EPL

Solskjaer a better manager than last year, says Man Utd midfielder Matic

By Sports Desk February 28, 2020

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become a better manager since last year.

After a run of two wins in seven games in all competitions at the start of 2020, the Red Devils have shown encouraging signs of progress in recent weeks, particularly since the arrival of January signing Bruno Fernandes.

Thursday's 5-0 Europa League thrashing of Club Brugge stretched United's unbeaten run to seven matches, while they have kept clean sheets in six of those.

With a Europa League last-16 tie with LASK and an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Derby County to come, United have high hopes of ending the season with a trophy.

They are also just three points outside the Premier League's top four, making a return to the Champions League a realistic possibility.

Solskjaer's job appeared to be under scrutiny during the their more difficult runs this season, but Matic, who initially struggled for regular first-team football under the Norwegian but has become increasingly important to the side, thinks his manager is getting better with experience.

"He's improving, for sure, getting more experience, and for sure he will be better and better," Matic told Sky Sports.

"Like every manager … Carlo Ancelotti, now and 20 years ago, for sure he's not the same. He knows more, he has more experience. For sure, it will be the same as Ole.

"He is a much better manager than one year ago, in my opinion, because now he knows all the players, he knows exactly what he needs to do before the game, after the game. For his job, experience is very important."

United face Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday before the cup clash with Derby on March 5.

They then host Premier League champions Manchester City on March 8.

Related items

  • Flick vows Bayern must give Lewandowski every chance to challenge 'role model' Muller Flick vows Bayern must give Lewandowski every chance to challenge 'role model' Muller

    Robert Lewandowski has his work cut out to match Gerd Muller's Bundesliga goals record but Bayern Munich will do all they can to make it happen, Hansi Flick has said.

    Muller hit 40 goals for Bayern in the 1971-72 season, a mark that is firmly in the sights of Lewandowski after he began the campaign with 22 goals in Bayern's first 17 games.

    Speaking ahead of Bayern's trip to face Schalke on Sunday, in a clash of the top and bottom teams in the German top flight, Flick spoke of how he used to idolise the legendary Muller.

    As leaders Bayern pursue a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, the prospect of Lewandowski challenging Muller is drawing plenty of attention, and Flick indicated the team would love it to happen.

    "Gerd Muller was my role model," said Flick. "Unfortunately, I've never scored as many goals as he did, I wasn't as lethal, maybe at the beginning in the youth teams.

    "He was a striker who was always ready to accept balls outside the box and you could combine together with him. He was wonderful in front of goal.

    "For Robert to have scored more goals than him in the first half of the season shows his quality and that the team keep supporting him to end up in situations where he can score goals.

    "I think about the 1-0 against Freiburg, which was a genius attacking move via Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller, who immediately passed the ball to him. Their alignment was perfect.

    "We all know, and Robert knows this too, that a lot of things need to be in place to continue like this. We're working on it.

    "We have to support Robert and he is important to the team. He has certain tasks within the team and if he does them well, it is easier for the team to assist him at goalscoring.

    "I would wish he could manage 40 but Gerd Muller is really something special."

    Muller is suffering with Alzheimer's disease and is said to be living in a nursing home.

    "We all know how Gerd Muller is doing, that also makes you sad," Flick said.

    Bayern will face a Schalke team who are showing flickers of life at the foot of the table, and who brought Klaas Jan Huntelaar back to the club this week from Ajax.

    Huntelaar, at the age of 37 and ready to retire at the end of the season, has rejoined Schalke because he could not bear being unable to help them in the battle to avoid relegation.

    He previously had a seven-year spell with the club and, much like Lewandowski, has a proven nose for goal.

    The veteran Dutch striker could have a role to play this weekend, with Schalke coach Christian Gross saying on Friday: "I think that Klaas Jan will be part of the squad against Bayern. He's a good option for the bench."

  • Kevin De Bruyne injured: Liverpool, Man Utd and other games Man City star could miss Kevin De Bruyne injured: Liverpool, Man Utd and other games Man City star could miss

    Next month's trip to Liverpool is a no-go for Kevin De Bruyne, while March's crunch derby with Manchester United could be a return date for Manchester City's star midfielder.

    That is the predicament facing Pep Guardiola after he confirmed the Belgium international will be out for four to six weeks due to a hamstring injury sustained during the 2-0 midweek win over Aston Villa.

    De Bruyne, the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, has been in typically sparkling form for City this term, scoring three times and providing 10 assists in the Premier League.

    Guardiola's men are two points shy of league leaders United with a game in hand and into the last-16 of the Champions League.

    Here, we look at the key games within a battle on all fronts where the EFL Cup finalists will be missing their talisman.

