Manchester United star Paul Pogba has denied claims that he snubbed his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Sunday’s 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool at Old Trafford.

It was a day that went from bad to worse for the Frenchman after being left out of the starting line-up for a second game running, only to see his team-mates fall four goals behind by the break, which led to his introduction in the second half.

Pogba lasted only 15 minutes as he was sent off by referee Anthony Taylor following a VAR review following a heavy challenge on Naby Keita.

The former Juventus man has experienced highs and lows since coming back to United from Italy in 2016, and rumours about his future persist as he gets closer to the end of his deal in Manchester, which expires at the end of this season.

There have also been questions raised about the relationship between Solskjaer and his players, especially following recent games in which the Red Devils have lost four and drawn one of their last five domestic fixtures.

However, Pogba took to Twitter on Wednesday to address a story published by The Sun which claimed that he had snubbed his manager in the dressing room following Sunday's defeat, and had also "shelved" contract talks.

The 28-year-old simply stated "Big lies to make headlines", and posted a screenshot of the story with a banner over the top saying "Fake news".

Big lies to make headlines pic.twitter.com/VBQiBxSuNO

— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) October 27, 2021

 

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola recently told The Times in an interview that there was "no update" on his client's future.

Before falling out of favour in recent games, the World Cup winner made a promising start to the season, and still sits at the top of the Premier League assist chart with seven, two ahead of Gabriel Jesus, Mateo Kovacic and Mohamed Salah.

He will be unable to add to those numbers for a while as he now misses games against Tottenham, Manchester City and Watford through suspension, with the trip to Chelsea on 28 November set to be the next match he will be available for.

 

Any hopes of Paul Pogba remaining at Old Trafford appear to be fading. 

The Manchester United stalwart has halted contract talks with the club. 

Multiple European clubs are said to be interested in the 28-year-old. 

 

TOP STORY – POGBA ENDS MAN UTD TALKS

Paul Pogba has ended talks over a potential new contract at Manchester United amid an apparent row with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, The Sun reports. 

The France international will be out of contract in June and appears likely to move on. 

The Sun reports he apologised to his team-mates but did not speak to Solskjaer after being sent off 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute in Sunday's 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool. 

His former club Juventus could be an option, while Paris Saint-GermainReal Madrid and Barcelona are also said to have shown interest. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona would prefer to have Jurgen Klopp take over whenever they sack Ronald Koeman, says Sport. Klopp is under contract with Liverpool through 2024. 

- Newcastle United are prepared to offer Alex Ten Hag £6million a year after taxes if he leaves Ajax for St. James' Park, reports the Mail. 

- Arsenal and Manchester City are interested in Barcelona's Spain international Sergi Roberto, says Fichajes. 

- Inter have had talks with Sampdoria midfielder Morten Thorsby's agent over a potential move, claims Calciomercato. 

- River Plate forward Julian Alvarez is drawing interest from Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and Aston Villa, says Calciomercato. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took training at Manchester United on Tuesday as the under-pressure manager looked set to avoid losing his job for now.

A 5-0 defeat at home to Liverpool on Sunday was the lowest point of the Norwegian's time in charge, with a third loss of the Premier League season leaving United eight points behind early leaders Chelsea.

His first-team squad reassembled at the club's Carrington training base two days on from that debacle, with Solskjaer still at the helm. He reportedly arrived early in the morning to put his players through their paces.

Senior United officials are said to have held a meeting on Monday, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward joined by managing director Richard Arnold and co-chairman Joel Glazer.

United have repeatedly backed the Norwegian, who took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, initially as an interim appointment. They consider the former United striker an ideal figurehead, and Solskjaer remains a popular figure among supporters, even with those who want a change of manager.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Solskjaer still retains the support of Woodward, Arnold and United's influential former manager Alex Ferguson, with Joel Glazer set to have the final say. Similarly, The Telegraph said Solskjaer has been given three games to show he should be retained.

United would be wary of removing Solskjaer if there is no suitable candidate available to replace the 48-year-old, and early signs point to him likely remaining in charge for the Premier League clash with Tottenham on Saturday. That is followed by games against Atalanta and Manchester City.

Former Chelsea, Inter, Juventus and Italy boss Antonio Conte has been linked as a possible successor and is said to be open to the idea; however, Zinedine Zidane would not be interested in the job, according to reports in Spain, where he had two spells in charge of Real Madrid.

