Manchester United are feeling the effects of signing Alexis Sanchez

It has been over a year since Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United from Arsenal on a free transfer, and yet the Chilean has only managed 29 appearances in all competitions for the club. 

Out of those 29 appearances, perhaps only a handful have been worth remembering. Through injuries, a lack of confidence and irregular minutes on the pitch, Sanchez has been nothing short of a disappointment by Manchester United fans. By all accounts, he is not justifying his immense £350,000 per-week deal (plus bonuses).

It was well documented back in January 2018 that to beat Manchester City to the acquisition of the Chile international, the Red Devils would have to increase their offer and make it as lucrative as possible. The club succumbed to the demands and offered Sanchez an overall package that thumped not only every other player at the club, but also in the Premier League and most of Europe.

With his pedigree and reputation, however, and with the fact that there was no transfer fee to pay, Manchester United thought they would receive his stellar, match-winning performances that he had shown in the years previous at Arsenal.

But, as of present day, that has not been the case. Injuries have plagued the 30 year old and he has yet to ignite in a Red Devils jersey. There were issues with style of play under Jose Mourinho which evidently did not help, but even when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in as interim manager and gave everyone a lift, Sanchez remained unaffected.

Whether the Chilean is moved on at the end of the season or not is another story – and it will not be easy – but what is more prevalent than his on-pitch performances is how his pay packet is now affecting how the club operates. Given the extortionate sums Sanchez is receiving, his teammates, who are well within their rights to ask, are wondering why they cannot increase their contracts by a considerable figure.

Ander Herrera, for example, is the latest player to ask for a sizeable increase on his contract, which currently expires at the end of the season. With interest looming large from Paris Saint-Germain, the Spain international is using Sanchez’s situation, as well as the attraction from other clubs, to his advantage.

The Spanish midfielder is a classy player and has served United well over the years. He might be considered a squad player more than an essential starter, but there is no denying that he has acted accordingly and fans have grown fond of him since arriving in Manchester in 2014.

Sanchez’s teammates are now expecting similar luxury treatment after understanding the full extent of the Chilean’s contract. Especially given the fact that he has barely played for the club, the likes of Herrera and Luke Shaw feel it is well within their rights to ask for what they think they deserve with the performances they have shown.

If the Chilean never came to Man United in early 2018 and decided to opt for Pep Guardiola’s Man City instead, it would be an immensely difficult sell for Herrera to receive the £200,000 per-week he is asking for.

But alas, given the indentation that Sanchez has done to the books at Old Trafford, the average wages are going to soar with players asking for the ridiculous. There is now no sense of control over what the club can be signing these players up for, because the new ‘normal’ has increased dramatically.

So not only has Sanchez wildly underperformed during his 13 months at Manchester United, but he has also put the club in a difficult situation when trying to re-negotiate contracts with important members of the squad. It will be interesting to see how this pans out with Herrera especially, but the Red Devils have to, at some point, say enough is enough.

How hard should Manchester United pursue Jadon Sancho?

It hasn’t taken long for Jadon Sancho to become an England international and last Friday night he made his first competitive start in the European Qualifiers against Czech Republic.

Recording his first assist, England fans waited with anticipation and excitement every time he received the ball. His unpredictability and jaw-dropping quick feet did the talking for the night and will be a debut that he, nor the fans, will ever forget.

This season, the Englishman has netted nine goals and recorded a staggering 17 assists. Not many would have thought Sancho would have had this type of impact in his second full season in Germany.

Such is his high profile status nowadays, it hasn’t taken long for Europe’s elite to come calling. While Dortmund are not inclined to sell the gem they have on their books, it is widely accepted that money makes the football world go round and it is simply about the price being right for them.

Manchester United have longed for a right-sided winger for a number of years. After failing in securing one, they have had to play Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard in the position, which is a waste of talent given their prowess through the middle occupying the spaces in between midfield and defence.

Diogo Dalot, who only joined last summer as a prospect, has been featuring on the wing in recent weeks, and has done well, but it is about time the Red Devils delved deep into their pockets and signed a world-class superstar-in-the-making.

Even from just seeing him for the 90 minutes against Czech Republic, Sancho has it all at his disposal. The turn of speed, the spatial intelligence of what is around him, his ability to come inside as well take them on in the outside channels, and the mindset of knowing when to give a pass and when to produce an individual action.

