Key issues Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to address as Man United boss

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been confirmed as Manchester United‘s permanent new manager on a three-year contract.

The former United striker won 14 of his 19 games as temporary boss to convince the Old Trafford hierarchy he was the right man to succeed Jose Mourinho.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the issues Solskjaer will need to address over the coming months.

Stick or twist with Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez has endured a difficult time at United.

What to do with Alexis Sanchez? The Chile forward has flopped at Old Trafford since becoming the club’s highest-paid player in January 2018. The performance levels of every other United player have soared under Solskjaer, who has admitted only Sanchez himself holds the answers.

Two goals in 23 appearances this season is a pitiful return for a reported annual salary of £14million. If Solskjaer can work his magic on the player, he would have one of the world’s best at his disposal, but if not he must move him on.

De Gea future a Real priority

Could David de Gea be on his way to Madrid?

Could David de Gea be on his way to Madrid?

Spain goalkeeper De Gea’s contract with United expires in the summer of 2020 and his representatives are currently locked in talks with the club over a possible new deal.

It has been reported that the goalkeeper wants to increase his £200,000-a-week wages to £500,000 to stay in the Premier League and Real Madrid would surely meet his demands.

Solskjaer must do all he can to keep De Gea by persuading him and the United hierarchy that the future of one of the world’s best stoppers lies at Old Trafford.

Easy does it with Pogba

Paul Pogba has been a top players under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Paul Pogba has been a top player under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba is another prized asset that Solskjaer must keep happy. The enigmatic France international is a proven game-changer and has thrived under the Norwegian and his assistant Mike Phelan.

Give Pogba his lead in a settled environment and in return he will produce world-class performances, but weigh him down with off-the-ball responsibilities and he will lose his glow. Solskjaer must continue to keep him at the heart of the United family, show him the love and play him in a role he relishes.

Time for a clear-out

Antonio Valencia

Solskjaer’s permanent appointment could signal the departure of several fringe players, who have failed to establish themselves as first-team regulars under him.

The United boss will undoubtedly want to make room for new arrivals in the summer and the likes of Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo may all be nearing the end of their Old Trafford careers.

Eric Bailly is another whose future could be in doubt, especially since Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both recently signed new contracts.

Recruit players made of ‘right stuff’

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Solskjaer’s quest to reinstate the club as genuine Premier League title challengers would be given a massive boost with a couple of blue riband summer signings.

United fans have for years debated that only a player with certain characteristics can become a crowd favourite at Old Trafford, while the feelgood factor generated by such a signing can never be underestimated.

Sanchez’s ill-fated spell at the club has cranked up the pressure – Solskjaer and his backroom team have to get their recruitment right.

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Man United confirm Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment as permanent manager

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been named the permanent United manager.

Manchester United confirmed the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as permanent manager on a three-year contract on Thursday.

Solskjaer, who played for the club for 11 seasons and provided United with one of the greatest moments in their history, scoring an injury-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final, took over as interim manager in December after Jose Mourinho was sacked.

Under the Norwegian, United have won 14 of 19 games, and he set the new record for the best start by a manager in Premier League history, going unbeaten in his first 12 league games and winning 10. Since Solskjaer was appointed, United have managed more points than anyone else in the league.

He also masterminded a miraculous result in the Champions League, as United became the first team in the competition’s history to qualify from a knockout tie after losing the first leg at home by two or more goals when they followed up a 2-0 home loss to Paris Saint-Germain with a stunning 3-1 win in Paris.

The move to make his appointment permanent has been widely expected after that excellent start.

“From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club,” said Solskjær in a statement on the club’s website. “It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here.

“The last few months have been a fantastic experience and I want to thank all of the coaches, players and staff for the work we’ve done so far.

“This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve.”

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Barcelona, PSG and Arsenal linked with Ander Herrera - what's next for Man United star?

Matt Jones 27/03/2019
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Ander Herrera is a divisive figure at Manchester United. Depending on which cross-section of Red Devils supporters you speak to, he is either the obvious choice for captain who embodies the battling, technical brilliance of a United midfielder. Or a liability who can neither tackle, nor shoot or pass.

But the fact the Spaniard – out of contract this summer – has this week been linked with a move to Barcelona speaks volumes. Paris Saint-Germain are also sniffing around, while Arsenal have apparently earmarked him as the perfect Aaron Ramsey replacement.

So, what does the future hold for Herrera?

BARCELONA

Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona

A dream move for any footballer – let alone a Spaniard. Is it time for the Basque to return to where his career began? The Bilbao-born midfielder played for Real Zaragoza and then his hometown Los Leones (the Lions) before leaving the pride and moving to England in 2014. Heading to the Camp Nou would not only see Herrera join arguably the best team in the world right now, but coming to Catalonia would also return Herrera near to his Basque roots.

