Ideal time for in-form Man United to tackle PSG, says Solskjaer

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Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his side are facing Paris St Germain at the perfect time as their outstanding run of form continues.

When the draw for this match was made in December, few gave Jose Mourinho’s United much chance of advancing beyond the Champions League’s Round of 16.

But United have been transformed since Solskjaer replaced the Portuguese, winning 10 and drawing one of his 11 games in charge.

“We’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we’ve come into this game,” Solskjaer said.

“We’re confident and we’re looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it’s now.”

United’s surge under Solskjaer has seen them force their way into the Premier League’s top four, but their upturn in form is yet to impress the European oddsmakers and they remain unfancied in the Champions League.

That does not concern Solskjaer, however.

“I think the squad is very capable of winning against any opponent,” he said.

“When we go into games confident as we are now, in form, we are looking forward to the game.

“We can’t look too far ahead, we’ve got to look at PSG now and make sure we go through and take the next challenge as it comes.

“But I’ve been very pleased with the attitude. I’ve said to the boys, we have to keep working every single day.

When we work hard, we work hard. When we have lighter training, we concentrate. Then we can improve and maybe surprise people.”

United are second favourites against PSG, who have come a long way as a club from the side Solskjaer played against for Molde in the Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1995.

“It has been fantastic to see their progress,” he said. “They’ve got some of the world’s best players. They’ve got a goalkeeping legend in Gianluigi Buffon, Thiago Silva is one of the best centre-backs in the world and they’ve got one of the most exciting young players in (Kylian) Mbappe, Neymar as well.

“That tells you everything about their evolution. We know we will play against a team with confidence because they are used to winning.”

Not all of PSG’s considerable attacking talent will be on the pitch on Tuesday however, with Edinson Cavani joining Neymar in the treatment room, while right-back Thomas Meunier is also ruled out.

“Of course any team that is missing players like Neymar, Cavani and Meunier will feel the affect,” Solskjaer said.

“But it gives other players a chance and maybe they are more unpredictable for us with who they are going to play.

“When you’ve seen that front three for the whOle season you know what to expect but this time around we’re guessing a little bit.”

In contrast, United got an injury boost with Victor Lindelof able to train on Monday, with Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian the only absentees with minor knocks.

The club also announced that Ashley Young has signed a new one-year contract, having entered the final months of his previous deal.

The PSG game starts a huge couple of weeks for United, who face Chelsea in the FA Cup before Premier League title challengers Liverpool visit Old Trafford on February 24.

Asked if this was a fortnight which could define his hopes of landing the United job full-time, Solskjaer said that was too simplistic.

“You need to change the script,” he said. “You have so many ways of asking that question. That’s too simple.

“There are still a few more months left of this season for me to do whatever I can for the club.”

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Cardiff boss Neil Warnock allows players to reflect upon Emiliano Sala tragedy in privacy

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Neil Warnock

Neil Warnock has abandoned plans for Cardiff to take a mid-season break so that he and his players can reflect on the Emiliano Sala tragedy in privacy with their families.

Following Saturday’s crucial 2-1 victory at Southampton they are without a fixture until they host Watford on February 22, and Warnock had been preparing to take his squad to Tenerife ahead of the run-in that will determine whether they succeed in preserving their Premier League status.

Sala’s body was discovered on Thursday in the crashed plane that had been taking him to Cardiff, and though his team have responded admirably in the circumstances since the plane went missing on January 21, the manager believes that they will benefit from time with their families.

His captain Sol Bamba previously revealed some of their players had become fearful of flying since the incident, and the 70-year-old Warnock said: “The club gave me permission to fly out to Tenerife, to take them all for four days.

“But after what’s happened over the past two weeks, I’d rather cuddle my kids and see my missus because it’s been a long two weeks. I’ve never known anything like this in my life and I’ve seen most things.