In a similar way to some of the best players on the planet, Sancho has that innate sense of unpredictability and surprise in his game. Especially as a winger, it is paramount to keep their opposite man on their toes at all times and confuse them with every move: cause them to think twice every time the ball lands at their feet. And that is exactly what Sancho has shown this season – his raw talent of beating the person in front of him.

There will be a long list of clubs ready to offer Sancho the next step up potentially, but Manchester United will have an advantage over some of their competitors by making sure he has the best opportunity to start. With the right wing barren, Sancho can make that position his own in a Red Devils jersey for a decade if he wanted to.

Borussia Dortmund are a talent factory with their whole modus operandi being emphasised on buying low and selling high. While they might come out to the public and say that he is strictly not for sale, they know that a fee of around £80 million is what will satisfy them.

The German side had also not expected any teams to become infatuated with Sancho in the way that Man United are currently this season. While the inevitable would eventually happen and English clubs come calling in the next two years, it shows what a meteoric rise the England international has been on for certain European teams to be queuing up for his signature.

Manchester United will need to shop for a number of positions this summer, but if they are serious about challenging for major honours next season, a player of Sancho’s calibre must be acquired in order to achieve the next step.

Letting Ander Herrera leave on a free transfer would be a mistake

With the summer transfer window right around the corner, speculation is certainly heating up with contracts coming to an end. 

One Manchester United player in particular, Ander Herrera, has been the subject of rumours this week, suggesting that he is in advanced stages of negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Given the Spain midfielder’s contract expires at the end of June, the player is evaluating all his options and will obviously use the interest he gathers from other top European clubs to his advantage when discussing with the Red Devils.

It is reported that Herrera is asking for around £100,000 per-week, which, for a starting player at Manchester United, is not extortionate by any means. The Spaniard has been a valuable squad player since arriving in 2014 and has been a pivotal midfield player under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s new regime.

Some fans will question Herrera’s ability and suggest there are alternatives out there, on the market, that could come in at Old Trafford and rise to the level necessary in order to win titles and European competitions. While that is, in essence true, there is more at stake here than the option of upgrading in central midfield.

For starters, Herrera’s leadership qualities are outstanding. He is a player who ‘gets’ what the club is about and the foundations it prides itself on. That might be a cliché to some and how ‘passion’ is meaningless when challenging for the biggest prizes of all, but Manchester United have needed leaders in their squad for a number of years and players to fully understand what it means to put the jersey on.

The focus, determination and willingness to fight that Herrera brings should not be underestimated in this day and age. Not many players are forthcoming in putting their bodies on the line for the cause and taking one for the team, but Herrera has shown he does just that and fulfils the role perfectly. Every club needs a ‘scrapper’ in their team and the Spaniard is one of the world’s best at playing the dark arts.

Secondly, with the cost of the overall package of transfers – wages included – rising year-on-year, it will not be a modest operation in signing a new player that can significantly upgrade Manchester United’s midfield.

Herrera would be let go of for free, so the Red Devils would be dipping deep into their pockets in order to sign someone of the required level. Some would suggest the acquisition of PSG’s Adrien Rabiot on a free transfer, but the wages and complications would put the Mancunian club off with troubles arising just around the corner.

Another issue with Herrera walking out the door would be Manchester United having to allocate some of their transfer kitty in order to replace him. With centre back, defensive midfield and a right winger already on the wish list, it is highly unlikely that United extend that to another player in midfield and broach the £200 million mark – if not more.

With that being the case, one or possibly even two of the priority positions mentioned will be neglected for another season. The Red Devils have been longing for a right-sided player for a number of years, while Nemanja Matić is starting to wind down and the need for a central defender to shore up their organisation.

It would be a monumental mistake to ignore those positions and get dragged into signing a central midfielder when they already have one that carries out his job well. Players have come and gone from United that have lacked the enthusiasm fans desire, but Herrera has shown why he should be adored by the supporters.

The danger of awarding Alexis Sánchez with his monumental contract was always going to be the knock-on effect it would have on the other squad players. Herrera is not extorting the club in any way, he is merely asking for what he deserves.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a freak of nature

It’s not hard to see why he is so admired by the masses. For year after year, Cristiano Ronaldo has been on top of the world with his performances at Manchester United and Real Madrid. And in Tuesday evening’s Champions League second leg in Turin, the Portuguese superstar rose to the occasion once more.