Not to mention, not many players could turn down the chance to play with Lionel Messi before they retire – it also offers him the chance to add significantly add to his medal haul before he retires.

On the down side, is Herrera going to be a major component at the Camp Nou, or a bit-part player to relieve the main men for walkover La Liga games or unfulfilling run-outs in the Copa del Rey?

Sure, silverware – and major titles at that – are almost guaranteed. But would it mean more coming as a major factor in that success, or as a back-up to the likes of Ivan Rakitic?

Young Brazilian Arthur has slipped in seamlessly to the Blaugrana midfield alongside the crafty Croat and iconic Sergio Busquets. It’s hard enough for serial winner Arturo Vidal to get any game-time, while Carles Alena is also coming through. Too hard to see the wood through the trees.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Marco Verratti

If money is his main motivation in contract talks, he won’t get a better payday than Paris. Thomas Tuchel’s squad is packed with pizzazz and promise – even if they are perennially falling short of reaching their potential.

Adrien Rabiot is set to depart this summer so there is some room in the engine room for Herrera to play a huge part – even if Leandro Paredes, who has yet to catch fire, was recruited in the winter window.

Herrera’s creativity, married to his attritional undertakings, would be welcome at a club that, although brilliant, have proven far too brittle in the heat of elite battle.

But, does he really want to go from arguably the best, most competitive league in the world, to barely breaking sweat, week-in, week out?

Of course he’d be playing in front of a packed Parc des Princes most weeks for some of the most passionate fans in Europe, alongside one of the finest midfielders in the world – Marco Verratti – and supplying the ammunition for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two of the deadliest footballers on the planet.

But does Goliath trouncing David every week in the league really drive a player? Champions League nights are special in Paris but there remains a mental block in this PSG side, and would Herrera’s arrival imminently change their prospects for progression? Hardly.

ARSENAL

Aaron Ramsey

Surely the less feasible option as both Barca and PSG are far more attractive, not to mention lucrative, options if their interest is solid. If you thought United were in a mess under Mourinho, Arsenal are just as combustible.

A lot like PSG they have major issues. In the midst of a transitional period under new coach Unai Emery, everything was going swimmingly earlier in the season. But, once a stunning 22-game unbeaten run was broken, so did it prove that this Gunners’ side remain fragile, despite the departure of Arsene Wenger. Most recently they have beaten an upwardly mobile United to soar into fourth – how’s that for consistency?

Unlike the other two destinations, perhaps Herrera feels a path to the Gunners’ first team is far less treacherous. Ramsey is off to Juventus in the summer with Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira hardly the most totemic of players.

Guendouzi and Torreira are huge talents but are yet to truly harness their potential, and err often. Meanwhile, for all Xhaka’s attributes, he remains far too much of a loose cannon.

This might in itself present an attractive opportunity to the 29-year-old. A leader under Solskjaer and often spoken of as captain material, he may well feel it is a project worth getting stuck into. Plus, with Emery at the helm, the new skipper is sure to steer the ship back on a successful course sooner or later. Promising, but with plenty of pitfalls.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Ander Herrera 2

Or is the solution simply to remain where he is? After all, the spiky Spaniard has been a revelation in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revolution at United, and perhaps this is simply an exercise in garnering financial recognition for this.

Figures released by totalsportek.com reveal Herrera is criminally undervalued by the United hierarchy, among the lowest earners in the first team. He is paid £75,000 per week – almost £300,000 less than the woefully underperforming Alexis Sanchez (£350,000).

Fellow midfielders Fred and Namanja Matic are both paid significantly more (£120,000). Veterans Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia earn more, as does Chris Smalling. Juan Mata is another, even Marouane Fellaini was paid £25,000 more than Herrera before departing for China.

It’s laughable that the error-strewn, long-term injured Marcos Rojo (£80,000) is even on higher wages than someone who – beyond the Solskjaer effect – has long been a vital cog in the United midfield machine.

This despite inflated figures, such as his 88.2 pass accuracy is 10th best among Premier League midfielders. He is second at United for both successful tackles (2.4) and interceptions (1.9) per league game, while only Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have more assists (3).

In a season in which Smalling and Phil Jones have been given new deals, United would be foolish not to offer Herrera an eye-catching new deal, and by all accounts they are trying to come to terms.

He might well divide opinion but is still right up there in terms of players who enjoy a strong bond with supporters. He is a knowledgeable, well-read footballer who is acutely aware of the club’s history and what it means to play for United.

And he has shone in the last few months.

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