Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes 2020 can be a year of personal success as he attempts to deliver his first trophies as Manchester United manager.

United end 2019 in fifth place in the Premier League table, their 2-0 win at Burnley leaving them four points adrift of the top four.

That relatively comfortable victory at Turf Moor concluded a turbulent decade for the Red Devils, in which they have appointed four permanent managers but failed to win the domestic title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Solskjaer's side have been frustratingly inconsistent this season, but they have won six of their past eight games in all competitions and head into the new year with a chance of winning the EFL Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League.

The former United striker thinks his young team are getting closer to the identity he wants to see and is fully confident the coming decade will see the club restored to the top of English football.

"I'm going to make 2020 a good year for myself," he said ahead of United's trip to Arsenal on January 1.

"I think we're on the right track. We are in a transitional period - we've seen other clubs do it and come out stronger after a couple of years. We will come strong this decade, definitely. That's just in the nature of this club.

"We're improving, and I think we can see more and more of what we want to be and our identity, what we're good at. We're making games suit our style more and more. We've played the same way for a little while, and we're getting used to each other.

"We're quite a bit away still from where we want to be, but I think we're the youngest team in the Premier League this week. We'll have ups and downs, but there'll be less and less and less, hopefully, of the downs."

Borussia Dortmund have signed one of the hottest properties in European football by completing a deal for Salzburg star Erling Haaland.

The teenage striker sprung to prominence by claiming the Golden Boot at this year's Under-20 World Cup and extended his prolific vein of form in the Austrian Bundesliga and the Champions League.

Dortmund have completed a transfer coup and possibly secured a decisive boost in a wide-open battle for this season's German Bundesliga crown.

But, as ever when a sought-after player completes a major transfer, there are those pondering what might have been.

Here, we look at some potential winners and losers after the Haaland transfer saga reached its conclusion.

WINNERS

Bundesliga title race

Bayern Munich are chasing an eighth consecutive league title in Germany but their grip on supremacy looks to be loosening at the midway point this time around.

RB Leipzig (more on them later) lead the way from Borussia Monchengladbach, with Bayern four points off the summit.

Behind them are Haaland's new employers. Dortmund have struggled for consistency this season but the seven-point gap to Leipzig will suddenly feel a lot more bridgeable. We could see a thrilling run-in.

Jadon Sancho

If Haaland needed proof that a prodigiously talented teenager can thrive at Signal Iduna Park, he did not need to look any further than his fellow 19-year-old.

A veritable assists junkie, England international Sancho will now be supplying the ammunition for a player boasting 28 goals in 22 senior appearances this season.

Sancho's hopes of a first senior title have now increased. Perhaps more significantly in the long term, so seemingly have his prospects of a blockbuster move to one of Europe's super clubs. Dortmund getting hold of another prime asset means they may be more willing to cash in on Sancho at the end of this season.

Manchester United's forwards

Manchester United were one of the clubs heavily credited with an interest in Haaland. However, it is hard to argue a gifted forward line is the part of an unhelpfully thin squad that most needs attention.

On top of that, Anthony Martial has thrived this season when allowed to operate in a central striking role, and Mason Greenwood appears to be a rare goalscoring talent.

Both of those men might well have found themselves frustrated with Haaland in town.

Mino Raiola

He might have a forthcoming January saga concerning Paul Pogba on the agenda, but Haaland's high-profile representative is likely to be fairly pleased with his work here.

Numerous reports claim Raiola is a major beneficiary of the outlay being a relatively meagre €20million, stipulated in the player's Salzburg release clause, with other cash freed up for agent fees.

Additionally, Dortmund are unlikely to be Haaland's final destination. If all goes to plan, he might be looking at a €100million-plus move elsewhere in a couple of years that may allow Raiola to feather the nest all over again.

LOSERS

RB Leipzig

If RB Leipzig were to be denied a first Bundesliga title by a player who joined a rival from their sister club, it would certainly hurt.

A glorious second half of the season for Dortmund may mean some tough conversations within Red Bull's sporting operation.

Looking beyond this term, if Timo Werner's future lies elsewhere, Julian Nagelsmann's side have just missed out on a seemingly readymade replacement.