Solskjaer's disappointment after the Old Trafford defeat was plain, as he said: "I have never felt any worse than this. This is the lowest I have been. I accept the responsibility. That is mine today and it is mine going forward.

"I do believe in myself and I am getting close to what we want at the club. The results lately haven't been good enough. Hands up. Next week is Tottenham away. Then Atalanta. Then Man City. We have to go into this with the right frame of mind."

In July, Solskjaer signed a new three-year contract at United, and the club backed him as Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane joined during the transfer window.

He has an average points-per-game record of 1.83, which is the third highest in United's Premier League history. In that respect he only trails his predecessor Mourinho (1.89) and the long-serving Ferguson (2.16).

Solskjaer has a 51.89 per cent win record from his 106 Premier League games in charge of the Red Devils to date.

Manchester City had a relatively quiet off-season in the transfer market.

City landed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a big-money move but failed in their efforts to sign Tottenham star Harry Kane following Sergio Aguero's exit.

But the Premier League champions could be more active in the January transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLAN FOR DE JONG SWOOP

Manchester City are plotting a move for Barcelona star midfielder Frenkie de Jong, according to Calciomercato.

De Jong, who also has interest from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, signed a five-year deal with Barcelona effective from July 2019, tying him down to 2024.

The 24-year-old Netherlands international has made 11 appearances in all competitions this season and is yet to score.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims Manchester United have made no official proposal for former Chelsea and Inter boss Antonio Conte yet amid doubts over the future of Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Sunday's 5-0 rout at the hands of Liverpool. Zinedine Zidane and Ajax's Erik ten Hag are also possible options.

- Manchester United's wantaway Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek is preparing to make a January move with Voetbal International claiming he has swapped agents. EvertonNewcastle United and Juventus are all interested in Van de Beek, per Metro.

Paris Saint-Germain will switch their attention to Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso if they cannot secure a move for Manchester United's Paul Pogba, reports Calciomercato. Pogba has also been linked with Juve and Real Madrid.

Newcastle and Juve are contending to sign Barca forward Ousmane Dembele, according to Sport. Dembele is set to exit Barca at the end of this season and his agent has reportedly been in touch with both clubs about a move, while Liverpool and United are also possible destinations.

 

Manchester United's 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool could prove to be the beginning of the end, or indeed the final straw, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The team have performed poorly this season, failing to win any of their last five domestic games (losing four) and requiring last-minute winners from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League following an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Young Boys.

Sunday's embarrassing scoreline set a number of unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against Liverpool at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Solskjaer only signed a new three-year deal with an option for an additional year in July, but disappointing results have sparked speculation about the Norwegian's future.

If Solskjaer is indeed replaced, who might take his spot and be charged with guiding United back to the top? Stats Perform takes a look at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Conte seems, in many ways, to be an ideal appointment for United. For starters, the Italian is a free agent, having left Inter after winning Serie A last season – breaking Juventus' nine-year grip in the process and ending the Nerazzurri’s long wait for a league title.

The first three of those nine consecutive league titles for Juventus were won by Conte himself, who took a Bianconeri side that had not won the Scudetto since their revoked success in 2005 and established an era of dominance, going undefeated in the league in his first season (2011-12) and setting the Serie A points record (102) in his third.

His achievements in Italy are coupled with experience and success in England, winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017 (racking up an impressive 93 points) and claiming an FA Cup the year after.

Conte does have a reputation for being a volatile coach, but his track record of titles will surely be tempting for United, who have not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

However, former United defender Gary Neville does not think the ex-Italy coach is a good fit for the club, telling Sky Sports: "Conte's available but I wouldn't bring him to Manchester United. I wouldn't bring him here now. I don't think Antonio Conte is a fit for Manchester United."

Zinedine Zidane

Another free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May and he remains available.

Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role.

The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as an upgrade on Solskjaer.

He has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. 

 

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous two names on this list, but has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first-ever FA Cup last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.

He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside.

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.

However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.

Never say never, but this deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off given the timing.

 

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag has impressed in his time in the Netherlands, winning two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before falling going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag and are four points clear at the top of the league once more this season, beating title rivals PSV 5-0 on Sunday.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who has also been linked with Newcastle United – would be willing to leave mid-season.

Luke Shaw admitted there is something "going wrong" at Manchester United following their 5-0 home Premier League defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side suffered the biggest defeat to their fierce rivals since 1895 as they lost a league match at Old Trafford by five or more goals without scoring for the first time in 66 years.

Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and two goals from Mohamed Salah meant United trailed by four goals at half-time of a Premier League game for the first time, before Liverpool's Egyptian star  completed his hat-trick in the second period – the first treble scored by a visiting player at Old Trafford since Ronaldo for Real Madrid in 2003.

Paul Pogba was sent off just 15 minutes after being introduced as a substitute to compound a truly miserable day for United fans, some of whom booed their side off at half-time and did not stay for the second period.

Solskjaer described it as his "darkest day" as United manager and there is now significant pressure on the shoulders of the Norwegian, who has overseen five defeats and just three wins in their most recent nine matches.

Shaw, United's players' player of the year last season, is one of several players to have endured a poor run of form and the England left-back believes now is the time for everyone at the club to reflect and take action.

 "We are extremely disappointed, it is not good enough, and it hurts a lot," he told MUTV. "I think football is obviously a team sport, we are in it together and we are all together. But I think, as individuals, we need to take responsibility for some of the actions tonight.

"Personally, that is of course why I am here, I am not hiding inside. I know I was not at my best tonight, I know I was not good enough, and of course, I will take some responsibility for that. 

"It is something that we shouldn't allow. We are at one of the best clubs in the world, one of the biggest clubs in the world, playing at our home stadium in front of all these fans. It shouldn't happen. 

"We should be much better in these games and especially in key moments. We had a big chance in the first minute or so. If that goes in, maybe we could be looking at a different game, but that is not to blame anyone. I am not here to blame individuals. It is a team game.

"I just want to thank the fans because 5-0 down is never easy for them and, of course, it is not easy for us, but they stuck with us, they carried on singing and they could have easily left the stadium. We would have totally understood that with the way we performed and the scoreline, but they stuck with us, they kept on singing and we really appreciate that. I can only apologise for the performance.

"I know we can better, I know we have to be better. I think it is not just us as players. The whole club needs to have a look at ourselves to see what went wrong and what is going wrong. We need to reflect on that and we need to do something about it.

"It is not good enough for the standards this club sets. We should be challenging for leagues and for trophies. We haven't been doing that for a while now. It is not what this club expects. We all want to be doing that but with performances like that, there is no way we can be doing that. We have to be honest, we have to be honest with ourselves in the changing room, speak about it."

Shaw felt the Liverpool defeat had been on the cards given the standards of United's recent performances, saying his side have become far too easy to play against.

"It's ourselves we need to look at first and foremost in the mirror. Are we doing everything right and preparing right for the games in ourselves?" he said to Stadium Astro.

"We have the tactics and how the manager wants us to play. At times, we're too easy to play through against. You look at the first goal, it can't be possible that they can have three running through in the first five minutes. We need to be more compact, we need to be better.

"This result was coming. In past games where we've won, we haven't been at our best. We felt that inside the dressing room and today we have to reflect and we have to move on from this because it hurts.

"I think we all know when we're at our best we're capable of playing well. It's not just a team, it's individuals who are not at their best. Me, myself, I'm not. I need to look at myself, see what I'm doing wrong and focus on that.

"At times in the game, we're far too easy to play through against, not just today but it's been a number of games now where it's been happening bit by bit and we can feel that in each game. 

"It happened today and, against a great team like Liverpool, they're going to punish us and they did."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said "the last thing I want to be is in Solskjaer's shoes" as he showed sympathy for his Manchester United counterpart following Sunday's 5-0 Premier League humbling at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United endured a dark day in Manchester, where the embattled Red Devils were embarrassed as Liverpool ran riot on enemy turf.

Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick against United, while Naby Keita and Diogo Jota were also on target for Liverpool – who led 4-0 at half-time before Paul Pogba came off the bench and was sent off within 15 minutes to add to the hosts' misery.

United have only lost by a larger margin against Liverpool in October 1895 when the Reds beat them 7-1 at Anfield, while it was their largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home as pressure mounts on under-fire boss Solskjaer.

"Oh yeah, of course," Klopp told reporters when asked if he had sympathy for Solskjaer as Liverpool moved within a point of leaders Chelsea and United dropped to seventh and eight points off the pace.

"I said it before, the last thing I want to be is in his shoes in that moment, but that's just how it is.

"In these moments when you lose a game, when you lose a derby especially, it happened to me as well, you don't want to go out there in the mixed zone and give all the interviews and answer all these questions. So, for sure, it's not a nice night, so yes of course [I have sympathy]."

Liverpool became only the second team in English top-flight history to win consecutive away games by a margin of five-plus goals without conceding themselves, after United in February-March 1960.