After losing 2-0 away at Atletico Madrid, not many gave the Bianconeri much hope in qualifying for the quarter finals, especially giving Diego Simeone’s robust and relentless defensive solidity at the back. The Argentine manager has a reputation of seeing out wins and the ability to nullify other teams’ offensive weapons.

However, with Ronaldo one the opposition’s team, and his fantastic record against Atletico, it was only a matter of time before the floodgates were opened by the Portugal captain. It can be argued that Ronaldo is the best header of the football to ever play the game, and his opening two goals justify that.

The way the centre forward leaps in the air and maintains his hang time is nothing short of magnificent. In his opening goal, Diego Godin had no chance of matching his aerial height and rose above the Uruguayan to sneak the  ball past Jan Oblak. For his second, Ronaldo’s movement in between the two central defenders allowed him some space to meet the ball in the air and just about get it over the line.

Ronaldo does not feel nerves and relishes high pressure situations. Time after time, he has come up trumps for Real Madrid, which is exactly why they have struggled so magnificently to uphold their own standards domestically and in Europe. Perhaps some at Los Blancos didn’t give as much credit to Ronaldo as they needed to.

If having won the Champions League five times throughout his career wasn’t enough, Ronaldo also has the most goals, assists, headed goals, home goals, away goals, free-kick goals and many other type of goals to his names. To put simply: Ronaldo is a machine that simply cannot be stopped in Europe.

There is not another footballer currently playing that has the same drive and devotion to his craft than Ronaldo, which is consistently being talked about by ex-teammates that have played with him throughout the years. The typical anecdotes of being the first one there and the last one to leave might seem endless, but that sacrifice is what has made Ronaldo the superstar he is today.

Whichever club Juventus are paired with in the quarter finals will know that, no matter the lead they have, it is going to always be an uphill battle when keeping Ronaldo quiet. Manchester United managed to do it in Turin under José Mourinho, but that was in a group stage game with little consequences. In a knockout format, Ronaldo raises his performances levels tenfold – only then is when you see the real player at work.

At 34 years old, it is clear that Ronaldo is slowing down somewhat and cherry picks his games, but Juventus are only after one thing that has eluded them for many years: the Champions League. There is no better player to deliver that than the Portugal international, who has already delivered an amazing comeback spectacle at the Allianz Stadium.

Fred’s turning point at Parc des Princes

It has been a struggle for Brazilian Fred since arriving last summer under José Mourinho for £50 million. 

Since first stepping foot in England, the team had crumbled and reached a new low with the manager eventually being sacked and relieved of his duties by Christmas. Fred signed up to a team that had the potential, under one of the most successful managers in the game, to challenge on all fronts and win major honours.

It soon became apparent that the Brazil international had walked into a dressing room that had been divided by the Portuguese manager, with matters only getting worse in the lead up to the end of 2018.

However, brighter skies appeared soon after with Ole Gunnar Solskjær returning to Old Trafford as interim manager and giving players a new lease of life. It was evident to see Fred finding it difficult to adjust to the Premier League and football in England, but there was hope on the horizon that the Norwegian manager could give him the confidence to express himself on the pitch.

Confidence is a huge factor in football, no matter your talent. Alexis Sánchez, for example, is one of the most gifted players on the planet, but with his confidence reaching rock bottom, he is playing well within himself and looks lost at times out there. Fred has been similar this season and looked a completely different player from what his team-mates and fans had thought when first acquiring him from Shakhtar Donetsk.

That was until the Miracle in Paris. With very little belief from all around Manchester United that they had the knowhow and tools to overturn their 2-0 deficit suffered in the first leg, they were written off before a ball had been kicked. Suffering from nine injuries and a suspension to Paul Pogba, the Red Devils had a severely weakened side.

Like his team-mates around him, Fred rose to the occasion. Unbothered by the players on the opposite team, the Brazilian made his breakthrough performance for Manchester United – and what a time to have made it.

From what fans have seen this season, Fred has looked panicked when on the ball in the Premier League. As if he is running out of time to make the pass or beat his man and is petrified of making a mistake and losing possession. He has not slotted in as well as some would have hoped and has been poor in both an offensive and defensive manner.

Yet, against PSG, arguably United’s biggest game of the season at present, Fred rediscovered what it was that the club first saw in him. His desire and restlessness was clear throughout the 90 minutes, in which he screened the defence almost perfectly and distributed the ball with clarity. There were no rushed passes or positional errors, just calculated moments of play that helped United take charge of the midfield battle in the second half.