Salzburg

As a side from the Austrian Bundesliga, selling talents like Haaland for a handsome profit is a vital part of Salzburg's business model.

However, with this deal coming hot on the heels of Takumi Minamoto's similarly cut-price switch to Liverpool, events feel like they are progressing too quickly.

Salzburg's release clauses for the two players appear significantly below market rates, while Hwang Hee-chan is also reportedly on Wolves' radar. After making their mark in the Champions League, Salzburg's status as dark horses in the Europa League is no more.

Manchester United

Aside from the benefits for the likes of Martial and Greenwood, little else about this transfer represents good news for Manchester United.

A lack of success over recent years means it is harder for the 20-time English champions to dine at the top table in transfer terms. Here, there was a chance to secure an exceptional talent at minimal cost.

Then we should consider Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's role. If the manager cannot persuade a player he helped to nurture at Molde, who hails from a country where he is a national hero, how much weight is his talk of United "DNA" likely to hold in future transfer negotiations?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Paul Pogba was not ready to face Burnley after sitting out the 2-0 Premier League victory.

United star Pogba was a notable absentee as the Red Devils saw off Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday to move within a point of the top four.

Pogba played for the first time in nearly three months when United lost to lowly Watford 2-0 last week and he made another substitute appearance in the 4-1 rout of Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

The French midfielder, however, did not travel to Burnley and Solskjaer explained Pogba's absence post-match.

"He had 45 minutes but he's been out for a while and he didn't feel right," Solskjaer told reporters. "He reacted to that one so we'll just have to take our time and get him ready for next time.

"When you've been out for such a while, it's always going to take time to be 100 per cent. He just needed another day probably of recovery."

United were also without injured midfielder Scott McTominay against Burnley – out-of-favour veteran Nemanja Matic chosen to partner Fred.

McTominay was forced off in the Boxing Day victory at Old Trafford after hurting his knee and the Scotland international is facing up to a month on the sidelines.

"I wouldn't expect Scott to be back within a few weeks, no," Solskjaer said in his news conference. "Not the next couple of weeks, I don't think we'll see him. So it'll be more than that.

"But he's always proved before that give him three weeks and he's back in two. I don't know, if it's three or four weeks. It might be something like this, but we've just got to find a way through it."

Marcus Rashford took his Premier League tally this season to 12 goals after sealing United's win in the 90th minute after Anthony Martial's opener on the stroke of half-time.

"He's got everything physically. He's got great mentality, the right attitude and he’s one of our own," Solskjaer said. "He's just going to get better and better, he's still only 22. He'll grow and he's got his best years ahead of him and he's been a leader. He's really showed his maturity."

United, who will travel to Arsenal on New Year's Day, are only a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the fight for Champions League qualification.

"Well we want to get there [into the top four] and we're not far away. That is the challenge for this team," Solskjaer added. "We did it towards the end of last season, we were close there and then we dropped off. Now, they responded to the defeat against Watford and I've put a challenge to them. I'm very happy with them.

"In football, you've got to earn the right to win every single game. Everyone gives you a different challenge. Arsenal away is a completely different challenge. We handled what Burnley threw at us but Arsenal will give us other things to think about. We'll be ready for it."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed his side's ability to "grind out results" after the Red Devils survived a flurry of late Burnley chances to triumph 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Anthony Martial scored his third goal in two games one minute before half-time to put United ahead in a game they dominated for long periods, but hosts Burnley heaped pressure on David De Gea's goal in the final 15 minutes at Turf Moor.

A late United break produced a second goal when Daniel James played in Marcus Rashford for his 12th Premier League strike of the season and clinched a result that moved the Red Devils up to fifth in the table, just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Solskjaer admitted his players should have put the game to bed sooner but praised their performance following back-to-back victories, describing himself as "very happy".

"In the first half I thought we were very good," said Solskjaer. "We controlled it, dominated it, scored a nice goal. Second half of course there's going to be a couple of instances in your box because they're desperate to get a goal and throwing men forward.

"We could have finished the game off really, we had some great counter-attacking chances. We should have got the second goal earlier but there was some great defending.

"It's important for us to know that we can grind out results as well, even though when you score one you don't always win. If we can get clean sheets we've got a chance to move up the table."

