Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

After two sleepy weeks, Serie A teams have resumed dealing and wheeling with some very interesting purchases over the last few days. Inter finally landed Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, while Juventus cashed in on Joao Cancelo in a swap with Manchester City, getting back Danilo in the deal. Cagliari pulled off an unexpected one by adding Radja Nainggolan from Inter, then successfully completed the chase for touted prospect Nahitan Nandez from Boca Juniors and, all of a sudden, they have a very crowded and well-assorted midfield despite losing Nicolò Barella.

Milan continue to work on the roster and acquired young centre-back Leo Duarte from Flamengo. He emerged over the last year and a half in Brazil and will contribute to holding down the fort until Mattia Caldara returns later in the year. He will compete with solid but unspectacular Mateo Musacchio to play next to Alessio Romagnoli to open the season.

The week was pretty much dominated by midfielders: a year after letting him go for free, the new Fiorentina management brought back Milan Badelj on loan with option to buy from Lazio, then they snatched Erick Pulgar away from Bologna by exercising the relatively low release clause. The Chilean international was a standout last season and was deadly on penalty, which will come in handy considering the departure of Jordan Veretout. Despite the age difference, the two are pretty similar, so it will be interesting to see whether Vincenzo Montella will tweak his system to accommodate both and perhaps deploy one more attacker.

Genoa have found their new technical leader in Lasse Schone from Ajax who, despite the rather defensive position as pivot, put up great numbers thanks to his ability on set pieces and therefore will be one to look out for in the fantasy game. The Griffon also signed Riccardo Saponara on loan from Fiorentina, whom coach Aurelio Andreazzoli will try to turn into an offensive box-to-box in the Rade Krunic mold, and Colombian youngster Kevin Agudelo from Atletico Huila.

For one brilliant midfielder joining Serie A, another one left as Sampdoria agreed to sell Dennis Praet to Leicester City, who has been a linchpin of their squad over the last three seasons and grew constantly year after year. They acquired Morten Thorsby from Heerenveen and could gamble on a Jakub Jankto resurgence on top of obviously reinvesting the funds on a newcomer.

For once, Atalanta decided to go with an experienced guy rather than bet on potential and brought in Martin Skrtel from Fenerbahce to fill in the gap after Gianluca Mancini left. Gian Piero Gasperini is now back to having five reliable centre-backs to rotate.

A decent coup for Verona, as they won the race for free agent Darko Lazovic, who was pretty good last year at Genoa, where he notched three goals and four assists. He reunites with coach Milan Juric and will be able to play in a number of positions on both flanks. They also grabbed two of the best Serie B players from last season: Gennaro Tutino, on loan from Napoli, who had a terrific year in Cosenza, and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, who shined in Perugia. They both reached the double-digit threshold and could be significant parts of the 3-4-2-1 tactic Milan Juric is currently using.

Brescia got busy too and signed two presumptive starters in Jaromir Zmhral from Slavia Prague and Giangiacomo Magnani from Sassuolo. The midfielder could be a sneaky fantasy asset, while the centre-back started last season very well but was eventually overshadowed by more talented teammates. Lecce instead added Cristian Dell’Orco, who was serviceable as left centre-back at Empoli in 2018/2019 and will probably end up playing left back for them, alternating with other buzzed about newcomer Brayan Vera.

A pair of players departed from Serie A: Roma sent Rick Karsdorp back to Feyenoord on loan, while Bologna shipped Adam Nagy to Bristol City. The Dutch right back had some okay stretches and at times challenged Alessandro Florenzi, but ultimately he could not stay healthy, while Nagy had become merely a back-up. The Felsinei will have to address the midfield in a meaningful manner.

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Inter close the deal for Lukaku

After a long chance and a riveting duel with Juventus over the last few days, Inter managed to land their primary target to beef up the attack: Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United. The 26-year-old striker has been clamoring to leave this summer and the English club reportedly accepted a €65M offer plus €10M bonuses and a small percentage on a future sale.