Fred is not known for his defensive qualities and is more of a box-to-box midfielder, but he showed his prowess in front of his two, sometimes three, central defenders when thwarting danger.

There was a moment when the Brazilian was in a one-on-one situation with Kylian Mbappé which would have sounded alarm bells to many United fans. Instead of diving in against the French wizard, Fred stood his ground and waited for the attacker to make his move. When Mbappé did just that, Fred was wise to the piece of trickery, quickly cut it out at source and started a counter-attack. It embodied the player people had seen at Shakhtar.

After the game, Fred told ESPN: “Ole has helped me a lot. He had a lot of chats with me. [Carrick] also speaks to me a lot. That brings me calm that things will turn around for me.

“I’m very, very happy. My confidence is getting better.”

And that is all it is for Fred. He has the ability, he has the talent and he has the desire and hunger to make it work at Manchester United. His celebrations in Paris encompassed his feelings towards the club and how much he wants it to work out there. Fred might just have had his turning point as a Red Devil.

Should Nicolas Pepe be Manchester United’s next big purchase?

There has been talk for many years about updating Manchester United’s right wing, given the lack of out-and-out wide players that occupy their flank. Both Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, more natural to the number 10 position, have routinely been placed out wide, while centre forwards Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford have also had stints in unfamiliar territory. 

The Red Devils have lost a part of their attacking force due to the predictability of their right wing.Ashley Young, who has been filling in at right back, is usually ever present in offensive positions, but with his teammate ahead of him usually cutting inside, the opposition know that if they can put two players on Young and cover the space effectively, United’s attacks will come to void.

The Englishman has also received stark criticism over his poor execution of crosses, which is prohibiting their chances of putting the ball into the box.

And so it is about time that Manchester United reinforced their ring with some new talent, with Nicolas Pepe of Lille being the name on the tip of many fans’ tongues.

Ligue 1 is consistently slandered by supporters claiming it is a ‘farmer’s league’, suggesting that because of Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance, the whole division is weak in comparison to the almighty Premier League. But there is a clear reason why English and European clubs continually go to the French market, and that is because they produce some of the best players in the world.

From Ousmane Dembélé  to Samuel Umtiti to Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappé, Ligue 1 has nurtured some of the finest players this generation has and will see, so it remains bemusing as to see why the mockery continues to grow.

This year, the 23 year old Pepe has become a household name, rising to prominence with a high-flying Lille side. Coming into his prime years, the Ivory Coast international would be a catch to Manchester United given his directness and ability to create something from nothing – he is fantastic at unbalancing his opposite man and creating space for either the key pass or incisive shot.

Remarkably, so far this season, Pepe has 17 goals and 11 assists in 28 games, averaging a goal contribution in every single match in all competitions. While the Ivorian traditionally is not an orthodox winger in the sense that he will take on his defender at every opportunity, he does hold his width far more than the likes of Lingard and Mata, and has speed to burn.

Over the last few years, under Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho, Man United’s players have somewhat lacked the courage to move in a direct manner. There have been a lot of sideways passes and a crowding in the middle of the pitch – a lack of considerable width was missing from their game.

That has somewhat changed under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but the right wing is still a problem area, with not enough happening down it in comparison to the left. Pepe, on the other hand, is an incredibly direct and forward-thinking player, he has the confidence to beat the player in front of him and the ability to pull it off nine times out of 10.

What has been so impressive about Pepe’s performances this season is the consistency. Some players can start explosively and peter out, but the Ivorian has kept up his goal rate and assist tally throughout the season, which is why some of Europe’s biggest clubs will be eyeing him up for a summer transfer.

Even if Lille are in a spot of financial bother, Pepe is unlikely to be sold for anything less than £50 million this summer. Given his age, ability shown and potential to take his game to the next level, the French club are going to play the long game during the transfer window and make sure that a bidding war arises. Based on what has been shown this season, Pepe looks to be one of the outstanding candidates from Europe’s top five leagues.

For a long time now, United have been longing for a goal-scoring right winger, someone to take the game by the horns and provide a threat every time they get the ball. In Martial, they have that on the left, and with Rashford they have it through the middle, but no one of the same ilk on the right. Pepe stakes a commendable claim to be the missing piece to Solskjær’s puzzle in attack.

