How Barcelona will beat Man Utd

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They might be favourites to win the tie over two legs, but there’s no way that Barcelona will be taking Manchester United lightly, particularly at Old Trafford.

Playing at the Camp Nou for the second leg may seem to afford the Catalans an advantage of sorts, but Ernesto Valverde and his team will want to make that a formality.

In order to do so, they’ll need to take the game to the Red Devils and quieten the expected 75,000 crowd.

But just how are they going to manage it?

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Barcelona mustn’t underestimate Manchester United

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As with any Champions League draw, the supporters of the remaining participants were waiting with baited breath for the news from Nyon, Switzerland.

Barcelona were the second to last ball drawn by which time there was only one opponent left in the bowl – Manchester United.

The Catalans have good recent memories of their clashes with the Red Devils. Continue reading

Pogba on his way to becoming a Fantasy Legend?

When Paul Pogba re-joined Manchester United from Juventus for £89.3 million at the start of the 2016-17 season, Premier League fantasy players were excited about the point potential of the midfield powerhouse. His addition at Old Trafford also influenced a number of bettors to stake on United winning the league with the influential midfielder controlling the center of the park.

The Frenchman had been a commanding force in Serie A but, in his first two seasons at Old Trafford, Pogba was a serious let-down. In that time, the World Cup winner only notched eleven goals, and his fantasy returns were abysmal. But now that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over from Jose Mourinho as the Red Devils manager, Pogba is reborn. In fact, the 25-year-old is well on the way to becoming a fantasy legend and a bettor’s dream.

There is no denying that Pogba is now an essential player for any fantasy manager hoping to finish the season in one of the higher rank tiers. On the official Fantasy Premier League page, the United man is in 43 percent of teams, and only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah can be found in more teams at 50.4 percent. Ever since Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager at Old Trafford, it has been clear that Pogba was restrained under the stewardship of Mourinho. The former United striker appears to have given his star player free reign to do as he pleases, and Pogba is relishing the opportunity. In fact, staking on the Frenchman to score in any game at the moment looks like a sensible bet. 

United’s transformation under Solskjaer has been epitomised by the rise of Pogba. They began way outside the top four before the Norwegian came in, but now a Champions League qualifying place next season is theirs to lose. All the latest betting sites are favouring Solskjaer’s charges to hold out for a top-four finish, but staking on that eventuality with a free bet is the best way to avert risk with Arsenal and Chelsea breathing down United’s neck. Sites like MoPlay are offering £30 in free bets to new players, for example. At this rate, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to put an early bet on United winning the league next year as well.

Since Solskjaer took over as manager of the thirteen-time Premier League winners, Pogba has scored eight goals and registered six assists in nine top-flight games. These are hugely impressive returns, especially for a player who can be signed for a mere 8.4 million in the game. Pogba not only represents an indispensable asset for every midfield, but he is also a major contender for the captaincy every week. The skilful ball player can add goals from open play but is also the designated penalty taker. This means he has the potential to explode and rake in tons of points on a weekly basis. Pogba is now easily the best value for money player in the game and is tussling with the likes of Salah to end the season with the highest number of points.

If Pogba can continue this output, his price will skyrocket in the 2019-20 season. He is proving to be one of the best, if not the best, player to own in Fantasy Premier League, and is on his way to making a name for himself as a point scoring legend. This is exactly what fantasy managers and bettors had hoped for from the United academy product when he returned to his old stomping ground.

 

Modern Love and The Manchester United Way

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Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appear more of a revelation as time passes by. Last week there were rumblings of the wheels having come off, the extended honeymoon being over but how premature we all were.

Let’s be fair. On the face of it I’m not sure any credible football person really believed post Moyes, VG and Mourinho that Man United were anywhere near a Champions League credible force.

However, what a way to bounce back. Stamford Bridge hasn’t been the best of hunting grounds for the reds even in the Ferguson era yet on Monday night, United cruised through the tie like a classic car on a demonstration circuit through the streets of Monaco. Continue reading

Does Solskjaer Perform Miracles?

Well, frankly it is looking like he just might, and here at freetips.com, we are rooting for him. It has been a turbulent season for United, and the silverware has looked so far out of their grasp it has been a humbling time for the once glorious reds who ruled Manchester.

As if Manchester City winning last season was not bad enough for them, it is looking likely that the Manchester blues will retain the title for the second year running while Old Trafford languishes as a former ground of glory that has now seen a downturn in luck.

