Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United must conduct “clever business” in the summer following their humbling exit in the Champions League.
Solskjaer admitted in the immediate aftermath of their 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, which sealed a 4-0 quarter-final win on aggregate for the Catalan giants, that he faces a major rebuilding job to re-establish United among the European elite.
In a previous era United were able to attract the world’s best talents but, despite their track record of spending big in recent years, that may no longer be the case.
They have a battle on their hands to finish in the Premier League’s top four but Solskjaer is already envisioning a scenario in the future where United are on an equal footing with their conquerors on Tuesday night.
“Yeah, that is the level we have to aspire to because that’s the level we have been,” Solskjaer told MUTV.
“We want to get there and we have to get there by hard work and attitude every single day, and of course some clever business we have to do and just keep on going.”
United made an enterprising start at the Nou Camp, with Marcus Rashford clipping the crossbar moments after kick-off, but were undone by Lionel Messi’s first-half double and Philippe Coutinho’s wonder strike after half-time.
Solskjaer and his troops have no time to dwell on the defeat with three pivotal clashes in the space of eight days coming up, starting with a trip to Everton on Sunday.
The Manchester derby at Old Trafford is then followed by Chelsea’s visit in a run of fixtures that could go a long way towards defining United’s campaign.
Solskjaer is seeking to finish the season with a flourish but added of the Barca setback: “We gambled and you can say that we gambled and lost but we had to go for the first goal.
“We had to be brave, we created two or three chances but unfortunately we just didn’t have that quality to finish them off.
“If we had got the first goal then it might have been different but when they score two goals in four minutes it’s just game over.
“To be fair to the boys, their attitude was good, they kept going.
“You have to lift them (the players). It’s a big week and we have to get ready for that week because (they are) three big games.
“We have five days until Everton, so we have got plenty of time to get ready and we will be ready.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Jurgen Klopp has promised his Liverpool players will not underestimate Porto in Wednesday night’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Liverpool are firm favourites to advance to a semi-final against Barcelona as they go into the match with a 2-0 lead from last week’s meeting at Anfield, and having triumphed 5-0 at the same stadium in the same competition last February.
The feel-good factor is as strong as ever around Liverpool as they continue their pursuit of a league and Champions League double.
But after hearing opposite number Sergio Conceicao say they at times play as “the best team in the world”, Klopp told his players it is far too soon to be patting themselves on the back yet.
“We’re not here to celebrate our situation,” he said. “We are here to go to the next round.
“The season is not finished in this competition. We have to fight really hard.
“Porto have won all their home games (in the Champions League) so far, we know they are really dominating in the home games.”
Fourteen months ago Sadio Mane’s hat-trick helped Liverpool to a rout in the first leg of their last-16 clash against Porto, but Klopp dismissed the importance of what he called a “strange” match when it came to planning for Wednesday night.
“I didn’t like the last game because it was really strange,” he said. “Until we were 2-0 up it was a really open game. We don’t remember things like this, we only face the result, 5-0.
“But my players are not silly, they do not underestimate things like this. Porto are a good team.
“We were really good in the first leg and we will have to be really good tomorrow again. We will have to play at our limit, 100 per cent, and not try to (just) come through somehow because then you cannot stand the power they can create here.
“I was here for the derby, Porto v Sporting a few years ago. We think we only have derbies in Germany or in England but then you come to Portugal and they are loud here. They know how to influence a game and influence an opponent and we have to be ready.”
Dejan Lovren has not travelled with the Liverpool squad but Klopp confirmed Joe Gomez will be fit to feature from the bench, having not played for the first team since suffering a leg fracture in December.
“His fitness levels are getting better and better,” he said. “If he can start and play 90 minutes in the Champions League I don’t know, but can he come on when he is needed? Yes. That will be possible and that’s the most important thing.
“Having a player with the quality of Joe, remember the season he played before he got injured – that was incredible, so we’re really happy he’s back.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.
There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.
We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).
It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.
So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.
1 LILLE (beat PSG 5-1)
Ligue 1 has been pulverised by Paris-Saint Germain in recent seasons – they have lifted five of the last six championships and are about to make it six from seven. But Thomas Tuchel’s side missed out doing so early for the second weekend in a row as they were torn apart by second-placed Lille.
Thomas Meunier’s own goal put Lille ahead but Juan Bernat levelled – before getting himself sent off for tugging at Nicolas Pepe, who then put the hosts in front. Lille then ran riot with Jonathan Bamba smashing in and Gabriel and Jose Fonte headers completing a five-star thrashing.