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Talking Points: Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjær staked a further claim to be made Manchester United’s permanent manager come the end of the season with a historic and crucial win against Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round.

The Red Devils have notoriously struggled at Stamford Bridge, managing to record only three wins in the last 17 years, but Solskjær’s men showed a compact and concise game plan that utilised their strengths and exposed Chelsea’s weaknesses.

Here are four talking points from Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United: 

Marcus Rashford doesn’t stop

What has been ever so impressive about Marcus Rashford’s game since the Norwegian took charge in late December is his relentless, non-stop energy when pressing the opposition. Playing through the middle, the England international consistently put the Blues’ centre backs under heaps of scrutiny, which was forcing Chelsea back deep inside their own half.

Even with the game sealed and Man United into the next round, Rashford did not neglect his duties and continue to harass the Chelsea defence. From every corner the Blues had, Solskjær’s men would turn it into an opportunity to go down the other end through Rashford, who kept showing his desire to take on the men in front of him with his ferocious speed.

The Englishman’s finishing has improved drastically under the management, while his crossing ability has too. Rashford showed great patience when waiting for Paul Pogba to make his darting run into the box and picked him out expertly in between two Chelsea defenders.

Rashford can lead the Manchester United line for many, many years.

Ander Herrera’s leadership qualities

One player who has really risen under Solskjær is Ander Herrera. A peripheral figure under José Mourinho in his final year in charge, the Spaniard has become one of Man United’s most important players.

The ever-reliant Spaniard has been in sensational form, constantly breaking up opposition’s defences while also providing aplenty in attack. Against the Blues, he was incessant in making sure Jorginho did not have the time to play his game, as well as being in the right place at the right time to fend off any crosses that would come into United’s box. 

Herrera has shown his leadership qualities through his own performances, but it is clear to see how much of an effect he has on the players by motivating them vocally, just as he did when Alexis Sánchez entered the fray.

The Spanish midfielder has to be tied down to a new contract and should arguably be given the captain’s armband – there are few who deserve it more than he does.

Victor Lindelöf has come of age 

Manchester United’s fans are now seeing the true Victor Lindelöf. The one who is a ball-playing central defender that also has the capabilities of outmuscling his opposition.

Once again, the Sweden international was utterly superb in defence, making sure that Chelsea’s Gonzalo Higuaín was quiet throughout and clearing any danger that presented itself inside the 16-yard box.

There was a chance in which Eden Hazard had clear sight of the goal and hammered it towards Sergio Romero, only for Lindelöf to come out of nowhere and get in the way of the forceful shot, causing it to go over the bar and out for a corner. The Swede’s positional awareness is sublime and fans have been delighted to see what great progress he has made since Solskjær took to the dugout.

Given he has not yet reached his prime years, there is still plenty to come from Lindelöf. 

Romelu Lukaku’s worrying lack of movement

The only downside to Manchester United’s performance against Chelsea was the performance of Romelu Lukaku, who watched as the game passed him by.

Once spearheading the United attack, now used as a secondary centre forward to supplement Marcus Rashford. The Belgian has lost his place as the main striker in the team and does not appear to be anywhere near to reclaiming it.

Contrasting Lukaku to that of Rashford, there are stark differences in their overall input into the game. When the Englishman was chasing ball after ball, even if they were a lost cause, Lukaku would watch aimlessly on and fail to press his man, standing in no man’s land watching the ball go from side to side.

It is clear to see that Lukaku does not fit into this Man United team, and so will be very interesting to see what the Red Devils’ management decide to do with him come the summer months.

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Preview: Chelsea v Manchester United

After recent losses to top-tier opposition in Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, both teams will be looking to bounce back in this FA Cup fifth round fixture. 

Chelsea were utterly embarrassed with their performance against Pep Guardiola’s men at the Etihad, which left them outside of the top four and with work to do. Maurizio Sarri failed to show his pragmatic side and was on the receiving end of a humiliating defeat.

Manchester United, on the other hand, might have lost at Old Trafford against PSG, but it was not overly unexpected, even with numerous injuries to the Parisians. Thomas Tuchel had a clear plan in nullifying United’s attacking threats and the injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial caused a lack of speed throughout the team.

Both clubs are in need of a win and to progress into the quarter finals, as well as giving them the advantage mentally in the race for a top four finish in the Premier League.