Such has been the gravity of the situation that in December manager Jose Mourinho was given his marching orders. He may now live to regret one of his final comments when he stated that it would need ‘almost a miracle’ for the team to pull out of the nosedive and finish respectably within the top four. Clearly, caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took that as ‘challenge accepted’, and boy has he turned around the performance level of the Red Devils. When Mourinho left the club they were 11 points behind the much coveted Champions League place. It was indeed looking like an impossible task.

You can almost hear the “Mission Impossible” title credits rolling as Ole worked his magic, racking up an incredible eight wins and one draw in just six short weeks, landing Man United into that fourth place position one point clear of Arsenal and Chelsea. There is little doubt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer considers United his home, and his own playing career there was rather successful.

The Baby-faced Assassin as he was dubbed earned a reputation as a super sub frequently coming off the bench at the last moment and scoring some incredible goals. Unfortunately, a severe knee injury ended his career in 2007 and keen to stay with his club he became a coach and ambassador. Later his role was augmented, and he took on coaching responsibility for the reserve team.

He returned home in 2011 to manage Molde and secure them their first ever Tippeligaen title, and then just to prove it wasn’t a fluke he did it again for a second time. In his third season, he took them to the 2013 Norwegian Football Cup Final where the team triumphed. After a brief stint at Cardiff, he was back at Molde until 2018 when Man United came knocking, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer answered.

It is clear that momentum is building as fans, and players alike, feel that it is time Solskjaer was officially made the manager, but not everyone agrees. Gary Neville has said that he does not think the timing is right and the situation should be looked at in March and decided in April.

Wes Brown, however, feels that Solskjaer is by far and away the best fit the team have had for some time and that the formalities should be put in place to make him full-time manager. Whatever happens, it has to be said that Ole has actually performed the much-needed miracle.

What’s made Paul Pogba tick again?

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Paul Pogba is back! Most chances created against Bournemouth, tracking back to make tackles and blocks, breaking into the opponents’ box with the endeavour of club legend Bryan Robson and, with another brace, he’s scoring goals for fun.

So what exactly is going on?

Only a mere matter of weeks ago social media was awash with footage of he and Jose Mourinho arguing in training, the armband was unceremoniously removed and a seat on the bench was the best that life was going to get for United’s £90 million superstar. Continue reading

Arsenal can show Man Utd what they are missing

It was the best performance of Unai Emery’s time as Arsenal manager so far. Indeed, the Gunners’ display in the North London derby against Spurs on Sunday was everything the club’s fans wanted to see from their team in the post-Arsene Wenger era. It was fast and furious. There was a game plan. And most importantly, there was a victory.

One wonders what those Manchester United supporters who just so happened to catch the game thought of what they saw. 24 hours earlier, their team had struggled to a 2-2 draw against Southampton- the bottom team in the Premier League. It was in stark contrast to what Arsenal served up.

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Now, the two teams will face each other on Wednesday night. For both teams, this could be a season-defining clash. Man United are in desperate need of a win to give their chances of finishing in the top four a shot in the arm, while Arsenal also need a victory to shore up the progress they have made in recent weeks.

In terms of a sporting identity, there are plenty of parallels between Arsenal and Manchester United. They were fierce of rivals for years, when Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson locked horns for major honours, but in retrospect, there was more to unite them than there was to divide them.

Both sets of fans expect their team to play attractive, dynamic and attacking football. They also expect their team to challenge for silverware having grown accustomed to success. In recent years, the parallels have become even clearer, with Arsenal and Man United left looking upwards at teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and even Leicester City.

But while United have festered and allowed malaise to grow at the club, Arsenal have taken measures to overhaul themselves. The replacement of Wenger with Emery in the summer was the most public- most significant part of that overhaul- but changes have also taken place behind the scenes.

This has manifested itself in what we have seen on the pitch from Arsenal so far this season. They have a transfer strategy, a clear and coherent notion of what they want the club to be, and of what they want the club to represent. This led them to the hiring of Emery through a comprehensive recruitment process in line with this approach.

United, on the other hand, are utterly dependent on one man, Jose Mourinho. And that one man is charged with imposing an identity on the club. This is an infrastructure that rarely works in the modern game, and we are seeing that in the way United have struggled this season.