“They’ll all be reflecting on what’s happened and your family is more important than football isn’t it? They are all booking different flights and some of them aren’t going anywhere. I’m going somewhere near Swansea, me, for two nights.

Cardiff players pay tribute to Sala after scoring the first goal against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Cardiff players pay tribute to Sala after scoring the first goal against Bournemouth on Saturday.

“(Victor Camarasa’s) going back to Spain for a few days, that’ll be good, he’ll be having treatment on his calf and he’ll be training with his fitness guy over there and in nicer weather with his family.”

Warnock acknowledged after the match that “we could have put the ball in the corner” rather than risk chasing their last-gasp winner.

And he added: “One of my staff said the point might have kept us up. I think when you get to my age you don’t worry too much really. You don’t know what’s around the corner, especially what’s happened around here the last two weeks.”

Victory on Saturday, secured by finishes from Sol Bamba and Kenneth Zohore either side of Jack Stephens’ late equalising goal, meant that for the first time since April 1962 the club have won successive top-flight fixtures.

Warnock has targeted further points from a run that includes Everton, Wolves, West Ham and Brighton after Watford, and Aron Gunnarsson said: “(Sala’s death) brought everyone together, the performances and the fans and the lads and everyone around the club have been amazing at this difficult time.

“It has been really difficult but the boys have stuck together with everyone around the club.

“The most important thing was for the family to mourn. Knowing that now, hopefully the pilot will be found and his family can mourn. It has been difficult but we have stuck together and our gaffer said after the game, ‘This one was for Sala’.”

Copy provided by Press Association Sport

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Mauricio Pochettino defends Tottenham team following win over Leicester

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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was left perplexed by Michael Oliver’s decision to book Son Heung-min for diving in his side’s 3-1 win over Leicester.

Son was booked in the first half after going down in the area under a challenge from Harry Maguire, becoming the fourth Spurs player to be yellow-carded for simulation this season.

The South Korean went on to get on the scoresheet at Wembley, putting the finishing touches on a win that had been set up by Davinson Sanchez and Christian Eriksen goals.

Oliver did point to the spot when he awarded Leicester a penalty, which Jamie Vardy missed with his first kick after coming on as a substitute immediately before, though the striker did get on the scoresheet later on.

It was the second time Oliver has denied Son a penalty at Wembley this season after he chose not to award a spot-kick in the final moments of Liverpool’s 2-1 win in September.

Pochettino has not forgotten that incident and was incredulous in his response to Sunday’s re-run.

“Today do you think that Sonny deserved to be booked? Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.

“When you compare the situation with the penalty against us, unbelievable. The problem is, I told Michael Oliver, the situation of Liverpool in the last minute that should be a penalty, but it was a clear penalty.

“It was the same referee but now I don’t know how he has measured the situation. It is so difficult.

“I am a person that always accepts the mistake but I think it was so strange the situation today.

“I am more relaxed now because we won the game, three important points we got, but so disappointed with the situation because everyone wants to talk about different clubs or players, but do you think we are a team that is trying to cheat the referee? Come on, we are the most innocent people on the pitch.”

The win keeps Tottenham in the Premier League title race, five points off the top, after their 20th win of the season.

Their attention now turns to the Champions League, where they host Borussia Dortmund in the last 16, though Pochettino is unhappy with the scheduling of this game against the Foxes.

Dortmund played on Saturday and the Argentinian believes his side are now at a massive disadvantage by having 24 hours less to recover.

He said: “I feel so embarrassed because I can accept to play today if Dortmund play today and then we play Wednesday, but I cannot understand why we’re playing with a massive disadvantage.

“Twenty-four hours in this type of competition, the last 16, is a massive disadvantage.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to compete. For me, I’m going to stop describing the real situation, but I think there is no sense.

“It is so difficult to understand why, when we had one week clear to play this game and to schedule it on a different day, and only I am explaining my feelings and how difficult it is to prepare a game when you only have today and then you’re going to need to play.”

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