Klopp's Liverpool have scored 19 goals in their first five away matches in the Premier League this season. In English top-flight history only two sides have scored more after five away games – Manchester City in 2011-12 (20) and United in 1907-08 (20).

On whether the result represented one of the greatest days of his career, Klopp – a Champions League, Premier League and Bundesliga winner – added: "I didn't think about it, yet. It's a good day, a really good day and I don't want to be disrespectful. I have no idea, but it's a big one. We know that.

"Obviously after the game I got told that never happened in the long history of Liverpool Football Club; this group always wanted to write their own little chapters for the big, big history book of this club.

"This one was a little one tonight, a little chapter. People will talk about it in the future, 100 per cent, because it will not happen very often, if it happens again at all. We saw the game as well and we know we were lucky in two or three situations where United could have scored in the first half. I think they should have scored the first one, but that doesn't make our performance [any less], that’s just how it is.

"In front of the goal, in the last third, we were exceptional. We were clinical, we were ruthless, our high press was outstanding, we really won balls in great areas, the formation was top and all these kind of things you want to see as a coach, worked out really great.

"The difference is now that you usually don't score with each situation you have pretty much, but that's what we did and why we were 4-0 up at half-time.

"Second half, early 5-0 and the red card, game over, so then just control it and try to get home healthy. I am not 100 per cent sure that worked out, well it didn't work out obviously because Millie [James Milner] is injured and Naby as well. We have to see how serious it is, it is very painful, so we will see. We will only know tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he retains the backing of the board and believes he is "close" to getting the club where they want to be despite a demoralising 5-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool.

Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick at Old Trafford after setting Naby Keita up for the opener, with Diogo Jota making it 2-0 inside 13 minutes as United slumped to their heaviest-ever home defeat in this fixture.

United have lost three and drawn one of their last four Premier League fixtures, slipping to seventh in the table – eight points behind league leaders Chelsea after nine games.

However, Solskjaer remains confident in his position and in his ability to bring glory back to United, but accepted responsibility for the result.

"I have heard nothing else [other than having the backing of the board]," Solskjaer said in a news conference. "I am still thinking about tomorrow’s work. Of course, they are all low.

"I have never felt any worse than this. This is the lowest I have been. I accept the responsibility. That is mine today and it is mine going forward.

"It is the worst feeling. The feeling that we are getting to where we want to be has been there. Last few weeks we have hit a brick wall. We have conceded too many easy goals. That is a concern. This is the lowest I have been. I accept the responsibility. That is mine today.

"I do believe in myself and I am getting close to what we want at the club. The results lately haven't been good enough. Hands up. Next week is Tottenham away. Then Atalanta. Then Man City. We have to go into this with the right frame of mind.

"The time is now. United have had difficult times before and we have always bounced back. We have started this season badly. We have hit a brick wall. We need to start building results – and get clean sheets.

"I am sad, disappointed, angry of course. My emotion doesn't matter apart from what do we do to improve and make sure it doesn't happen [again]. This could go either way, we could sulk or we could come together."

Leaky defence Solskjaer's downfall?

Solskjaer has the second-worst goals against per game ratio of any head coach to have taken charge of United in the Premier League.

In 106 league games under the Norwegian, the Red Devils have shipped 120 goals – an average of 1.13 per match.

Only under David Moyes (1.18 per game) was United's defence more porous, with no other manager averaging a goal conceded per game or more.

Solskjaer's points per game stands at 1.83, with his United recording 55 wins, 29 draws and 22 defeats. 

United's goal difference in the league under Solskjaer does stand at 71, which ranks third in the division since he took over in December 2018. However, that is some way behind the totals of Liverpool (134) and City (168).

Solskjaer has also overseen two of United's five heaviest defeats in the Premier League, Sunday's game (which was United's joint-worst home loss in terms of the margin of defeat) and last season's 6-1 loss to Tottenham.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer labelled Manchester United's 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool as his "darkest day" as manager of the club.

United's poor start to the season hit a potential nadir on Sunday as Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford.

Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick against United, with Naby Keita and Diogo Jota having put Jurgen Klopp's team in control inside the opening 15 minutes.

Paul Pogba came on from the bench for a calamitous 15-minute cameo in which he conceded possession for Salah's hat-trick goal before seeing red for a lunge on Keita, though United at least managed to keep the Reds out while down to 10.