United travel to Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal on New Year's Day and Solskjaer called for his players to maintain the momentum that has helped them go nine matches with just one defeat in all competitions – a 2-0 reverse at Watford on December 22.

With Martial and Rashford hitting form, United will be widely backed to get a result against an Arsenal side adapting to life with a new head coach Mikel Arteta at the helm.

Solskjaer said his forwards must be less wasteful than they were against Burnley, adding: "You're always kicking yourself when you don't take your chances. There were so many great counter-attacking opportunities, when we made wrong decisions or were a little bit too slow to get the finish off, but it was an excellent performance.

"Let's see what we do against Arsenal. We want to keep that momentum going. Two wins after a disappointing game against Watford. Happy with that. Good response. The boys are learning."

Anthony Martial scored his third goal in two Premier League matches to help Manchester United to a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor that moves the Red Devils up to fifth in the table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men kept their first clean sheet in the league since September and successfully broke down Burnley's packed defence with some patient attacking play, forcing the opener just before half-time and doubling their lead in second-half stoppage time through Marcus Rashford.

After losing 2-0 at Watford in their previous away game, United delivered the improvements they sorely needed at the back while dominating possession in midfield despite the absence of Paul Pogba, who was rested following his return to fitness, as they built on a 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

Burnley were looking to make it three league wins from four but failed to recover from an error by full-back Charlie Taylor that led to Martial's strike, squandering a flurry of late opportunities before Rashford scored his 12th league goal of the season.

Rashford stung Nick Pope's palms with a free-kick from 30 yards in a cagey opening spell in which the England forward also hit the outside of the post with a low, first-time shot from the edge of the box.

The ball fell to Martial little more than six yards out after 33 minutes, but the France international's effort was crucially blocked on the line by former United defender Phil Bardsley.

Having kept the visitors at bay for 44 minutes, Burnley self-destructed when Taylor fumbled possession and allowed Andreas Pereira to feed Martial, who took a touch and stroked a low shot past Pope into the bottom-right corner.

Martial had the ball in the net again four minutes into the second half, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on James Tarkowski and Burnley almost equalised when Bardsley's angled drive drew a diving save from David de Gea.

Harry Maguire brought down Jack Cork on the edge of the United box to present substitute Johann Gudmundsson with a chance from a free-kick, but the Iceland international blazed over the crossbar.

Burnley threatened an equaliser throughout a frenetic final 15 minutes only to be caught out right at the end when Daniel James sprinted over the half-way line in posession and squared to Rashford, who rounded Pope before scoring his second in as many games.

 

What does it mean? Creativity shortage sets up tense finish

Solskjaer will have been pleased to see his defence cut out the errors that cost them dearly at Vicarage Road but a failure to put the game to bed sooner might have been punished by a side better than Burnley.

Rashford runs Burnley ragged

Finding a link between midfield and attack has often been United's problem against sides who sit back this season, but the immense amount of ground covered by Rashford – who frequently dropped deep to carry the visitors forward – solved that here. He then rounded off the win in the latter stages.

Taylor toils in tussle with James

James has proven himself to be a handful for Premier League defences since he joined United in January and Clarets left-back Taylor struggled to cope with him, playing misplaced passes and getting forced into errors by the rapid Wales winger.

What's next?

While Burnley will fancy their chances of taking three points when Aston Villa visit Turf Moor on New Year's Day, United could find victory harder to come by against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

 

Paul Pogba is once again missing from the Manchester United squad for Saturday's trip to Burnley despite making substitute cameos in both of the club's two previous matches.

France international Pogba has been absent for most of the season due to a foot injury and illness, and he played for the first time in nearly three months when United were beaten 2-0 by Watford last weekend.

He was arguably United's best player after his introduction at Vicarage Road, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again kept him in reserve as they thrashed Newcastle United 4-1 on Boxing Day.

It was suggested Pogba's fitness was being carefully managed in order to avoid a recurrence, with the trip to Turf Moor seemingly the ideal opportunity to give him his first start since returning.

But he has not even travelled, news that will surely worry some supporters given the transfer speculation that has surrounded him for much of the season.

Real Madrid are said to be keen on midfielder, who is reportedly frustrated by United's inability to challenge for major honours.