The Nerazzurri have decided to move on from Mauro Icardi, even should he stay past deadline day, and identified the big Belgian, who inked a five-year, €45M deal, as an ideal fit for Antonio Conte’s schemes. The manager previously tried to sign him at Chelsea. He is set to partner mainly with Lautaro Martinez, but they could sign another centre-forward and are expected to keep one between Matteo Politano and Ivan Perisic as alternative as second-striker.

Lukaku amassed 96 appearances with the Red Devils, finding the target 42 times. He is coming off a 15-goal season, while he bagged 27 in his most prolific one, in 2017/2018. His personal best in the domestic league is 25, registered in his last campaign at Everton. He also played at Chelsea and West Bromwich Albiol after starting his career at Anderlecht.

He has 81 caps with his national team and hit the net 48 times. He won the Belgian Pro League in 2010, while among the individual honours, he was the league’s top scorer the year Anderlecht prevailed and in the 2014/2015 Europa League and he was voted in the 2016/2017 PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

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Nedved coy on transfer market, Ronaldo hopeful on Champions League

Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved took part to the schedule presentation yesterday evening and commented about the transfer market to Tuttomercatoweb: “Since we have won eight titles in a row, we feel like we already have a strong squad. Obviously, we are looking to further bolster it window is open. Romelu Lukaku? I do not want into details and I do not want to discuss any single players, let’s say that we are working.”

On Paulo Dybala: “There have been some proposals, some preliminary talks, but we are waiting for concrete stuff and we will take our time in making a decision.” Continue reading

The three short-term replacements for the out-of-favour Romelu Lukaku

With only a couple of weeks left until the new Premier League season starts along with the summer transfer window comes to an end, majority of the English clubs will desperately be looking to finalise the remaining deals they have outstanding whilst looking to offload a few players out of the team.

Focusing on Manchester United, there are a lot of things ongoing, from ensuring David De Gea signs a new six-year deal over the next couple of weeks to preventing both Juventus and Real Madrid from making any convincing offers for Paul Pogba. And on top of that, Romelu Lukaku has all of a sudden become the key hot topic, someone who doesn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans and is now wanted by Inter Milan.

If he was to leave before the window closes, it would leave United with Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood as the options that could cover the centre-forward role. That alone would simply not be enough to guide the team to a top-four finish, as they would potentially need around 35 to 45 league goals from the four players that have been mentioned.

With no further ado, here are the three main individuals that could replace Romelu Lukaku…

Alexis Sanchez revival

If we’re being brutally honest, we could actually assume that majority of the Old Trafford faithful at times forget that Alexis Sanchez is still a Manchester United player. Unfortunately, this really sums up his rapid decline since moving from Arsenal to the Red Devils, as his injury issues have prevented him from being available on a regular basis and it has stopped him from proving his arrogant critics wrong.

However, in the minimal games he has played for the club, he has shown some bright moments when utilised in a more central role rather than playing in his usual position out on the flanks. Having lost his burst of pace and his sharpness as a winger, it would make more than sense for him to play as a false nine in the long run, especially given that his movement and linkup play is still consistent and reliable from time to time.

Mario Mandzukic

Once United allow Lukaku to go onto joining Inter Milan, whether it’s a loan deal or a permanent move, they will instantly miss the aerial ability he provides in the penalty box and how he is seen as a target man by the wingers and the full-backs. Though, it wouldn’t be a major problem in finding someone that is similar to him and maybe even more of a complete player than the Belgian forward, with the likes of Edin Dzeko, Edinson Cavani and Timo Werner regarded or seen as the perfect examples.

For the time being, Mario Mandzukic should be seen as the ideal candidate, when you remember that both Juventus and Maurizio Sarri have a list of attacking options that includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, the young Moise Kean and Paulo Dybala. The 33-year-old Croatian international may go on to rethink about the upcoming season and could choose to spend a year or two in a new country or league, with the English football suiting his aerial ability and his big-game mentality, as shown in recent years.