Having seen their team go into half-time 4-0 down for the first time in a Premier League game, United's fans let their feelings known as the players and Solskjaer walked off, and the atmosphere hardly improved after the final whistle.

Solskjaer appears to be under mounting pressure, with United relying on last-minute winners to see off Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League in recent weeks, while they have lost three of their last four top-flight matches, conceding 11 times and scoring just three in return.

"It is not easy to say something apart from it is the darkest day I have had leading these players," a dejected Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"We were not good enough individually and as a team, can't give a team like Liverpool those chances but unfortunately we did.

"The whole performance was not good enough. We created openings, they had chances and they have been clinical. The third goal decided the game."

Asked who had to take responsibility, Solskjaer replied: "It is mine, that is it. The coaching staff are very, very good, brilliant.

"I choose the way we approach the game, we were not clinical enough and gave too much space and when you give good players space they score."

United decided to try and press Liverpool from the off, a tactic that swiftly proved naive, though Solskjaer did not regret his approach. 

"We are at home, playing against Liverpool, we have gone here over the last two and half years and had a similar approach to high press but today they scored on their chances I think as United we should always try to stamp our authority on the game," he said.

"That fourth goal is when you go into half time with having to score one every 15 minutes. I know these boys are capable of it. The fourth, that was probably game over.

"You can look at last season we lose to Spurs 6-1 this is worse, miles worse. This is miles worse for me as a Manchester lad. I've just got to say we have to get over this as quickly as we can."

Solskjaer knows questions over his future will only increase, but he insisted he is in no mood to give in.

He added: "I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now.

"It is going to be a difficult one. The players will be low but there's loads of characters there. We know we are rock bottom, we can't feel any worse than this. Let's see where we take it."

Jurgen Klopp closed in on a milestone win in sensational style as Mohamed Salah's hat-trick inspired Liverpool to a 5-0 rout of Manchester United.

Matters look bleak for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the pressure mounting on the United manager, who saw his team torn to shreds on Sunday.

Salah scored the Reds' final three goals, having teed up Naby Keita's opener, while Diogo Jota grabbed Liverpool's second. Paul Pogba's red card merely compounded United's misery.

It was a momentous day for Liverpool and a dismal one for United. Stats Perform looks at the records that tumbled in an historic result.

 

Klopp closes in on double century

Taking charge of his 229th match as Liverpool manager in the Premier League, Klopp claimed his 198th victory as Reds boss in all competitions. 

If including shoot-out victories, which Opta do not, Klopp has in fact already hit that mark.

He has also overtaken Rafael Benitez and Gerard Houllier (including matches as co-manager with Roy Evans) as the manager to have taken charge of the most games for the club in the top flight.

Klopp's team look well set for a title tilt. They have scored 19 goals in their first five away matches in the Premier League this season.

In English top-flight history only two sides have scored more after five away games – Manchester City in 2011-12 (20) and United in 1907-08 (20).

Salah in dreamland

It has been some season so far for Salah, as he moved onto 10 Premier League goals with a gift-wrapped hat-trick.

He is the first away player to net a hat-trick at Old Trafford since Ronaldo Nazario did so for Real Madrid in April 2003, while he is only the second player to do so for Liverpool, after Fred Howe in 1936.

Salah's goal tally in the Premier League now stands at 107, three clear of Didier Drogba as the highest-scoring African player in the competition's history.

The 29-year-old has scored in 10 consecutive appearances for the Reds in all competitions. Since he joined the club prior to the 2017-18 campaign, he is the only Premier League player to score in 10 successive matches.

 

Solemn times for Solskjaer

United were 2-0 down inside 15 minutes for the first time, and 4-0 down at half-time for the first time in any Premier League game.

The Red Devils have only lost by a larger margin in this fixture in October 1895 when Liverpool beat them 7-1 at Anfield. It is their largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home.

Liverpool are only the second team in English top-flight history to win consecutive away games by a margin of five or more goals without conceding themselves, after United in February-March 1960.

It is the first time United have lost by a margin of at least five goals at Old Trafford without scoring since they slumped to a 5-0 defeat to Man City in 1955.

Pogba's calamitous cameo 

Pogba had a 15-minute cameo to forget. He replaced Mason Greenwood at half-time, but was trudging down the tunnel on the hour mark after lunging in on Keita, who had to be taken off on a stretcher.

He had 20 touches, made 16 passes and was robbed of possession in the build-up to Salah's hat-trick goal. It was one of five occasions he gave the ball away.

