Romelu Lukaku hails revived Man United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku believes Manchester United are “back to ourselves” after a difficult few months.

Jose Mourinho’s sacking has rebooted things at Old Trafford, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could scarcely have wished for a better start to life as caretaker manager.

The Norwegian has overseen five wins from as many matches, emulating the great Sir Matt Busby in making that 100 per cent start to life in the United hot seat.

Saturday’s 2-0 win against Reading in the FA Cup was the most unconvincing of those triumphs to date, but Lukaku believes Solskjaer has got the team back to where it should be.

Put to the striker that things are going well after scoring in a third-successive match, he said: “Yeah, not only for me but for the rest of the team.

“I think we are back to ourselves and it’s good to see the players enjoy (it) and winning games, which is the most important thing.

“We are Manchester United and we try to go out there and win every game.”

Lukaku missed the first two matches of Solskjaer’s reign due to a private matter but has found the net in every appearance since returning.

There is no doubt that this has been a tough campaign for the 25-year-old, but he is clearly enjoying life under the former United striker.
“He helps us a lot,” Lukaku said of Solskjaer.
“In training when we do the finishing, he helps us a lot – how to strike the ball, how to move away from the ball.

“And the way how he wants us to play really benefits me because he wants me to be in a position where I want to be, so he understands what type of striker you are and he just plays to your strengths.

“Through the middle, just facing the goal at all times and he knows that I am dangerous in that manner but also helping the team off the ball and stuff like that.
“He asks me a lot and I try to pay off (that work) with goals.”

A lot is expected of Lukaku as the most expensive striker in United’s history, but he is not guaranteed a starting place under Solskjaer.

Marcus Rashford has shone brightest since the change in management, while the other attacking options have shown a renewed spark.

“Yeah, you have to (perform),” Lukaku told MUTV. “Look at the teams that they had back in the day and it was the same thing then.

“For me, I just take it one day at a time, one game at a time and I try to help the team by scoring goals.

“It is working for me now but it is working also for the rest and the team is benefiting from that.

“We want competition in all positions.

“The training sessions help us to prepare for the games and right now we are in a groove and we need to keep going like this.”

United’s next match is their toughest to date, but before heading to Tottenham next Sunday comes a warm-weather camp in Dubai.

“You know what, it’s going to be good for us as a team because we are performing really well but now going away it’s going us to help us become an even tighter group,” Lukaku added.

“We do a lot of stuff together off the pitch and now we are going to be together for a week and hopefully it can help make us an even tighter unit.”

While United look to rack up a sixth-straight win in all competitions, struggling Championship side Reading will hope their positive performance at Old Trafford can inspire the end to a rotten 11-match winless streak.

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Young Arsenal stars are giving Unai Emery selection headache, says Alex Iwobi

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Arsenal’s youngsters are giving manager Unai Emery a headache, according to forward Alex Iwobi.

Joe Willock scored twice in Saturday’s 3-0 FA Cup victory over Blackpool, while fellow 19-year-old Eddie Nketiah also started and impressed along with 21-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The average age of the side was reduced even further when 17-year-old Bukayo Saka replaced Iwobi for the final few minutes.

It was a potentially tricky encounter for Arsenal against the League One side on a bumpy Bloomfield Road pitch, with Blackpool having given the Gunners a good game in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, but there were few alarms for Emery’s side.

Iwobi said on arsenal.com: “We knew it was going to be difficult and it’s not like the Emirates where it’s a big pitch. It’s all tight and compact, but we managed and we were able to focus on the game and do well.

“Blackpool are a good team. They fight well and they win aerial duels and we knew we were going to be up against it but we dug deep to get the result.

“It’s good that we have youngsters like Joe and Eddie who came in and did well. Even Bukayo Saka who came on. We have a lot of pace in the team.

“It’s one for the manager, there’s going to be a lot of headaches for who he has to play if we keep on fighting for positions and getting three goals.”

Much of the focus on Blackpool was away from the pitch, with a protester delaying Arsenal’s departure from their hotel by sitting on top of their team bus, while the boycott of matches by fans unhappy with Owen Oyston’s ownership of the club continued.

Manager Terry McPhillips was disappointed by a lack of cutting edge but hopes his team’s cup exploits can translate to an improvement in league form, where they have taken only one point from the last five games.

He said: “The first goal kills us in respect of we shouldn’t have given the free-kick away and then we didn’t react well enough. In the second half I obviously wanted us to get the next goal.

“When we got the next goal at their place they went a little bit. That was the key, we didn’t get it. There weren’t many clear-cut chances. We had lots of balls around their box and I think we had six corners and some free-kicks but we didn’t do well enough like we did down there.

“The game’s gone now and we dust ourselves down and get back to the league games where we need to get back to winning ways. We’ve enjoyed the cup runs and I think we’ve made the club a large amount of money and given a good account of ourselves.”

McPhillips must wait on the fitness of goalkeeper Mark Howard, who was forced off in the second half with a groin problem.

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Chelsea star Eden Hazard feels lucky to have played with Cesc Fabregas

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Eden Hazard paid tribute to Cesc Fabregas after the Spain playmaker appeared to bid farewell to Chelsea.

Fabregas was tearful as he applauded all sides of Stamford Bridge following Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over Nottingham Forest, during which he had a first-half penalty saved.

The 31-year-old’s contract expires this summer and he has been linked with a January move to Monaco, and a reunion with former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry.

Fabregas joined Chelsea from Barcelona in June 2014 – two years after Hazard arrived from Lille – and has won two Premier League titles, plus the 2015 League Cup and 2018 FA Cup, during his spell at Stamford Bridge.

“In five years, I can say that I was lucky to play with him,” Hazard said.

“Since the beginning when he came, we saw it the first year, we won the double together.

“Top guy on the pitch, off the pitch, a great friend of mine.

“Just admiration about this guy. I hope he will have a good future. It’s a bit hard now, but he’s still very good and he will enjoy.”

Any move is still to be completed, but Fabregas’ emotional reaction after his 501st appearance in English football suggested it was goodbye.

Another player who has been linked with a move is Callum Hudson-Odoi, who set up both goals for Alvaro Morata against Forest.

The 18-year-old winger, whose contract expires in June 2020, is reportedly a target for Bayern Munich.

Hudson-Odoi is eager for further opportunities and knows he could be given them due to Chelsea’s injury situation.

Striker Olivier Giroud (ankle) and winger Pedro (hamstring) could come back into contention for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Tottenham.

But Ruben Loftus-Cheek appeared to aggravate a back injury against Forest in a game Willian missed with a hamstring problem sustained against Southampton last Wednesday.

Hudson-Odoi told Chelsea TV: “I’ve just got to be patient and keep working hard, no matter what. I’ve got to keep pushing in training.

“The injuries are unfortunate. For me I’ve got to keep working hard and hopefully my chances will come.”

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