Wissam Ben Yedder

When looking for strikers who are able to run down the channels and have the quality to get the best out of their team-mates as well as themselves, it is really hard to find at this moment of time, purely because of how majority are already at the best clubs in Europe or are in the final years of their career. On the other hand, one of the most ideal options that could potentially be available for the current system and unbalanced attack, would be none other than Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder.

If one is not familiar with Ben Yedder’s style of play, then you should consider him as a similar player to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, someone who is simply silent but deadly in the final third of the pitch. Having produced 18 goals and nine assists in 35 league appearances last season, there should be no doubts about what he can achieve on and off the ball. And given that he will become 29-years-old next month, he will surely be open to a huge move before he reaches his final years as a professional footballer.

The tale of De Ligt and Lukaku: the power of the player’s will

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During his tenure as Juventus’ executive director, Beppe Marotta was often mocked for being cheap since his favored way of completing deals was either through Bosman signings or by completing player acquisitions on loan with option to buy. This prudent approach, in addition to two deep runs in the Champions League which brought in significant revenues, allowed Juventus to eventually get to the point where they could afford to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as well as pay his enormous annual salary.

There were two key ingredients in Marotta’s success with Bosman signings: he was never afraid to pay substantial commissions to agents which added up to 80 million between 2014 and 2017 and was always willing to let the player’s will be the main factor in transaction. This strategy was heavily criticized by the club’s fans when the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez left Turin, but it is now starting to pay huge dividends.

While Marotta left the club to join Inter, Juventus have continued to be the king’s of the Bosman transfer by adding Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this year and are now using “the player’s will paradigm” to their advantage. Ronaldo wanted to join Juventus last year and his agent Jorge Mendes made the deal happen with Real Madrid and now the same is happening with Matthijs De Ligt.

The uber talented Dutch defender looked to be on his way to Barcelona a few months ago, but while the blaugrana had leveraged their great relationship with Ajax to reach an agreement on the transfer fee, they couldn’t do the same with agent Mino Raiola on his commission as well as De Ligt’s salary. Paris St Germain then were in the driver’s seat but a change in the sporting director’s chair gave an opening to Juventus who are now set to close the deal.

The bianconeri have well established relationship with Raiola- in addition to Paul Pogba, they have also signed another of his clients in Moise Kean recently, they also weren’t afraid to pay him a hefty commission to get the deal done as well as pay De Ligt a huge salary of up to 12 million euro should all bonuses be met. This has been Juventus typical modus operandi- reach an agreement with the player first so they then have leverage when negotiating with his current club.

When the first report of Juventus’ offer to Ajax emerged- 50 million plus bonuses- they were almost universally mocked for making such a low ball proposal. But this is what happens when a club feels like they have no competition and refuse to bid against themselves- in Juventus’ mind, since they were the only club with an agreement on wages and the agent commission (a factor which really cannot be understated since there are big clubs who refuse to compensate Raiola at such a high rate), there was no reason to shot their load on their initial offer.

If that wasn’t enough, during an interview with Dutch paper Telegraph, Mino Raiola revealed that he had an agreement with Ajax that would allow De Ligt to be sold for an offer of 50 million since he had agreed to keep the defender in Amsterdam for the 2018/19 campaign- so all of a sudden Juventus’ offer doesn’t look that outrageous, especially since again they can bank on the player’s will.

Since joining Inter last fall, Beppe Marotta has continued to use the methods that made him so successful at Juventus. Inter signed Diego Godin on a Bosman deal and are now banking on the player’s will to acquire Romelu Lukaku, a striker the nerazzurri’s new manager Antonio Conte has been enamored with dating back to his time at Chelsea.

Lukaku has publicly stated a few times that he would like to play in Serie A and that he considers Conte to be the best manager in the world- verbally he could not have made his desire to join Inter more clear. But actions speak louder than words and Lukaku had already made a significant change by replacing his previous agent Mino Raiola with the more understated (but equally effective) Federico Pastorello.

