EPL

Solskjaer sacked: When you're in charge of Man Utd, you have to win games - Guardiola's verdict

By Sports Desk November 21, 2021

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wished Ole Gunnar Solskjaer well for the future but indicated the Norwegian's sacking came as no surprise.

It was announced on Sunday that Manchester United had officially parted company with Solskjaer, one month shy of what would have been his three-year anniversary as manager of the club.

Red Devils chiefs acted on the back of Saturday's humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford, which leaves the club eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

The defeat at Vicarage Road was United's fifth in seven top-flight matches, a dire run that includes a 2-0 reverse at home to City a little over two weeks ago.

Given the often brutal nature of football, Guardiola claimed he could easily have been the manager to have been sacked had City lost that recent meeting with rivals United.

"I wish him all the best, it was a pleasure to face him," the Catalan coach said following Sunday's 3-0 win over Everton.

"He beat me more than I wanted, but he knows when you're in charge of a team like United you have to win otherwise you're in trouble.

"I'm sitting here because we won, otherwise it would be another person sitting here. I hope one day we can see each other again. I wish him all the best."

City's comfortable win over Everton, coming on the back of their victory at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, moved the reigning champions above Liverpool and back within three points of leaders Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling was handed just a fourth league start of the season for what was his 300th Premier League appearance, making him the fourth-youngest player to reach the milestone at the age of 26 years and 348 days.

The former Liverpool winger opened the scoring with a first-time strike after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass by Joao Cancelo, having early won a penalty that was overturned following a lengthy VAR check.

That was Sterling's first league goal since August and Guardiola is hopeful it will boost the England international's confidence.

"He needed that and in the first half he was an important player," Guardiola said. "He scored a brilliant goal, from an exceptional pass from Joao again.

"He played a good game in what could have been a difficult one, because they defended really well."

With a Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come on Wednesday, Guardiola handed Cole Palmer a full Premier League debut against Everton.

The academy product played in a false nine position and led the way for the number of shots (four), while nobody played more than his two key passes.

"The striker position is the most difficult but as the game went on he felt more comfortable," Guardiola said.

"It was a good performance. He now already has 90 minutes in the Premier League in his mind. It is an incredible investment for the future."

Rodri added to Sterling's opener with a remarkable 25-yard drive and Bernardo Silva capped City's eighth straight win against Everton with a simple finish late on.

"It was a really good win. We're very pleased," Guardiola added. "The last times we played against Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, we always struggled.

"We were better today, we conceded few chances and were patient."

Related items

  • Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world

    Bruno Fernandes and Portugal are alert to the threat of an upset posed by Morocco in their World Cup quarter-final after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain and now eye tournament history.

    Walid Regragui's side held La Roja to a 0-0 draw before beating them 3-0 on penalties, owing much to the saves of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

    Portugal had been effective if unspectacular in the group stage, but they released the handbrake in the last 16, demolishing Switzerland 6-1 in one of the finest performances by any team at Qatar 2022 after Goncalo Ramos came in for the benched Cristiano Ronaldo and scored a hat-trick.

    With the out-of-form and maligned Ronaldo out of the team, there was a perception of Portugal suddenly realising their potential without the 37-year-old holding them back, and Ramos' performance – as he became the first player since 2002 to net a World Cup treble on his first start – was evidence of that.

    But Fernandes – involved in more goals (five) than any of his team-mates in this tournament – insists Portugal will not be taking anything for granted.

    "It's a difficult game," he told reporters. "Morocco are a really good team.

    "They came first in the group, beat Spain, so we are aware of their qualities. We want to do the best game, as always, but we have to focus on ourselves and understand what we need to do to win our game.

    "That's the most important thing: that we do our game, do our job to get through. We know it will be a really difficult game."

    That is backed up by the fact Morocco have kept three clean sheets in four games at this World Cup, which is the most ever by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.

    But the task facing Morocco is monumental.

    If they do see off Portugal, Morocco will become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

    Each of the previous three African teams to reach a quarter-final were all eliminated in the last eight, with Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) falling at this hurdle.

    Additionally, only two of the previous 11 knockout meetings between European and African teams at the World Cup have seen CAF sides progress, and one of those was Morocco's shoot-out win over Spain.

    Morocco have been one of the best-supported nations in Qatar, and Regragui is calling on the support of the rest of the Arab world to help bridge the gap in quality to Portugal.

    "We cannot achieve anything without the Moroccan public," he said. "Four days ago, they came to the hotel to ask for tickets, and many of them came from all over to encourage us.

    "We tell our supporters that we need them, especially in the quarter-finals, to write history. We also need Arab supporters; Algerians, Tunisians and Africans, and we know that many countries are behind us."
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portugal – Goncalo Ramos

    Will Fernando Santos stick to his guns and keep Ronaldo on the bench? Judging by the team's performance against Switzerland, he should.