But Solskjaer insists Pogba has been left at home simply to avoid overloading him so soon after finding fitness.

"Paul has played in two games and has been out for a while and it didn't feel right to play him [on Saturday]," Solskjaer told MUTV.

Scott McTominay is also missing having been forced off in the Boxing Day win – Solskjaer suggesting at the time knee ligament damage was a possibility for the Scotland international, but the "full scan" has not been carried out yet.

Nemanja Matic is the main beneficiary of those absences, as he comes in for only his third Premier League start of the season, with Fred and Andreas Pereira also lining up in midfield.

Solskjaer has opted to rotate both full-backs as well.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw drop to the bench, with Brandon Williams and Ashley Young taking their places.

Mason Greenwood has to accept a spot among the substitutes despite scoring as a starter two days ago, with Daniel James coming back in.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it is not possible to expect Manchester United's youngsters to play "tippy-tappy" football in the manner of Manchester City at this stage of their development.

United produced one of their best displays of the season in Thursday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United, coming from a goal down to ease to a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.

Anthony Martial scored twice, while Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford were also on target after Matty Longstaff had given the visitors a 17th-minute lead.

Solskjaer's side have often struggled to break down more defensive opposition this term, but the United boss believes the win over Newcastle shows their style can work.

"I think it's been said in no uncertain terms what type of team we are," he told reporters. "Supporters know what we expect and know when we are at our best. 

"We showed that on Thursday and, even though we went a goal down, heads didn't drop. We have to make it hard to play against us. 

"We can't play tippy-tappy football and can't, at this moment in time, play like City - only City can do that. 

"We have to show more energy, drive and urgency, plus selflessness in every single game. That's the way we have to play at the moment."

United's victory over Newcastle saw them return to winning ways after a 2-0 loss at strugglers Watford last weekend.

The Red Devils are now four points behind the top four and Solskjaer remains confident of finishing in a Champions League spot.

"We should get into the top four without waiting for the final game against Leicester," he said. "But it may go down to that game, who knows? 

"I've said about this team that we may be challenging for a lot more next year. We're young but I except a lot from this team this year."

Two days after beating Newcastle, United take on Burnley in their next Premier League outing and they then travel to Arsenal four days later.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp this week described the scheduling of the festive fixtures as "criminal" and Solskjaer agrees something needs to be changed.

"You are traditionalists in this country so I can't see it changing, but it should," Solskjaer said.

"I don't think it's fair on the boys at all. It's not fair to be expected to perform at the best of your ability, mentally and physically, 48 hours after you last played. 

"But we are probably in the best position to perform on Saturday because the game [against Newcastle] was over after 45 minutes and we are a young side.

"We have a chance against Burnley to perform at our best level. When you're 23, which I think was our average age against Newcastle, it makes it easier to recover than Burnley.

"But it's not fair, especially when there was a game against Watford just gone, a game on New Year's Day - two games in three days."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again compared Marcus Rashford to Cristiano Ronaldo after Manchester United's win over Newcastle United.

Rashford scored his 11th Premier League goal of the season – his best tally in a campaign – in the 4-1 Boxing Day victory at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer has compared the 22-year-old to former United star Ronaldo previously and the manager did so again after Rashford's superb header.

"He is a physical specimen. He's looking after himself, working hard in the gym," he told a news conference.

"When you've got that spring, it's just about having courage and getting up there.

"I remember a boy I used to play with that used to head it quite well when he was close to goal. And we compare them quite often.

"So, that's another string to his bow Marcus that Cristiano used to get when he was getting to that age as well."

Anthony Martial netted a brace and Mason Greenwood also scored against Newcastle, who had taken the lead through Matty Longstaff.

Martial is up to six goals in the Premier League this season and Solskjaer said his team needed to make better use of the France forward.

"The key is to give him the ball. He's not going to be the one who runs down the channels all day long," he said.

"We need to give him the ball and feed him. I think the boys have said that many times themselves. We need to feed Anthony more, play forward more and into the frontmen.

"Especially Anthony, it's important for him to touch the ball a lot then he feels in the game. Today was almost the same goal as he scored against [Manchester] City, down to the bottom with his left foot. It could have been his hat-trick."