    Cheltenham Town (A) - January 23

    De Bruyne would probably have been rested for the weekend clash with League Two Cheltenham Town in any case, although the fifth round on February 10 also looks to be out of the question if City progress. In 16 appearances in the FA Cup, he has five goals and as many assists - claiming one of each in the 6-0 demolition of Watford in the 2019 final

    West Brom (A) - January 26

    City are back in Premier League action against Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened Baggies next week. De Bruyne has two goals and three assists against the Baggies in the competition but could not manage a goal involvement as Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling failed to convert his late crosses during December's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium. City have won nine games in a row across all competitions since that setback.

    Sheff Utd (H) - January 30

    Another relegation candidate follows, with bottom club Sheffield United facing a daunting trip to Manchester. De Bruyne created Sergio Aguero's opener before completing the scoring for a 2-0 win in this fixture last season.

    Burnley (A) - February 3

    Perhaps surprisingly, giving City's succession of recent 5-0 wins over Burnley, De Bruyne has never scored against Sean Dyche's men in the Premier League. He does have three assists, including the decisive passes for Riyad Mahrez and Benjamin Mendy to net during the most recent mauling last November.

    Liverpool (A) - February 7

    De Bruyne scored from the penalty spot as City beat the recently crowned champions 4-0 last July, although he missed uncharacteristically from 12 yards in this season's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Even though none of his five Premier League assists against Liverpool have come at Anfield, he will be a huge miss when City chase a first win on the red side of Stanley Park since 2003.

    Tottenham (H) - February 13

    De Bruyne scored in each of his first three Premier League appearances against Spurs and set up both City goals as the sides shared a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad last season. Jose Mourinho's men were the last team to inflict a defeat upon City, 17 games ago.

    Arsenal (A) - February 21

    No Premier League team has conceded more goals to De Bruyne than Arsenal's five. City's number 17 scored twice and dazzled throughout in a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium last term.

    Borussia Monchengladbach (A) - February 24

    UEFA named De Bruyne their Midfielder of the Season following his performances on City's run to the quarter-finals in 2019-20. Despite his club's patchy record in Europe's top competition, the 29-year-old has seven goals and 15 assists in 37 Champions League appearances for the English side.

    West Ham (H) - February 27

    Rodri converted De Bruyne's corner before the man himself rounded off a 2-0 win over West Ham when the teams met on February 19 last year. It was the last time fans were allowed into the Etihad Stadium.

    Manchester United (H) - March 6

    This could be the biggest Manchester derby for almost a decade given the state of play at the top of the table and must surely be the comeback target for De Bruyne. He opened the scoring in a 2-1 Premier League win at Old Trafford in 2016, a strike that remains his only goal involvement in seven league games against United.

  • Alli was missing for Tottenham due to injury, insists Mourinho Alli was missing for Tottenham due to injury, insists Mourinho

    Jose Mourinho has clarified Dele Alli was only left out of the Tottenham squad against Sheffield United due to injury.

    The absence of Alli from the matchday squad in Spurs' 3-1 away Premier League win last Sunday was another talking point in a turbulent season for the attacking midfielder.

    Alli has only started one Premier League game this season and has been linked with a move away from Spurs, with Paris Saint-Germain a mooted destination.

    Mourinho insisted a tendon injury was the reason Alli was left out and listed him among the injury doubts for Monday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Wycombe Wanderers.

    "The reason he did not play or was not selected for Sheffield is everything in relation to the injury that he has," Mourinho told reporters when asked about Alli.

    "It's not an injury that will keep him out for weeks and weeks like Giovani Lo Celso.

    "But is an injury that doesn't allow him to train fully with the team and like in the last couple of days, no chance for him even to train. So that's the situation for now.

    "The injuries that have no doubts about playing or not playing is still Gio, who will be a couple more weeks. We have two or three players who have small injuries.

    "Matt Doherty, who was not involved at Sheffield [is a doubt], Dele Alli has not been training in recent days with small problem in the tendon but not sure that he can [play], and Serge Aurier, not really well. 

    "We still have three days before the match though and the only one I can say is out is Gio."

    Mourinho recently praised the turnaround in midfielder Tanguy Ndombele’s Tottenham career, hailing his attitude.

    But he insisted that should not have been perceived as a direct comparison with Alli ahead of what he expects to be a tough test against Championship outfit Wycombe.

    Mourinho said: "I don't like to go in that direction, I was speaking specifically about Tanguy. 

    "I didn't want to accept any responsibility in the change. That's the way I look at things. We are an external source of motivation. The real source is the player himself. 

    "I was speaking of course in a very happy way about the Tanguy transformation and the way he is playing.

    "With all the respect to Marine [in the last round], Wycombe is a different level, is a more difficult challenge. What we did well against Marine is not enough to win against Wycombe. 

    "They are fully professionals, they are talented people, they have ambitions. We need more than we gave against Marine. 

    "With all the professionalism the boys behaved there, but we need more because the game is going to be more difficult."

    After facing Wycombe, Tottenham have a huge Premier League match at home to champions Liverpool on Thursday.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.