Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is going to be “ruthless” when it comes to ins and outs at Manchester United this summer.
But how ruthless does he have to be?
After a narrow, and undeserved, win against West Ham United on Saturday, Solskjaer admitted that the Hammers got away with one and it once again showed just how much work he has to do at Old Trafford to turn the Red Devils into a genuine force once again.
Here’s a reminder of what United’s new permanent head coach had to say last Friday about potential departures and arrivals this summer.
“It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best,” Solskjaer said. “That’s how ruthless we have to be. We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means culture in the dressing room, what we do every single day here to make us challenge again… Liverpool and City are too far head at the moment for what we like. We played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football. We’re under no illusion it’s going to be hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick [Phelan] and the club.”
Solskjaer’s task has become a lot tougher now his interim tag has been removed, with the Norwegian coach losing four of his last six games in all competitions and United struggling to make the top four and looking like they will crash out of the UEFA Champions League at Barcelona on Tuesday.
But at least he accepts he must be ruthless, as a whole host of players look set to move on this summer.
Antonio Valencia is leaving at the end of his contract, while Ander Herrera also looks set to leave for PSG and Juan Mata appears to be heading out of the door too. Then there is Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo who both seem set to leave, while Alexis Sanchez and United will both want to move on from a nightmare 18-month spell.
So that’s six first team players potentially on the way out, but only one or two are genuine starters. A bigger overhaul is needed. Here’s a look at where United need to strengthen over the summer, as they also need to sort out David De Gea‘s contract situation very quickly or run the risk of losing him too.
Man United lineup for the 2019-20 season
—– De Gea —–
—- New RB —- New CB —- Lindelof —- Shaw —-
—- New DM —- New DM —-
—- New AM —- Pogba —- Martial —-
—– Rashford —–
Now, Diogo Dalot can replace Ashley Young as the long-term right back, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been handed new deals at center back, and Eric Bailly is around too, but their limitations have been made clear over the years. A new RB and CB are a must. In central midfield the likes of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic have all had their ups and downs and that is the main area where United need to strengthen. Going forward, they are pretty set, especially with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in reserve. But the main thing here is clear: have a clear-out of squad players this summer and focus on bringing in 3-4 star players.
Which players should be the top targets for United? Solskjaer should aim for young, hungry players who can be at United together for a decade, while some experienced center backs are key. Bur remember: Solskjaer has been keen to promote youngsters from United’s academy whenever he can, so that may also be the route he goes down to freshen things up and Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy would probably be fine with that given how much money Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have spent over the past five years.
Here’s a look at the players who should be their top priorities:
- Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli
- Harry Maguire from Leicester City
- Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace
- Declan Rice from West Ham
- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio
- Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund
Unai Emery has defended his decision to remove Lucas Torreira at halftime, noting both the game’s environment and a possible injury worry.
“I decided to do the change of Lucas Torreira because after the red card, the atmosphere is against him and also the doctor said to me in the first half that he has a little pain for Thursday and I decided okay, it’s the moment [to take him off],” Emery said following Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Watford.
[ VIDEO:Premier League highlights]
Torreira of course was the subject to Troy Deeney‘s elbow that earned Deeney a red card. The holding midfielder had a couple of fouls of his own, with the Watford supporters baying to the referee “off, off, off” asking for a red card. Emery may have felt that as the game went on, Torreira could go hard into a challenge and come out with a red card, and Arsenal needs Torreira healthy and active for future Premier League matches.
On the field, it didn’t seem that Torreira had an injury, but ahead of Arsenal’s crucial return leg against Napoli on Thursday, Emery appears to have decided it was better not to risk Torreira in the second half and instead play with Mesut Ozil in a more attacking formation. That way, Torreira should be good to go at Napoli. Ultimately, the move paid off, with Arsenal holding on to the 1-0 victory.
Since joining in July, Torreira has been a revelation, emerging as the holding midfielder that Arsenal has been missing for a decade or more. When healthy and in form, Torreira eats up opposition attacks, cutting down space all over the field. He’s even scored a goal or two, as seen in one of the North London derbies earlier this year.