The history of Stamford Bridge

For one reason or another, the Red Devils have struggled to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge since the turn of the century. Remarkably, they have only managed to win twice in 17 years in West London, with none of those coming since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

Stamford Bridge has been a bogey ground for United and, no matter what type of form Chelsea are in, the Blues always rise to the occasion and put on a valiant performance.

Gonzalo Higuain is more than likely to start and will have hopes of having more of an impact than he did against United’s across-town rivals. Flanked by Pedro and Eden Hazard, Sarri will be hoping that he has got through to his players in the last week and will see them carrying out his strict instructions.

Manchester United’s weakness is through their full backs, which is why Ander Herrera – as he usually does – will have to double up and help out Ashley Young at right back when facing the Belgium international. The Spanish midfielder did an excellent job a couple of seasons ago when man-marking Hazard, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could ask for a similar job on Monday night.

The Blues are undefeated in their last 10 home matches at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United, showing their dominance against the Red Devils.

Romelu Lukaku’s importance

With the injuries to Lingard and Martial, Solskjaer needs to show his pragmatism in how United play with a severe lack of pace running through the team.

Romelu Lukaku is likely to be brought in to start, just as he did in the last round against Arsenal, and will need to deliver his best performance of the season if his team are to record a result away from home.

Against the Gunners, the Belgian often switched from a central role to out wide, occupying the wing and firing crosses into the box successfully. With the lack of interchangeability with Mata potentially on the right wing, Lukaku is going to have to ensure that his hold-up play is good enough to bring others into play.

There is no doubt about it that Lukaku can punish any team in the country on his day, but he has struggled for confidence this season and looked bulkier than he ever did at Everton. Saying that, there have been glimpses – especially against Unai Emery’s side – where he shone, which is exactly what Solskjaer needs to see against his former club Chelsea.

The Blues will be tightly marking the Belgian centre forward, which should free up space for Marcus Rashford to go in behind the defence and for Mata to play in between the lines. It is going to be a testing night for Lukaku, but one in which he needs to come through with flying colours.


While Chelsea have some world-class players on the pitch, United’s team and confidence under the Norwegian manager should not be undervalued, even if they did lose to PSG.

One loss against a European juggernaut does not make for a bad team, which is why Solskjaer will want to keep morale high and make sure his players leave absolutely everything on the pitch.

This game is likely to be ferocious at times and even end-to-end with both defences haemorrhaging goals this season, which should make it a must watch for fans and neutrals alike.

If Solskjaer is to stamp his authority on the permanent position over his competitors out there, a win would certainly saw the Manchester United board into thinking he is the front runner come the end of the season.

Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United

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Talking Points: Fulham 0-3 Manchester United

Manchester United made the best possible preparation for Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League knockout rounds with a comfortable win against Fulham.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has now, remarkably, won more games in the Premier League than his predecessor José Mourinho had. The Norwegian is making all the right impressions at the club and has once again delighted the fans with his brand of football.

Fulham have been a major disappointment after an immense £100 million investment last summer, preparing them for life in the Premier League. Instead of competing for a mid-table position, they are languishing down in 19th place.

The Red Devils will be inspired for their next match, which takes place at Old Trafford on Tuesday against PSG.

Paul Pogba masterclass

Paul Pogba’s resurgence under Solskjær has been well documented and his performance at Craven Cottage was indicative of the newfound form he has been in.

Two goals this time out, the France international has been a pioneering figure in United’s turnaround and will be tasked with doing similar against PSG in the midweek Champions League fixture.

Pogba has a total effortlessness attributed to his game whereby he makes everything he does look so simple. The way he dribbles past players with his impressive strides, bustling defenders off his shoulders, and picks the right pass at the right time shows what a world-class player he can be.

His consistency over the past 10 games has been sensational – which includes two performances against Arsenal and Tottenham from the top six – and fans will hope that this continues heading into a period of important matches for Manchester United. 

Anthony Martial’s dizzying footwork 

After just penning a new contract until 2024, it didn’t take long for Anthony Martial to see his name on the scoresheet. Just after the 20th minute mark, the Frenchman had recorded an assist as well as his dizzying goal.

Martial picked the ball up inside his own half and channelled his inner Cristiano Ronaldo. Dribbling past Fulham’s defenders with absolute ease, the left winger turned them inside and out and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Sergio Rico in no time. Keeping his composure and cool in front of goal, Martial tucked it away in the far right-hand corner, leaving Rico with absolutely no chance of saving it.