2 SPAL (beat Juventus 2-1)
In at No2 is another team determined to delay a title parade in Serie A – party poopers SPAL. Moise Kean seemingly got the Juventus celebrations started early – they need only a point to confirm an eighth successive Scudetto – with his sixth goal in as many games in Ferrara after half an hour.
But Kevin Bonifazi headed the hosts level just after half-time, before 37-year-old Sergio Floccari’s calm finish won it for the Biancazzurri (the White and Blues), easing their relegation worries in the process.
3 BOURNEMOUTH (beat Brighton 5-0)
After a stunning first half of the season, it’s been a miserable 2019 for Bournemouth. But they dished out a severe beating to Brighton on the south coast as they cruised to victory.
Dan Gosling finished off an exquisite team move to put the visitors ahead before Ryan Fraser made it 2-0 with a fine finish. Brighton were then blitzed following Anthony Knockaert’s kamikaze red card, with David Brooks, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas scoring late to make it a rout – with the cherry on top of this victory seeing the Cherries all but securing Premier League survival.
4 AUGSBURG (beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1)
Germany U21 international Marco Richter scored his first goals for Augsburg and played a huge part in the third as they struck a huge blow in attempting to avoid relegation with a 3-1 win in Frankfurt.
Two fine finishes with either foot put Martin Schmidt’s side 2-1 ahead after Goncalo Paciencia headed Champions League-chasing Eintracht in front.
But fine foraging from Richter led to Michael Gregoritsch’s game-clinching goal that saw them leap above Schalke and move seven points above the relegation play-off spot.
5 NANTES (beat Lyon 2-1)
Nantes leapfrogged relegation rivals Monaco and Amiens to hand Lyon a second straight defeat in France. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Bruno Genesio’s side – the manager announcing he will leave the club at the end of the season.
Mali attacker Kalifa Coulibaly coolly stroked them ahead before Martin Terrier’s terrific finish levelled the scores in the scores before the break.
Anthony Limbombe’s lovely free-kick fittingly sealed victory seven minutes before the end as Nantes climbed to 15th while Lyon now have Saint Etienne breathing down their neck for the third and final Champions League spot.
6 LIVERPOOL (beat Chelsea 2-0)
Pressure? What pressure? With the build-up to this crucial game dominated by Steven Gerrard’s slip and Jose Mourinho’s Anfield masterclass in this fixture five years previously, Jurgen Klopp’s hosts roared back to the top of the table and are now arguably favourites to win a first Premier League title.
Sadio Mane nodded in the opener before a Mohamed Salah special made it 2-0 as the Reds roared to victory and gave the Kop belief a 20-year top-flight title wait could finally be coming to an end.
7 SOUTHAMPTON (beat Wolves 3-1)
Saints’ heavenly revival under Ralph Hassenhuttl continued with a fine home win over snarling Wolves. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side may be flying high in eighth but their patchy away from – they have won just five of 16 games on the road all season – continued at St Mary’s.
Resurgent Nathan Redmond’s brace sandwiched Willy Boly’s equaliser and Shane Long sealed the three points – the eighth time in 18 games since the German took charge that Southampton have tasted victory. Their now eight points above the relegation zone.
8 BAYERN MUNICH (beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 4-1)
The champions stepped up their bid for a seventh straight Bundesliga crown, following up their 5-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund with a 4-1 demolition of Dusseldorf.
There was nothing fortunate about the result over Fortuna, Kingsley Coman – who had been involved in a punch-up with team-mate Robert Lewandowski in training during the week – netting a brace to put the Bavarians in control during the first half, with Serge Gnabry making it 3-0 after the break.
Dodi Lukebakio pulled one back with a late penalty but Leon Goretzka’s stoppage-time strike sealed an emphatic victory on the weekend Dortmund laboured to a 2-1 win at home against Mainz.
9 FULHAM (beat Everton 2-0)
A little late in the day but finally a win for relegated Fulham at home against in-form Everton. The Cottagers have been turfed out of their Premier League home and will return to the Championship next term but at least they’re going down with a fight – halting a wretched nine-game losing streak.
Tom Cairney and Ryan Babbel strikes in the second half earned caretaker boss Scott Parker a maiden win and Fulham just a fifth all season, as Everton’s three-match winning run came to an end.
10 HUESCA (drew 0-0 with Barcelona)
Say what you will about this result coming against Barcelona’s reserves as Ernesto Valverde prioritised the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Manchester United – this is still a heck of a result for Huesca.
Rock-bottom of the table, they gave themselves a glimmer of hope in their battle to stay up – the point leaving them seven points adrift of safety. This was still a Barca team containing Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Arturo Vidal and the returning Ousmane Dembele.