Solskjaer sees hope for second leg despite first-half demolition by Man City

By Sports Desk January 07, 2020

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping for another famous comeback in the EFL Cup semi-finals despite admitting Manchester United players shirked their responsibilities in the 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were torn apart in the first half of United's 2-1 Premier League win at the Etihad Stadium last month, but the tables were turned in a one-sided encounter at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal put City 3-0 up at half-time as United wilted against their local rivals.

Marcus Rashford got a goal back in the second half as City eased back to conserve fitness, leaving Solskjaer to hold out hope of the kind of comeback they produced against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last season when they won 3-1 in the second leg after losing 2-0 at home.

"From their first goal, especially from their second goal, we struggled to get to grips with them," he told Sky Sports.

"Good reaction second half, that's more like it, but first half, until they scored, it was there and back, there and back, no one really dominated. After they scored, we didn't cope with that setback well enough.

"We didn't deal with [their tactics] well enough. We know that they can play that way, we've seen them do it a few times, I went to see them last year against Chelsea play that way and win 5-0 at the Etihad, so that's not a surprise.

"They're good at what they're doing. The first goal, there's nothing we can do about it; second goal, it's a bit sloppy, and the third, we just didn't recover from those goals.

"At half-time, we could get into their heads a little bit and we did well second half.

"We've shown before that we've been down from a home tie and turned it around, last year against PSG is the latest example for us, so we've just got to believe when we go to the Etihad and hope we can put a performance on."

Solskjaer brought on Nemanja Matic for the anonymous Jesse Lingard at half-time in an effort to get better control against a City side who played without a recognised centre-forward.

The United boss felt too many of his players were not taking enough responsibility on the ball before Matic was introduced.

"With Nemanja, with his experience, [we had] more presence, but it was more about wanting the ball, believing, taking the ball, passing forward - the first half was too many square and back passes," he said.

"We just passed the buck to the next one. Someone needed to take responsibility and we did that second half."

Solskjaer's selection was influenced by injuries, with Harry Maguire unavailable after getting a knock against Wolves, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay sidelined and Anthony Martial fit enough only to appear as a substitute.

"It was a decision made very late on in terms of who was fit and who wasn't, but that's no excuse," Solskjaer said. "We have the players we have, and we put a team out there believing we could get a result."

Related items

  • Man Utd boss Solskjaer hails Red Devils leader Fernandes: We can all learn from him Man Utd boss Solskjaer hails Red Devils leader Fernandes: We can all learn from him

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is glad to see Bruno Fernandes demanding more from his Manchester United team-mates and hopes other players in the squad will learn from the star midfielder.

    Fernandes has made a huge impact at Old Trafford since arriving from Portuguese giants Sporting CP in January, playing a direct part in 34 goals in 35 games for United.

    No player has scored the winning goal in more different Premier League games than Fernandes this season, the 26-year-old netting the winner in all four of United's victories.

    Fernandes is not afraid to bark out instructions on the pitch, either, and has even been trusted with the captain's armband at times in the absence of regular skipper Harry Maguire.

    And Solskjaer is more than happy for former Sporting captain Fernandes to keep berating those around him if they fail to match the high standards he has set in his 10 months at United.

    "In the heat of the moment people are allowed to air their frustration and be angry for a second or two, but then it's over and done with, because it's just for the benefit of the team," Solskjaer said. 

    "If it lingers on that's a different scenario. I've been in a team and I like a team that has that inner justice where it's not just the managers and the coaches that shout. 

    "I want players to take responsibility and put other players into their places at times when it’s necessary. They're out there fighting for one cause and that's for the team to win.

    "The players have reacted really well [to Fernandes], we see different kinds of leadership, some lead by example, some lead by both, once in a while you just have to take a rollicking when you deserve one.

    "He's not just giving out rollockings; he's also instructing players. We can all learn from his mentality and mindset, that winning mentality. If it's 2-0 he wants 3-0, if it's 4-0 he wants 5-0, he always wants the team to improve."

    Fernandes scored a brace against Istanbul Basaksehir in midweek to keep United well on course for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

    Solskjaer's United have struggled for any sort of consistency in the Premier League, however, and find themselves down in 13th position – eight points off the pace – ahead of Sunday's trip to Southampton.

    But they travel to Southampton seeking an eighth away league win in succession for the first time ever in the top flight and Solskjaer can see signs of progress.

    "The main thing for me is to keep improving, and climbing the table would be a sign of that," he said. "I do feel that we are getting to the right mindset after a difficult start to the season. 

    "Generally speaking, teams that are capable of winning the league are the ones that can put good runs together.

    "I don't know if that will hold true this season because it might be a little more unpredictable than most, but we are starting to show a bit more consistency. I like the way we approach games."

  • Tuchel fumes at PSG's attitude again: It was worse than Monaco! Tuchel fumes at PSG's attitude again: It was worse than Monaco!

    Thomas Tuchel hopes to see "another" Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester United after again condemning a perceived poor attitude in their draw with Bordeaux.

    PSG let a two-goal lead slip to lose at Monaco last week and Tuchel said afterwards his side "did not play seriously enough" and "completely stopped playing football".

    Although the reigning Ligue 1 champions bounced back by scraping past RB Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek, it was more of the same against Bordeaux.