The Frenchman now has nine Premier League goals in 20 appearances this season and will hope that he can add to his singular European goal on Tuesday night.

Ander Herrera controlled as ever 

Solskjær has lifted every player’s performance since taking over in late December, but perhaps none more so than Ander Herrera. The Spain international used to be one of Mourinho’s trusted lieutenants on the pitch, but for one reason or another, the manager begun to ostracise him from the first-team.

Herrera, having now rekindled his magic, has been one of the Red Devils’ most important players. Winning virtually all his battles in midfield, he is not only giving Pogba the freedom to move up the pitch, he is also contributing himself to United’s attacks. Whether that is lurking around the edge of the box or quickly releasing the forward players, Herrera has been a pivotal cog in United’s wheel.

PSG will come to Old Trafford with a game plan that is based around Marco Verratti’s time on the ball to dictate proceedings. Herrera’s job, as it usually is, will be to disrupt the Parisian’s distribution and stop it at source. The Spaniard will follow the Italian around the pitch, practically man-marking him and making sure he is not awarded the time nor space to play his game.

It is paramount for Manchester United to tie Herrera down to a new contract given his heart, desire and quality he has shown for the club over the years.

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Nemanja Matić is back to his defensive best under Ole Gunnar Solskjær

There was a time not too long ago when Manchester United fans were increasingly agitated by Nemanja Matić’s poor performances under José Mourinho. In the Portuguese manager’s third and final season in charge, the Serbia international was struggling emphatically to keep up with the standard that was expected of him.

Matić was signed by Mourinho for the Red Devils in the summer of 2017, promised to be their midfield enforcer that would take over from Michael Carrick. In truth, Man Utd always needed a player to do the screening job in front of the defence for a number of years with the Englishman’s legs tiring, and this was a clever and astute purchase that came to a level of surprise to some given Chelsea’s willingness to sell.

The Serbian has never been the loudest player on the pitch in terms of his standout performances, but he has seldom let his standard drop a noticeable level – especially under Mourinho at Chelsea. He was a pivotal figure in the Blues’ title win in the 2016-17 season and received stark plaudits from around the game for his immeasurable reliability.

With the involvement of the World Cup for his country in Russia last summer, Matić returned to the fold for his club in a battered state. The 30 year old was injured and carrying niggles, which prevented him from getting up to match speed before the start of the season and having missed out on the opening two matches.

But with Mourinho’s quick and painful downfall, Matić’s performances on the pitch quickly deteriorated. He was no longer seen as an essential cog in Man United’s midfield, but instead a gangly, clumsy player that was making all the wrong decisions at crucial times. He was beginning to become a hinderance.

After the sacking of the Portuguese boss, former centre forward Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over and the spirit in the camp was immediately lifted. As if a large weight had been taken off of their shoulders and the players could breathe once again. Matić, too, started to see an increase in the standard of his performances and was beginning to become an integral part of the team once more.

The Serbian, just sitting in front of the defence and acting as their protector, also gave true freedom to Paul Pogba alongside Ander Herrera. Their three-man midfield combination has worked effortlessly so far and has seen their club win nine times from 10 matches in all competitions.

Matić and Pogba have started every single Premier League match since Solskjær took up the reins, which has helped them both improve on their consistency and get the best out of one another.

The Serbian might not be as prolific as some moving forward, but then again, it’s not his job to be. Matić has accepted his defensive-minded role and is excelling in cutting out danger, intercepting play and launching quick counter-attacks by passing the ball swiftly to one of the offensive players ahead of him.

Some players, at 30-years-old, might well have given up in trying to claw their way back into a team as competitive as Manchester United’s, but to Matić’s credit, he has done exceedingly well to hang on to his place. There were many times this season when fans would have wanted someone else in front of the defence, but with the improvement in his game, Matić is leading the player for the job.

At times, the best way to understand if a defensive midfielder is having a good game is if you rarely notice him. They are not ones to stand out from the crowd or get bums off seats; instead, they are players who go about doing the dirty work in a discreet manner and put up a defensive wall in front of his defenders. Matić has done just that.

It was difficult to justify Matić’s starting berth a few months back, but he has risen to the appointment of Solskjær and is now, once again, one of the first names on the team sheet.

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