The France midfielder's red card was the 17th in Premier League matches between Manchester United and Liverpool – the only fixture with more red cards in the competition is Everton vs Liverpool (22).

Cristiano Ronaldo also struggled to have an impact, despite a disallowed goal. The 36-year-old previously featured in a 5-0 defeat during his time at Real Madrid, to Barcelona in November 2010.

Manchester City's 6-1 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford, 10 years and one day ago, was probably the worst defeat ever endured by Alex Ferguson.

In the club's modern history, even in the post-Fergie wilderness, there had never quite been an occasion to match it, even accounting for Tottenham's victory by the same scoreline last year.

There has now.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the hero of Barcelona 1999, knew a thing or two about creating spectacles as a player. As a manager, he still has the knack.

Manchester United 0, Liverpool 5. Has there ever been a more abject, visceral demolition of the 20-time English champions in the Premier League era? Has it ever looked this bad?

A goal down after five minutes and a missed Bruno Fernandes sitter. A hat-trick for Mohamed Salah, the first in the league away to United since QPR's Dennis Bailey in 1992. A disallowed goal for Cristiano Ronaldo. A 15-minute cameo for Paul Pogba that ended in a red card. A total of 35 home goals conceded in 2021, their worst such return for 60 years. The biggest win for Liverpool over their rivals since 1925. And hardly a whiff of surprise about the whole sordid thing.

As former midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tweeted at full-time: "A devastating day for all Man Utd supporters and the club but it didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a surprise."

City's 6-1 win in October 2011 was a watershed moment; a giant step on the way to their first Premier League title. But it was still an aberration: after all, United finished level on points that season and responded by winning the trophy back a year later.

This was more in keeping with Liverpool and City's 3-0 wins over David Moyes' United. Those games, too, were barely contests, barely surprising given United's problems, and barely left the manager anywhere to hide.

The Glazers have stood by Solskjaer, resolutely, perhaps misguidedly. Watching United lose 3-1 at Anfield was enough for them to sack Jose Mourinho three years ago. If they tuned in to Sunday's match, if they saw homecoming hero Ronaldo eclipsed by Salah and 'legacy fans' leaving in droves at half-time, can they afford not to act?

United have played nine games since the fanfare of Ronaldo's goalscoring return against Newcastle United. They have won three of those, drawn one and lost five.

That's bad enough, but consider the circumstances. Only a last-second penalty save from David de Gea ensured the 2-1 win at West Ham; only Ronaldo's injury-time intervention salvaged an undeserved victory over Villarreal; only Tom Davies' strange decision to pass to the offside Yerry Mina, rather than shoot, meant Everton left Old Trafford with only a 1-1 draw.

Fine margins have been the difference between United's form being considered merely unacceptable, and the alarms this embarrassment will sound. Nobody who has watched them across those nine matches could seriously claim what happened against Liverpool could not have been foreseen.

The rain-soaked turf was a glistening canvas depiction of everything wrong about Solskjaer's team – if we needed reminding.

There are the collective tactical concerns, as seen for Naby Keita's opening goal, when Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan-Bissaka gave up their positions to press Liverpool with all the ferocity and endeavour of an apathetic tortoise.

There are the individual mistakes, some of which would be incomprehensible for amateurs, never mind those playing for the world's most supported football club. Keita and Salah each scored with the United back five blocking not their route to de Gea's goal, but back to the halfway line. Before Diogo Jota's tap-in, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, defenders who cost a combined £110million, shied away from a loose ball as though under duress to keep dirt off the sponsor logos on their shirts.

United have committed eight errors leading to shots this season, the joint-most in the Premier League along with Wolves. But where Bruno Lage's men counter that through tackling – only eight sides have won more – United have won a league-low 61. When it comes to making amends for these mistakes, the Red Devils right now are either not interested or not capable.

Salah completed his hat-trick early in the second half, Ronaldo had a fine goal of his own disallowed by VAR, but many United fans were no longer in the stadium to watch. The loyalty to Solskjaer's legacy as a player has kept him immune to the kind of vitriol seen in the final days of Moyes, or Louis van Gaal, or Mourinho, but little served up by any of Fergie's successors was quite as horrifying as this.

United's daunting run of games since the October international break has yielded one win, two defeats, five goals scored and 11 conceded. With Tottenham, Atalanta and City to come next, you'd expect them to lose all three.

This is Manchester United's new normal: a total, shameful mess.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often seems destined to fail at Manchester United, and this season the stakes appear higher.

