Rumour Has It: Solskjaer retains Man Utd's backing, PSG eye swap deal with Barca

By Sports Desk October 18, 2021

Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer running out of time at Old Trafford?

Manchester United are already five points off the pace in the Premier League and pressure is mounting.

United, though, are believed to be firmly in favour of sticking with their manager.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER WANTED AT THE WHEEL

Manchester United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United slumped to a 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester City at the weekend, which has left the Red Devils with just two wins from their past seven games across all competitions.

As pressure mounts on Solskjaer, United still reportedly have faith in the Norwegian amid links with the likes of Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter are ready to battle Arsenal for Madrid forward Luka Jovic. The Serbia international has struggled for form and fitness in the Spanish capital.

PSG want to swap Mauro Icardi for Barcelona's Sergio Aguero, claims El Nacional. The reports says Lionel Messi wants to reunite with countryman Aguero, who left Manchester City for Barca, only for Messi to join PSG.

- Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel, Denis Zakaria of Borussia Monchengladbach and Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch are among Juventus' transfer targets as they look to add options in midfield, per Tuttosport. Tchouameni has also been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United, Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City, while Roma have been eyeing Zakaria.

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    Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri says his side must take matters "one step at a time" after breaking a month-long winless streak against Bologna on Sunday.

    The Bianconeri ran out 3-0 winners at the Allianz Stadium, clinching their first victory in all competitions since the end of August thanks to goals from Filip Kostic, Dusan Vlahovic and Arkadiusz Milik. 

    The result arrested Juventus' slide into mid-table mediocrity in Serie A, although they remain four points adrift of the top four and seven shy of early-season leaders Napoli.

    The difficulty of the challenge facing Juve is not lost on Allegri, who says his team need to avoid getting ahead of themselves in the coming weeks.

    "We need to take it one step at a time, and hopefully, we can close the gap," he told DAZN. "We closed it last season, so [we know] we can do it again.

    "We needed patience and focus to build the performance and get the result. I almost felt like we couldn't believe it when we got back to the locker room.

    "It needs to be one small step at a time. We can't make up that difference all in one go. At this moment, we need clear and cool heads."

    Kostic netted his first goal in club colours to round off a superb run from Vlahovic, who arguably delivered his best performance of the season in Turin.

    Kostic said he would look to repay the favour by teeing up his fellow Serbia international in the future, stating: "I do a good job with Dusan, I thanked him for the assist and I hope I can give one back next time."

     

  • Lewandowski salutes Barcelona teenage rampagers as mature beyond their years Lewandowski salutes Barcelona teenage rampagers as mature beyond their years

    Robert Lewandowski has been blown away by Barcelona's flood of teenage talent and believes there is no better place for young footballers to blossom.

    The 34-year-old Poland captain was brought in from Bayern Munich to provide a quick fix and give Barcelona a reliable goalscorer in the short term.

    But there is long-term vision at Barcelona too, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde all emerging as first-team players while still in their teens.

    Pedri arrived from Las Palmas in 2020 and was quickly assimilated into the senior set-up, bypassing the system at La Masia, the Barcelona academy, because he was considered so advanced already.

    Most have come through years of training in the academy system, however, which is churning out top-class footballers at a rapid rate.

    Lewandowski counts on such players as team-mates now, and says their style of play, having been training to follow Barcelona principles, is "noticeably distinct" to other youngsters in the game.

    "I'm impressed by the fact of how at that age one could be so mature in football," Lewandowski said, speaking to Polish online sport channel Kanal Sportowy.

    "I don't mean mature mentally. I meant if they thought differently about football. I wouldn't even compare it, if there are any differences there.

    "A man can't change his age. People abroad who are 18 years old can't think as it they were 26. People here live and grow in the same way. However, thanks to these academies it's much easier for them.

    "Being well trained at the age of 18 and really talented, they may reach a higher level. Additionally, they're really familiar with the world of football which Polish players miss."

    Lewandowski opened up on a host of themes in the interview, and said he intended to stay involved in sport once his playing days are over.

    He might find a coaching role one day, and his experiences in Barcelona should stand him in good stead.

    "It's the best possibility for a young player, to be able to observe experienced football players in order to become one of them in the future," said Lewandowski.

    Such players also point to a bright future for the Spain national team, with the emergence of a possible new golden generation.

    At first-team level, Barcelona are attempting to knock Real Madrid off their perch.

    Madrid won last season's LaLiga title and added the Champions League to boot, while Xavi's mid-season arrival began to turn around a Barcelona team who made a rocky start under former head coach Ronald Koeman.

    Xavi's Barcelona are level on 19 points with Madrid through the first seven rounds of this campaign, and the two current co-leaders will face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on October 16 in the season's first Clasico.

    Lewandowski hit the only goal at Real Mallorca on Saturday, with a hard-fought 1-0 win showing Barcelona have tenacity to complement their more obvious flair.

    The close-season recruit said he was "positively astonished" with how intense his early training experiences had been at Barcelona, after last season's "tough" experience for the club.

    Lewandowski is confident Xavi has a firm grip on what needs to be done to turn Barcelona into trophy winners again.

    "He's aware of what went wrong in the last season, in contrary to what he dreamed of, and I see that he wants to make it better," Lewandowski said.

    "Mentally they were really focused, but their bodies couldn't manage. I think that with every week and every match, we'll be growing, and I strongly believe that with time it'll get better."

  • Ancelotti refuses to criticise Benzema after Real Madrid surrender perfect record Ancelotti refuses to criticise Benzema after Real Madrid surrender perfect record

    Carlo Ancelotti refused to single Karim Benzema out for criticism after the striker's penalty miss saw Real Madrid drop points in LaLiga for the first time this season against Osasuna.

    Despite Benzema's return from a three-week injury lay-off, Madrid produced a disjointed performance on Sunday, squandering a first-half lead when Kike Garcia cancelled out Vinicius Junior's fortunate opener.

    Benzema had the chance to fire Madrid to a seventh consecutive league victory when David Garcia was sent off for a push on the striker six yards out, but the France star crashed his spot-kick against the crossbar.

    Osasuna's 10 men held on for a point in comfortable fashion thereafter, and Benzema has now missed three penalties against Jagoba Arrasate's team in LaLiga this year.

    Ancelotti refused to blame Benzema for the result, however, and insisted Madrid had not performed badly, telling DAZN: "Karim usually scores. 

    "The match wasn't spectacular, but after the goal we conceded, the team played as it had to play. 

    "Karim had no problems starting to play 90 minutes. He has to get in the best shape by playing. 

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    Osasuna have now claimed three draws against Madrid since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, more than any other team in LaLiga.

    Madrid's failure to find a winning goal means they remain behind Barcelona on goal difference at the summit, and midfielder Dani Ceballos says they lacked dynamism in Sunday's draw. 

    "We wanted the three points, we tried until the end, but we have lost two points," he said. "We improved in the last minutes, but we have not been able to get the victory.

    "We were not good facing the goal, nor with the ball, we lacked a bit of dynamism. We have another game on Wednesday [against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League] to face in a good way."

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