    PSG trailed to debutant Timothee Pembele's 10th-minute own goal but looked to be cruising after Neymar scored a penalty - his 50th Ligue 1 goal - and Moise Kean quickly added a second.

    However, former PSG player Yacine Adli equalised and Tuchel's men were perhaps fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw.

    Ahead of a vital European trip to United on Wednesday, this was not ideal preparation.

    "We can not play without effort as we did in the second half," Tuchel told Canal+. "The first half was okay, we played simple.

    "But we lacked the seriousness to finish this match, to kill it. We lacked determination in the area.

    "We lacked everything in the second half: discipline, effort... everything. It was worse than against Monaco. We lacked effort, discipline, attitude.

    "Normally I always protect my team but today I totally disagree. It is not necessary to lose points a second time like that after Monaco. We lost the second half and it is absolutely our responsibility - mine, too.

    "We must see another PSG against Manchester; it is not possible to play a match of this level.

    "I don't understand why we don't take our responsibilities, why we don't play more seriously."

    PSG had just five shots in the second half to Bordeaux's 14, despite leaving Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on the pitch for the duration.

    Neymar, playing his 58th Ligue 1 match and reaching 50 goals in 21st-century record time, could shoulder little of the blame.

    He had 97 touches, fewer only than Leandro Paredes (112), and created three chances on top of his five shots.

    The Brazil forward offered a more considered assessment of the stalemate than his coach but agreed PSG had to improve against United.

    "We played a tentative match; we managed to score goals but missed some details," Neymar said. "We have to improve that. It's a championship in which we usually win a lot of matches.

    "Yes, we know the importance of Wednesday's match; as against Leipzig, it's decisive. We will try to play our best game, play well.

    "We have to improve certain details, play as a team, organise better."

  • Chelsea v Tottenham: How Kante has gone back infield and back to his best under Lampard Chelsea v Tottenham: How Kante has gone back infield and back to his best under Lampard

    "Ridiculous" was a word used by Frank Lampard to sum up N'Golo Kante last week - and with good reason. 

    The Chelsea midfielder is back fit, back in the side and more or less back to his best, having missed 16 Premier League matches last season. 

    Kante's "quietly influential" form has helped Lampard's side to a strong start to the season that has left some to bill Sunday's derby clash with Tottenham as something of a title showdown – or at least a game that could well highlight which of the two has the best chance of dethroning Liverpool. 

    A win for either side will move them top of the table after 10 games, but Kante's recent performances might just indicate Chelsea have the edge.

    BACK WHERE HE BELONGS?

    In 2018-19, Maurizio Sarri preferred Jorginho at the base of midfield, with Kante generally shifted to the right of a three. 

    The system was hardly a failure: Chelsea returned to the Champions League, won the Europa League and only lost the EFL Cup final on penalties to Manchester City. Few, though, ever thought it brought the best out of Kante. 

    Since taking charge last year, Lampard has shifted Kante back towards the middle and, as can be seen from his average touch maps, 2020-21 sees a full return for the France international as the midfield anchor.

    N'Golo Kante's touch maps by season, from 2018-19 (L) to 2020-21. The shift from the right-hand side towards the base of midfield is clear.

    He is averaging 82 touches per 90 minutes in the Premier League, the highest figure he has ever posted for Chelsea, five more than in his title-winning debut season in 2016-17. He is also averaging 67 passes per game, more than he ever has before for the club.

    In other words, Kante is very much at the heart of Lampard's Chelsea.

    He is also back to his exceptional defensive levels in 2020-21, averaging three interceptions per game – again the most in his Chelsea career – as well as three tackles, his highest figure under Lampard.

    The caveat is his passes in the final third have dropped by an average of six per game compared to last season and by nine compared to 2018-19, but the creative talent at Lampard's disposal means the burden of attacking is no longer on Kante's shoulders.

    HOJBJERG BATTLE AWAITS

    If Chelsea's form is based in part on the performances of Kante, Tottenham's strong start to the season is very much built on the work of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

    Signed from Southampton for a reported £15million fee, the 25-year-old has established himself as Jose Mourinho's most important player behind the relentlessly brilliant Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

    Through nine rounds of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Hojbjerg had managed more touches (809), attempted more passes (695) and completed more passes (619) than any other midfielder in the competition. He has also got stuck into 29 tackles, the third-highest number for midfielders this term and four more than Kante.

    Hojbjerg might not be a player of the Kante mold, but the two have had remarkably similar influences on their teams. Each has one assist in nine league starts, their passing accuracy practically matches (88.5 per cent for Kante, 89.1 for Hojbjerg), and they have made exactly the same number of recoveries (64).

    Effective as they are without the ball, so much of Chelsea and Spurs' good work with it also relies on these two.

    Kante has started 139 open-play sequences this season, eclipsing Hojbjerg (111), but that is about as big a difference as you will find.

    Of those sequences started by Kante, 13 have ended in a shot and two in a goal; for Hojbjerg, 11 have ended in a strike at goal and one has seen Spurs get on the scoresheet.

    Indeed, in terms of involvements in open-play build-up, Kante has managed 423, only slightly up on Hojbjerg's 415. Of those tallies, each player has seen 31 of those involvements end in a shot; when it comes to resulting in a goal, Hojbjerg edges Kante eight to three.

    On Sunday, the winner of the battle for midfield control between these two could well swing the match in his side's favour.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.