With media scrutiny mounting, Solskjaer's future looked bleak at half-time against Atalanta on Wednesday, with United 2-0 down and staring at a fifth defeat in eight games across all competitions.

"There is pressure all the time. There is pressure on me of course but we've been through this before and come through it stronger as a team and as individuals," Solskjaer said before that match.

His players came good. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose arrival seems to have presented more questions than answers regarding Solskjaer's tactical set-up, rescued a vital three points in the Champions League, but Sunday brings an altogether different challenge, with Liverpool in town.

How the managers match up

Prior to the clash with Atalanta, Solskjaer had taken charge of 162 games at United, with Jurgen Klopp having hit that figure at Liverpool back in September 2018.

Four months earlier, Liverpool had slipped to a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Strengthened by the arrivals of Alisson and Fabinho, they would go on to win the European trophy in 2019 – Klopp's first piece of silverware at Anfield. A Premier League title followed in 2019-20.

Yet looking back over the pair's first 162 matches at the helm, it is Solskjaer who can boast the better win percentage (54.9 compared to 53.1).

While Klopp recorded fewer defeats in those games (31 to 37), Solskjaer won 86 times, three more than the Liverpool boss managed.

Klopp did, however, take Liverpool to two finals in his first half-season in charge, only to lose both, in the EFL Cup and Europa League. His third final, and the last within his first 162 games, was the defeat to Madrid in Kiev.

Solskjaer, comparatively, has reached just one final – United going down on penalties in the Europa League showdown against Villarreal at the end of last season.

United scored 299 goals under Solskjaer before Wednesday, from an expected goals (xG) value of 269.6, suggesting the level of chances they have created has not quite matched the finishing. That xG figure outperforms Liverpool's xG of 259.9, though the Reds netted 327 times.

Defence has been a major cause for concern this term, but overall Solskjaer's United kept 59 clean sheets in 162 games prior to tackling Atalanta, conceding 168 goals.

An expected goals against (xGA) of 185.2 suggests United's goalkeepers had plenty to do, though Liverpool only kept 62 clean sheets in the same amount of matches under Klopp, conceding four more goals (172).

Alisson's signing in July 2018 has certainly proved key, given Liverpool's xGA from Klopp's first 162 games was 135.3, suggesting goalkeeping may have been responsible for some of the Reds' issues.

On the right track?

"We've progressed over the years since I was [first here for] half a season. Sixth, third, second. You can see the progress, development and improvement. This season we still want to improve. We've signed players that have raised expectations," Solskjaer said before the Atalanta game.

While the underlying metrics may back up Solskjaer's point, digging deeper presents a more worrying picture.

United's goal tallies have improved, yet Solskjaer's crux is clearly in defence. His team allowed 685 shots last season, 70 more than in 2019-20 from the same number of games (61), with their xGA leaping from 59.2 to 71.5.

Klopp's side, on the other hand, managed to get Liverpool's defeats down from 12 to nine (in both 2016-17 and 2017-18) to seven in his third full season.

As Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah hit their stride, Liverpool's goal totals ticked up, from 87 to 92 to 129, and their highest xGA value in this period was 49.5, way down on United's worst figure.

While there may be similarities in results, Klopp used the first half of his Liverpool spell to implement a style of play, and lay the groundwork for European and domestic triumphs.

Solskjaer will insist he has a vision of what his incarnation of United should be, and though his record against other 'big six' Premier League sides is decent (W13 D10 L10), Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 league games, the longest current run in the top four tiers of English football.

Away from Anfield, they have scored at least three goals in each of their last five Premier League games. United have not kept a clean sheet at home in nine top-flight matches and, despite the calibre of players brought in during Solskjaer's tenure, the old rivals look worlds apart.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted it is wrong to criticise Cristiano Ronaldo's work ethic as he launched a staunch defence of the Red Devils superstar.

Ronaldo was the hero again on Wednesday, scoring the match-winning goal in a thrilling 3-2 Champions League win over Atalanta, having trailed 2-0 at half-time.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored six goals in eight matches across all competitions since returning to United from Juventus, though there has been some scrutiny of the 36-year-old amid the club's struggle for form.

Ronaldo has been criticised for not working hard or defending enough and as United prepare to host bitter Premier League rivals Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer backed the all-time leading scorer in men's international football.

"First of all, he's fit enough to do it still. But he's played this game 500 times before," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"He's been in that situation so many times, and it's one of them: 'I know what [team-mate Luke Shaw] is going to do, I know where I need to be and I'm still capable of doing it'. That's key.

