens is a talented midfielder with an eye for both scoring and creating a goal.

This is the type of player that Solskjaer will be hoping makes it to the first team regularly in the future, although the player should enjoy playing U18 football whilst he can, having a taste of U23 football from time to time, which may earn him a chance in the first team in a domestic cup competition, if United are drawn against lower league opposition.

I am sure that Wellens will have seen the likes of Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood earn their stripes in the first team and force themselves into Solskjaer’s plans during the past season based on their performances, attitude and desire to achieve things in this game. If Wellens has that same mindset, he could achieve a lot at this club.

copyright: JW