United are seventh, four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, and make the trip to Burnley on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Scott McTominay suffered a knee ligament injury in the 4-1 win over Newcastle United, with the Manchester United boss admitting: "We don't know how bad it is".

Midfielder McTominay was hurt in the early stages of the Boxing Day fixture at Old Trafford, though stayed on for the remainder of the first half.

The Scotland international was replaced by Paul Pogba at the interval and was seen leaving the ground on crutches, a worrying sight for the Red Devils amid a busy festive period of fixtures.

Solskjaer has not yet ruled McTominay - who was a shown yellow card after 24 seconds for a foul on Sean Longstaff - out of contention for Saturday's trip to Burnley, while he also praised the player for playing on through the pain.

"He's done his ligament in his knee, probably. We don't know how bad it is, so let's see," Solskjaer told the media.

"The boy has got the biggest heart of the lot. He played until half-time but we know when they stiffen up after. We'll have to find out tomorrow, how he is. 

"You see the attitude of the kid, of everyone, in the beginning of the game. I’m not sure if he'll be ready for Saturday [against Burnley]. Probably not, but we've seen him recover before."

Matty Longstaff gave Newcastle the lead but Manchester United - beaten 2-0 by Watford in the previous outing - hit back impressively, capitalising on some generous defending to secure all three points.

Anthony Martial scored twice, while Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford were also on target, with a commanding lead early in the second half allowing Solskjaer to plan ahead for the games to come with his substitutions.

"I thought we did well today. Obviously, at 1-0 down, you're not sure," the Norwegian said.

"Then again, all season we've had one defeat and we haven’t lost the next one. So, the response was really good. Today was a good day for us.

"We made it comfortable and, in the second half, I think both teams were looking at the game in two days' time. There is nothing wrong with the character in these boys. They have what it takes and are not going to give up."

Erling Haaland is going to Juventus. No, sorry, that should say Manchester United. Or is it Leipzig, I can never quite remember. Did the papers say Dortmund? You might be right.

What we know about Haaland is that it should be a matter of days before his future becomes clear. The Salzburg striker is surely going somewhere in January.

If his eventual destination is Old Trafford, then that raises an issue. Because on the evidence of the 4-1 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United, the Red Devils have a set of forwards who should be going nowhere.

In 22-year-old Marcus Rashford and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, they possess two of the brightest young forwards in the Premier League certainly, perhaps in all of Europe.

And with two-goal Anthony Martial looking the part again, do United even need Haaland? The answer is that yes, they need all the top-class young players they can possibly draw to Manchester, even those who crow about supporting long-time foes Leeds United.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to truly build a team to stand the test of time, then the most eminent substitute of his day knows better than most the benefit of United boasting deep resources.

As United's supporters drawled through their 'Twelve days of Cantona' routine and patted themselves on the back over petty slights at former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, there was a sense amid the festive cheer was that this is a club trapped in time.

The legendary Bobby Charlton watched on, and even in the opposition dugout there was a former United favourite in Steve Bruce.

Who within the United ranks as we head towards 2020 will be held in similar esteem to Charlton in 20, 30, 40, 50 years?

David de Gea? Still fault-prone. Rashford? Give the lad time. Paul Pogba? There were high hopes when he returned, but surely not.

So there is nobody quite there yet. The serial winners have all left, and any predictions of United lifting a Premier League title in the next five years might be widely frowned upon.

But while Liverpool are on top of the world, Manchester City have long cast off the tag of 'noisy neighbours', and intrigue surrounds Frank Lampard at Chelsea and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, it is almost as though something has slipped beneath the radar.

Perhaps we are seeing a modern United team beginning to blossom into something rather special.

There will be bumps in the road for any young team, and the loss to Watford on Saturday was a thudding example.

But since a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on October 6, this Manchester United team have been rather good more often than not.

The Manchester Evening News said of that St James' Park performance: "This predictably awful team was predictably awful."

Yet in the 11 weeks between that game and a reunion with the Magpies, United have become the first side to prise Premier League points from Liverpool this term, stunned derby rivals City, seen off Jose Mourinho's reborn Tottenham and scored league wins over Norwich and Brighton.