Arsenal can show Manchester and their fans what they are missing on Wednesday night. They can show the Old Trafford club what happens when there is a plan and when that plan is implemented properly.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Manchester United unconvincingly reach the Champions League knockout stages

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For big clubs in Europe, it’s a must to be dominant and ruthless in the Champions League and importantly to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition. Manchester United completed the second half of that requirement by beating Young Boys on Tuesday to guarantee at least second place in Group B. However, their campaign in Europe has been unconvincing yet fruitful due to individual brilliance and lucky moments.

If not for Marouane Fellaini’s late winner at Old Trafford, the Red Devils would have formed an embarrassing record of going through three Champions League home games without a goal, a statistic that would reflect back on the poor job that Jose Mourinho is currently doing. However, he was once again saved by a player that has come up with a number of crucial goals in recent years.

On the other hand, if Young Boys had one clinical and dangerous striker that was in full confidence, they would have certainly punished a United defence that was playing a very high line whilst they were in possession of the ball. Not only that, but the home side’s full-backs fortunately escaped early bookings in the match which could have led to worse situations as the match went on.

Looking at United’s Champions League campaign so far this season with one group match remaining, there simply has not been enough evidence or memorable performances/results that makes a person feel or think the side can progress far in the competition. Many will simply believe that the victory over Young Boys to secure qualification will paper over all the cracks.

With no disrespect to the Swiss side, but a manager and a club that has spent just over £400 million in the transfer window over the last couple of years, and are relying on a last-minute winner at home really sums up the rather disappointing direction which the club is heading. From the lack of business planning off the pitch to the abysmal and boring football on it, a number of changes are required in order for Manchester United Football Club to be regarded as a serious football team once again.

As the side’s odds of winning the Premier League have been written off in the early stages of the season, it would not be a surprise to see the board and Ed Woodward hold on to Mourinho as the club’s manager until their chances of featuring in next year’s Champions League goes away. The hierarchy will have to make a crucial footballing decision in the coming months if things don’t go down as planned, in order to make sure they don’t fall behind from the other big European clubs.

Overall, given the club’s inconsistent and poor form in the league, Mourinho’s United will have to give their all in the Champions League this season in order to take part in the competition next campaign. With the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester City being regarded as the favourites to lift the trophy, the Red Devils, realistically, have no chance of winning it.

Is Manchester United’s victory over Juventus the best since Sir Alex Ferguson retired?

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By all accounts Manchester United were going to leave Italy with a loss which would have put their Champions League qualification hopes on ice. There was just two minutes left in Turin against the mighty Juventus, unbeaten this season and 1-0 up through a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. And then it happened, shades of that infamous 1999 Champions League final.

First it was Juan Mata’s superb freekick that levelled the match up. That was enough on the 88th minute to say let’s go back with a point and no defeat. But United were not done yet and in injury time got the winner through a Leonardo Bonucci own goal. The Juventus fans went silent and at the final whistle Jose Mourinho could not help but to cup his ears and try to silence the fans after the boos he had endured during the match.

But what a turnaround for United and for Mourinho who has been under tremendous pressure since the beginning of the season. Surely that will be eased with victory in the own back yard of one of the tournament favourites. It was a massive win.

One must question if it was United’s best win since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the club in 2013? Yes we can look at the Europa League final win against Ajax in 2017, but this match felt different. United were playing a superb team away from home they were not expected to win here given that they had just lost at home to Juventus in the reverse match a couple of weeks ago. This was supposed to be a formality, and let’s not forget Juventus hit the woodwork two times, so it really could have been.

But United hung in there and created chances of their own, this seemed like watching a team that had turned a corner, that had learned how to fight and Mourinho may well privately be thinking that this was his greatest win as a United manager, he should be.

United look certain to qualify from their group now and a win over Young Boys would confirm that if Juventus who now have to beat Valencia. Just how far have Mourinho’s team come? Well we won’t have to wait long as this weekend they will take on Manchester City in what should be another classic game of cat and mouse. The last time the teams played United came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a stunning comeback. One has already been achieved this week, could another?

Paul Pogba’s desire to leave Man Utd is clear

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News that Barcelona had offered €50 million plus Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina for Paul Pogba was, predictably, met with a firm ‘no’ from Manchester United.

Seen as facetious at best, the bid was a serious one from Barca, and the only reason it would’ve been made is if the Catalans had been given encouragement that the French World Cup winner was available.

The reality is that his agent, Mino Raiola, is playing a game of brinksmanship with manager Jose Mourinho. Continue reading