    Ramos had a hand in four goals against the Swiss and his hat-trick in 74 minutes was more knockout goals than Ronaldo has ever managed in the knockout stages of the World Cup (none in 531 minutes).

    Morocco – Yassine Bounou

    He was the Atlas Lions' hero in the last 16, saving two penalties in the shoot-out – the other hit the post, but he seemed to have it covered anyway.

    But even outside of penalty shoot-outs, Bounou is a key man for Morocco as a dependable goalkeeper who was even nominated for FIFA's Yashin Trophy – the prize given to the world's best keeper – earlier this year.

    PREDICTION

    Portugal are firm favourites here, with Santos' side having a 55.8 per cent chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

    Morocco have an 18.8 per cent likelihood of winning in normal time, with the draw rated at 25.4 per cent.

    Clearly then, while the Atlas Lions are the underdogs, they have a good opportunity of at least forcing extra-time, which did not work out too badly for them last time.
  • Diaz faces injury tests as Liverpool winger suffers setback in training Diaz faces injury tests as Liverpool winger suffers setback in training

    Liverpool winger Luis Diaz will undergo tests after suffering a setback in his bid to return from a knee injury, Jurgen Klopp has confirmed.

    Diaz has been absent since sustaining the injury in Liverpool's 3-2 defeat to Premier League leaders Arsenal in October, but he was named in their squad for a training camp in Dubai earlier this week.

    The Colombia winger – who has recorded four goals and two assists in 12 appearances for Liverpool this term – was initially expected to play a full part in team training ahead of the Premier League's resumption later this month.

    However, a statement released by Liverpool on Friday revealed Diaz had been forced to miss two training sessions, while he will also sit out the Reds' friendly against Lyon on Sunday.

    As the club confirmed Diaz's injury would require further assessment, reports said the 25-year-old would return to England after experiencing discomfort in the same knee.

    "It's all good with the boys who are here," manager Jurgen Klopp said. "What's not good is we have to see with Lucho.

    "He felt something and we need to have further assessment there, but apart from that they all look really, really good."

    Liverpool will face Lyon and Milan in friendlies before resuming competitive action with an EFL Cup last-16 tie against Manchester City on December 22.

    The Reds sit sixth in the Premier League, seven points adrift of the Champions League places, ahead of their next top-flight fixture against Aston Villa on December 26.

  • Regragui proving Arab coaches are 'worthy' of top jobs like Barcelona Regragui proving Arab coaches are 'worthy' of top jobs like Barcelona

    Walid Regragui hopes Morocco's performance at the World Cup is showing why Arab coaches should get top jobs in Europe, which is "impossible" right now.

    Regragui was only appointed as Morocco head coach at the end of August.

    Since then, the Atlas Lions are unbeaten, conceding only an own goal against Canada and reaching the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022.

    Regragui's short stint has included an upset win over Belgium and a penalty shoot-out success against highly-fancied Spain in the last 16.

    Morocco are the first Arab team and fourth African side to make the last eight at a World Cup, prompting discussion of interest in Regragui's services.

    But the coach explained the battle he had faced just to get this job, let alone taking over at Manchester City or Barcelona.

    "This question is probably best asked to European clubs: why don't they hire Arab coaches? Maybe it's a cultural question, maybe it's a mentality aspect," he said.

    "Today I think it's impossible Manchester City or Barcelona bring an Arab coach. They don't think about it, as if we're not worthy, as if we're not capable.

    "But there's moments in history that make people change their mind. It's on us, the Arab and African people, to show we are ready."

    Having spent much of his coaching career with clubs in Morocco, Regragui added: "Ten years I am a coach, nobody looked at me. 'No, it is impossible, he does not have the experience. Let's look at somebody else'.

    "I'm in the quarter-final. Explain this miracle.

    "Experience doesn't matter. It's skills. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from; skills matter. If you're not worthy, you don't have the skills, you can leave."

    Perhaps Morocco's style of play could be an obstacle to Regragui's progress, with only Costa Rica (30.2 per cent) having a smaller average share of possession at the tournament than their 32.3 per cent.

    But Regragui made no apologies for Morocco's approach as they stifled Spain, who dominated 76.8 per cent of the play in the previous round but had only one shot on target in 120 minutes.

    Highlighting other examples of Spain – with the highest possession share at the finals (77.0 per cent) – bossing proceedings against elite sides, Regragui wondered if critics would rather Morocco had bravely lost.

    He asked: "Why do Morocco need to keep the ball? Why do African teams need to play very well and lose after and cry?"

    But now, against Portugal in Saturday's quarter-final, Regragui feels huge support for his side.

    "We want to show Africa deserves to be here, Morocco deserves to be here, football is global," he said.

    "We have a federation behind us, a whole people behind us, a whole continent behind us. We have the Arab world. That's a lot of people. That's what we're going to draw from."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.