All this while steadily marching on in the Europa League and EFL Cup, with losses to Watford and Bournemouth the only real blemishes.

So yes, now is the time to build and keep building, to get Haaland if that deal is achievable, to show mettle at Burnley on December 28 and at Arsenal on New Year's Day.

With the excellence of Rashford complemented by the flourishing teenage talent of Greenwood and a steadily improving supporting cast, this is not the time to stand still.

Predictably awful? Not anymore. United are back in the realm of being merely unpredictable. Given their youngsters, and given the depths to which they sank, file that away as progress. Next stop, consistency.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has cast an envious eye towards Liverpool after admitting his Manchester United side are not yet at the level he had hoped.

Solskjaer has been in the job for just over a year – initially in a caretaker capacity – with his inconsistent team heading into Christmas eighth in the Premier League.

They are seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and a whopping 24 adrift of table-toppers and arch-rivals Liverpool.

The Merseysiders appear well set to end their 29-year wait for domestic supremacy after also being crowned European and world champions over the past seven months.

It might not sit easy with the Old Trafford faithful but Jurgen Klopp's men are now the standard-bearers in English football with Solskjaer conceding his first 12 months at United have not lived up to his expectations.

He said: "We're halfway through the season. We knew this season was going to be a season of some ups and downs and this season will be used to find the team and the squad for next season.

"But, hopefully, if we can speed this process up by getting more results, I expect us to be more consistent, definitely more experienced and learning from these setbacks.

"At the moment we're a little bit further behind than I was hoping for."

Asked the areas in which he wanted to improve, he added: "We want to be a team that can go and dominate teams and break teams down.

"It's taken Liverpool a few years to get to that place and we need to keep on building, because that's where we want to get to.

"Yes, we're good at counter-attacking, yes, we've got pace, fast players, we should always keep that because that's in our transition. Now we need to be better at breaking lower blocks.

"We created loads of chances [against Watford] towards the end, but every time we lose it, there's a counter-attack, so we need to lock it down more and be better at stopping the counter-attacks – that's where this team is going to learn and grow and I'm sure that we'll see an improvement over this season and hopefully for next year."

United welcome Newcastle to Old Trafford on Boxing Day and Solskjaer has called for patience against a side that will likely try to play it tight.

"It's going to be difficult to break them down," he said.

"I expect we'll get a fair share of possession. We were disappointed we had more than 70 per cent up there when we lost the game.

"One of the good things about the team this year is we have reacted after bad results. We haven't kept the consistency as we'd like the other way, but we've never gone on a big run like we did towards the end of last season, so there will be a reaction, definitely.

"It's an easy team talk, to be fair, to get the reaction, show a reaction, get the fans on your side, which is no problem because our fans have always been on our side when we've needed them. But we've got to earn that. I'm sure you'll see a reaction."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has welcomed the return of Paul Pogba, a player he describes as the "best all-round midfielder in the world".

Pogba made his long-awaited comeback from an ankle injury by coming on as a substitute in the second half of a 2-0 defeat at Watford on Sunday and is expected to start when Newcastle visit Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

It was the France World Cup-winner's first United appearance since September and Solskjaer is looking forward to fitting Pogba into his side, even if he remains unsure as to his best position.

The United manager said: "He did really well when he came on [at Watford]. It's a big, big plus, and it might be that we do get him in from the start.

"He can play anywhere, the whole midfield. He's a box-to-box midfielder. He can drop deep, play them long passes, get higher up and combine, [play] one-twos - him and Anthony [Martial] and Marcus [Rashford] creating chances down that side - so it depends on the game.

"That's the beauty of having Paul: he is the best all-round midfielder in the world, he can do all roles, but if I play him low, he should've played high, and if I play him high, he should've played low.

"It's always going to be that discussion with him. But it's great to have him back."

Pogba will add dynamism to a United midfield that has largely underwhelmed over the first half of the season. Solskjaer's men head into Christmas in eighth place in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a scathing assessment of Manchester United's first-half display in Sunday's 2-0 loss to Watford, likening the performance to a testimonial.

United went into the match aiming to keep the pressure on the Premier League's top four and bounce back from an underwhelming draw with Everton.