Pastorello has developed a great relationship with Inter in recent years- Handanovic, Candreva, Asamoah and D’Ambrosio are his clients and he negotiated the deals that brought Antonio Conte and Valentino Lazaro to the nerazzurri. So now that Inter can bank on the player’s will they have to convince Manchester United to let Lukaku go on a deal they can afford- a factor that is complicated by the difficulty to sell Mauro Icardi and Inter’s rightful determination to not include a player like Milan Skriniar in the deal.

Inter’s initial offer to Manchester United involves a loan for 10 million euro and a forced option to buy the striker for an additional 60 million payable over two years. This is essentially a purchase in disguise, it just allows Inter to spread the payments over three fiscal years but obviously on paper it sounds like an almost insulting offer (Manchester United appear to be somewhat open to structuring the deal over multiple years but want 85 million euro).

Marotta’s right hand man Piero Ausilio travelled to London to meet with Manchester United in person to discuss these terms, which can be seen as a sign he thinks the deal can happen, because if not they could have just communicated these terms through intermediaries. Because just like De Ligt already has an agreement with Juventus, Inter felt confident enough to make this type of offer because they feel they have no direct competition- Manchester United would have to find a team willing to pay more but also one that Lukaku wants to join… 

Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

Diego Godin

Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 36

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Have Manchester City taken a step closer to winning back to back EPL titles? City beat Manchester United in the derby in midweek to move 1 point clear of Liverpool with the same games played in a much needed win.

Liverpool will play on Friday night where they can reclaim top spot, but City will get a chance to get that back yet again on Sunday as the champions of the league look like going down to the wire.

We take a look at what should be a very exciting weekend in the Premier League with some brilliant fixtures taking place below.

Liverpool v Huddersfield

The Premier League kicks off on a Friday night where Liverpool will be the massive favourites to beat the already relegated and bottom club Huddersfield. Liverpool are unbeaten at home and with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have the quality to not just win this match but score lots of goals. Liverpool to beat Huddersfield

Tottenham v West Ham

Tottenham are looking good for a top 4 place now after their last gasp win against Brighton has moved them 3 points clear of 4th place Chelsea. They will need to get the job done against West Ham. But all focus will surely be on their Champions League semi-final match against Ajax and we expect to see a surprise match where the team end equal. Draw

Crystal Palace v Everton

Palace have been in decent form and pulled off a superb result last week to beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates. They have crept up the league well. Everton are in good form but still look questionable away from home and Palace could get a win. Watch out for Christian Benteke who was brilliant last week against Arsenal. Crystal Palace to beat Everton

Fulham v Cardiff

Fulham are down but they proved the other week against Everton in a 2-0 win they are not out. There is still a lot of fight in Cardiff who have a belief they can still survive this season. Whoever is more hungry will surely win this game, and that could rest with the away side here. Cardiff to beat Fulham

Southampton v Bournemouth

There is still the smallest of chances that Southampton could get involved in a relegation dog fight. But they have got some decent results under their belts the last few games and should be too much for their opponents watch out for Shane Long who appears to have his goal scoring boots back on. Southampton to beat Bournemouth

Watford v Wolves

A really great clash here as the two surprise teams of the league season go head to head. Both are chasing 7th place and this should be  a very close game. Wolves got a fantastic result beating Arsenal 3-1 in midweek. Draw

Brighton v Newcastle

Newcastle will put everything into this game because they have some tough fixtures to end the season and it won’t be easy for many more points. Ayoze Perez is on fire for the Magpies after his hat-trick in their last match. Brighton are in real trouble and could well be relegated. Newcastle to beat Brighton

Leicester v Arsenal

Leicester keep on battling and have been strong and came back to make it 2-2 away to West Ham in their last game. Arsenal have crumbled with losses against Crystal Palace and Wolves. Arsenal have the Europa League semi-final on their mind, but with a little luck can come away here with a scrappy victory. Arsenal to beat Leicester

Burnley v Manchester City

Burnley have been back to their 2017/18 form in the past few weeks and the general theory is that they can give Manchester City a game here. But take out their 2-2 draw at Chelsea and they have not been beating quality teams on their good run. This match could be close but City are several levels from where Burnley are and they should continue their fantastic run. Bernardo Silva is in excellent form for City. Manchester City to beat Burnley