In case you were watching the Premier League action this afternoon, there was some history made in Serie A.
In a match between Atalanta and Empoli on Monday, Atalanta had an incredible 47 shots, including 17 on target, but failed to score in a scoreless draw. According to Paul Carr of TruMediaSports, Atalanta’s expected goal number of 5.86xG was the highest for a team without scoring a goal in his company’s 85,000 game database.
[READ, WATCH: Arsenal defeats ten-man Watford on the road]
Atalanta had 47 shots and 5.86 xG in today’s SCORELESS DRAW vs Empoli.
That’s the highest xG total without scoring in any of the 85K games in our dataset. pic.twitter.com/BUjEgPcQbq
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) April 15, 2019
Per Opta, Empoli goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski’s 17 saves was the most since when Opta started recording data during the 2004/2005 season. The 21-year-old is on loan with Empoli from Fiorentina, who signed him in 2016. He’s featured for Poland youth national teams all the way to the Under-21s, but he has yet to make his full international debut. Of course, he’s behind former Arsenal goalkeepers Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański in the pecking order.
After 32 games, Atalanta sits in the Europa League qualification places in the Serie A table, finding itself in sixth place with 53 points. A win on Monday would have jumped Atalanta into a tie for fourth place in the table with AC Milan, which are just two points ahead of Atalanta.
- Arsenal moves back into top four
- Away win is Arsenal’s first since Feb. 9 at Huddersfield Town
- Deeney sent off in 11th minute
All it took was one Ben Foster error for Arsenal to secure a rare road victory in the Premier League this calendar year.
[ MORE:Watch full PL match replays]
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored for Arsenal, blocking and re-directing a long pass from Foster into the Watford goal, which was enough for a 1-0 Arsenal victory at Vicarage Road, Monday evening. With the win, Arsenal jump back into the top four of the Premier League table.
19 – Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 19 Premier League games in which they’ve been leading at half time (W18 D1), since a 2-1 defeat against today’s opponents Watford back in October 2017. Wary. #WATARS #MNF pic.twitter.com/Dol9eerO5K
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2019
Watford, on the other hand, stayed in 10th place with 46 points.
The entire game changed around a 98-second span early in the first half. First, Ben Foster’s first touch got away from him and before he was able to make a clearance to his forward line, Aubameyang chased him down and blocked the clearance. The ball ricocheted into the net, giving Arsenal the 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Watford’s captain was given his marching orders after leaving an elbow or forearm in Lucas Torreira‘s head as Troy Deeney passed him. Deeney protested but the referee’s decision was final, leaving Watford down to ten men.
The Hornets still created chances through the rest of the game, finishing with six shots, two of them on target. But Bernd Leno held steady and kept Arsenal their first clean sheet since Arsene Wenger‘s last performance.
1 – Arsenal have kept an away clean sheet in the Premier League for the first time this season, ending a 15-game wait for a shut out on the road in the competition, since a 1-0 victory against Huddersfield in Arsene Wenger’s final game in charge of the Gunners. Timely. #WATARS pic.twitter.com/4jSJTzMbzg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2019
The world is full of bad news these days, but here’s a story that should be uplifting to you, regardless of who you support.
In an Instagram post on his official page, former Liverpool and Newcastle left back Jose Enrique announced that a recent MRI revealed he was free of cancer after an 11-month long battle. In May 2018, Enrique revealed after going to the hospital for some headaches and vision problems, doctors had found a tumor in his head, a rare type called a chordoma, per the BBC. This type of cancer grows along the spine, and in Enrique’s case, it was sitting behind his left eye along the base of his skull.
However, despite the world-shattering diagnosis, Enrique seems to have responded just as doctors had hoped to treatment, and he revealed he’s cancer free in the video below.
“We’re so happy about it,” Enrique said. “I can look forward now, not looking back, and I can keep fighting.”
Enrique played 127 times for Newcastle between 2007 and 2011 before moving to Liverpool, where he featured 99 times for the Reds before being released in 2016.
Now retired, it’s great to see Enrique is healthy and hopefully he can now focus on whatever pursuits he wants to make in the future, whether within or outside of soccer.