But at Vicarage Road they produced an insipid display, with two goals early in the second half doing the damage – David de Gea fumbling an Ismaila Sarr volley into the net, before Troy Deeney converted a penalty.

Paul Pogba at least provided some impetus for the Red Devils after his 64th-minute introduction, but it was too little, too late, with Watford holding on to a first win under Nigel Pearson.

Solskjaer was particularly unimpressed with United's display before 

He said: "In the first half, it could have easily been my testimonial, maybe it would have been a better atmosphere in my testimonial, to be fair.

"It was very subdued, slow, no tempo, no urgency, any bit of encouragement their crowd got was when we gave them some set-plays and we gifted them two goals.

"I'm very disappointed and [before the match] we spoke about this and looking to be more positive, that we know we've started up something with the rebuild.

"But at this moment, I'm very disappointed, because we have to come to these stadiums to get more points.

"I'm sure they [Watford] are low on confidence, because they must be when you're bottom of the table. We were high on confidence because we've been doing well lately.

"But it just wasn't there, there was no intent or urgency to make us deserve to win the game."

Up next for Solskjaer's side is the visit of Newcastle United on December 26.

Paul Pogba's return and subsequent performance off the bench was the only "plus" in Manchester United's 2-0 defeat to Watford, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United once again produced a disappointing display against an opponent they would be expected to beat, as rock-bottom Watford gave their survival hopes a boost.

Ismaila Sarr opened the scoring just after half-time when David de Gea allowed his tame volley to squirm into the top corner, before Troy Deeney made it 2-0 from the spot following Aaron Wan-Bissaka's clumsy tackle on Watford's first goal-scorer.

Pogba was introduced from the bench for his first appearance in nearly three months and looked comfortably United's best player.

Although he was unable to inspire a turnaround, Solskjaer considered his performance the only positive from United's overall display.

"The big plus is Paul coming on, and that's the one plus," Solskjaer told BBC Sport. "He added urgency, quality, some great passes.

"The boy has been working hard. He's fit and leaner. He'll bring us a lot. He is important for us. He makes us create more chances."

De Gea's error proved costly and he also had a lucky escape in the first half when Watford were denied a goal because Craig Cathcart was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper, though replays suggested it was harsh on the defender.

Solskjaer insisted De Gea is not suffering from a lack of confidence, however.

"It's one of those things. He's been so good in training and focused," Solskjaer said of the Spain international.

"One goal is a mistake and the second is penalty. David's been very confident lately and I don't look at it any other way."

Harry Maguire was at a loss to explain Manchester United's struggles against opposition in the bottom half of the table and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was similarly nonplussed after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Watford.

United produced another insipid performance at Vicarage Road, as they struggled to create chances before Paul Pogba's 64th-minute introduction, but by that point they were already two down.

A David de Gea howler allowed Ismaila Sarr to open the scoring early in the second half and Troy Deeney made it 2-0 from the spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka tripped the Watford winger.

United have made a habit of dropping points against teams in the Premier League's lower reaches, with the Red Devils winning 73 per cent of league matches under Solskjaer in which they have had less possession than their opponents, compared to just 36 per cent when they have had more of the ball.

But when asked about such struggles after the match, neither Maguire nor Solskjaer seemed to have any idea what the reason might be.

"It's something we can't really put our finger on," Maguire told Sky Sports. "We're working hard in training and that's all we can do, coming into these games prepared as well as we do for the likes of Manchester City away.

"It's disappointing. I always think when you play these games against the so-called lower opposition in the table that the first goal is crucial, so big, and we had chances to get it."

Solskjaer was similarly uncertain, instead focusing on the specific issues he identified in Sunday's defeat.

When asked about the discrepancy in United's form, Solskjaer said: "Well, you've got to earn every single point, every inch on the pitch, and we didn't deserve that.

"We were too slow, too many touches in the first half, too many passes that went astray and we didn't create enough chances.

"Obviously, we could have had one or two goals ourselves, it's about taking them when we get them. We could've scored the first.

"I can talk about it all day long – we didn't [take our chances] and now we have to face the fact that we've got two games against Newcastle [United] and Burnley coming up that we've got to improve on."

United are next in action against Steve Bruce's Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

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