Manchester United v Chelsea

There is a lot of pressure on United to perform and start winning games after losing against Everton and then Manchester City. This match in theory represents their final chance at a top 4 place. Chelsea are a quality team but United if they want to play to their potential can get all the 3 points. It’s about time Romelu Lukaku showed up though. Manchester United to beat Chelsea 

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Everton vs Man Utd

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The late Jerry Reed once released a song entitled “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” – and no truer words could possibly be spoken about Marco Silva’s Everton of late. Just a few weeks ago, Silva’s position at the club seemed questionable, and the Toffees faced a nightmare run of home fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd – not the type of fixture list a manager under pressure would be hoping to see! Having now emerged from that run of games with three wins and one draw – and without conceding a single goal in the process – Everton fans will be delighted with the football their team has been playing against some of England’s top teams. Everton have been the club of the week several times in the last month or so, and beat Man Utd 4-0 this weekend.

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Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku is finally the player he always wanted to be

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Maybe all Romelu Lukaku needed was a manager who believed in him in order to get the best out of the Belgian. Because there can be little doubt that Lukaku has just gone a few levels up over the past few weeks.

Lukaku has always been able to plug goals away even at Everton he was able to make an impact where he scored 25 league goals in his final season with the club. It was that season that prompted United to spend upwards of £75m on bringing him to Old Trafford.

Lukaku repaid in his debut season knocking in 27 goals and it meant a lot to a player who was now being coached by Jose Mourinho, the same manager that discarded him at Chelsea and sold him to Everton. Lukaku had worked so hard that he was able to say with his goals, that Mourinho had indeed made a mistake in selling him in the first place. Now both worked together, but Lukaku didn’t look like a happy man under the Portuguese. That has changed under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer though.

In Lukaku’s last 3 games for Manchester United he has scored 6 goals- 2 in each game. He got the winner against Crystal Palace where United ended up winning 3-1. Then surprisingly they struggled against Southampton at home, having to come back from a goal down. With the match poised at 2-2, Lukaku got the winner- another three points which took the Red Devils back into the top 4.

But Lukaku’s crowning moment would be saved for the Champions League, this is the competition that the 25 year old wanted to play in and to prove himself. It’s all very well scoring some goals in group games, but you can be judged harshly for not delivering in the knock out rounds when it really matters. Lukaku delivered.

United had lost the first leg against PSG 2-0 at home, still Solskjaer’s only defeat as United boss in almost 3 months in charge. The club looked dead and buried, game over. And yet there was hope and positivity in the ranks, even Sir Alex Ferguson flew out with the team to support them.

What happened was a bit of history for the side- who went on to win 3-1 in Paris. No club had come back in the Champions League from a 2-0 home 1st leg match, that all changed and Lukaku was at the heart of it.

He opened the scoring after just two minutes and then scored again to put his side 2-1 up. But he had proven that he could now score at the highest level and will be certain to start more games for the club against the best teams.

It feels like Lukaku has been around forever, but at only 25 he is yet to reach the peak of his potential, and he has his best years ahead of him. It really could have gone either way for him, a good player never reaching his potential, but with the right coach it feels like the best of Lukaku is yet to come and that should be frightening for any of United’s rivals.

EPL Game of the Weekend – Man Utd vs Southampton

lukakuWhen Man Utd parted company with Jose Mourinho back in December and brought in club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a caretaker basis, many assumed this was little more than a nostalgia act – a chance to see Ole back at the club for a time while the hierarchy went about searching for a permanent successor to the Portuguese boss. However, in the time since Solskjaer’s return, United have gone on a run of 13 wins in 16 matches, tasting defeat only once – and this run of form has led many to assume that the 46-year-old will be given the job on a permanent basis at some point between now and the start of the 2019-20 campaign. This past weekend, the Red Devils welcomed Southampton to Old Trafford in what would turn out to be a modern-day classic game. Continue reading