"He's changed his position from being a wide forward into more of a box centre forward because he knows how to score a goal, he wants to score goals. When he first came, with all the tricks and the pace, he had the hunger - and he's still got the hunger.

"He's done what every player has to do throughout his career, you have to evolve."

Solskjaer added: "When Cristiano came to us, he'd not had a proper pre-season at Juventus and you can see he's gradually getting fitter and fitter.

"Now he feels: 'I'm getting towards the level I know I can be'. Wednesday night, the focus, the physical effort, the run… he had the highest amount of sprints, the longest sprint distance, the longest high-intensity distance.

"We talk about players who run a lot, he does as much as them. If people want to criticise his work ethic, that's completely wrong. You see him running down the channels, which he has to do as a centre forward.

"He does the work that we want him to do for the team. Of course, the team, when you have a player like him, you've got to get the best out of him, but he knows he's part of the jigsaw of that team and he's been brilliant."

United – sixth in the table and four points behind second-placed Liverpool – have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings against the Reds (D6 L3), losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season.

Solskjaer's United shipped four goals in a home Premier League game for only the fifth time in last season's encounter with Liverpool. The last team to score four-plus goals in consecutive top-flight visits to Old Trafford was Burnley in 1961-62 (won 4-1) and 1962-63 (won 5-2).

United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest streak without one since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

Meanwhile, United have only picked up eight points from their last seven home Premier League matches (W2 D2 L3), winning twice as many points in their previous seven at Old Trafford (16 – W5 D1 L1).

Cristiano Ronaldo says a period of adaptation for Manchester United is only natural after the club made three huge signings in the transfer window.

The Portugal forward also insists he has no plans to quit international football to prolong his club career, with the 36-year-old still one of the most prolific players in world football.

Ronaldo has scored six times for United since making his sensational return from Juventus, a move that came 12 years after he initially left Old Trafford for Real Madrid.

The signings of Ronaldo, his former Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane and Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho had United fans dreaming of a first Premier League title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

But going into Sunday's crunch home clash with Liverpool, United are sixth in the table and five points behind leaders Chelsea, with Ronaldo's compatriot Bruno Fernandes an injury doubt.

Ronaldo has netted memorable late Champions League goals in the recent wins over Villarreal and Atalanta and he remains patient despite the pressure that is growing on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"We are in a moment in my opinion that Manchester do a few changes; they buy me, they buy Varane and Sancho," he said to Sky Sports.

"The adaptation will take time, even the system of the game that we play, but I think step by step we have to put it in our mind that everything is possible.

"I don't speak only about my individual stuff, I put the collective in first place. It's more easy to win individual stuff.

"Everyone should know their role. I know my role in the team, in the club - my role is to score goals, to help the team with my experience and know-how to understand the game.

"If everyone is thinking like that, sacrifice for the team, we will be a better team. We have fantastic supporters behind us, fantastic stadium, fantastic team, so we have to carry on."

United have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D6 L3), losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season, and will hope Ronaldo helps them to secure a different outcome this time.

Ronaldo recently became the highest scorer ever in international football and does not see the need to stop playing for Portugal, with the World Cup just over a year away.

He compared his drive to play on for his country with his club career, where he still pursues success despite holding the record for most Champions League goals (137). 

Asked about retiring from internationals, Ronaldo replied: "But why? I think it's not my time yet. It's not what people want, it's what I want. 

"It's when I feel that I'm not capable to run, to dribble, to shoot, if the power is gone - but I still have that stuff so I want to continue because I'm still motivated.

"It's the main word - [motivated] to do my stuff, to make people happy and my family happy and the fans and myself. 

"I want to put the level even higher. You speak about Portugal but in the Champions League I have the most goals, the most wins, assists - everything. 

"But I want to carry on. I like to play football. I feel good to make people happy."

United need to improve their form at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Going into the Liverpool match, Solskjaer's men have only picked up eight points from their last seven home matches and are without a clean sheet in nine, their longest league run without one since 1971.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has commanded Manchester United to douse the blazing brilliance of Liverpool's "on-fire" forward Mohamed Salah.

The United manager knows Salah is capable of turning up at Old Trafford on Sunday and making a game-winning contribution, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games this season.

Six of those goals have come in Salah's last four games, including Champions League doubles against Porto and Atletico Madrid, and the Egypt international has only failed to net in one game this term: the 2-0 win over Burnley in August.

Although Solskjaer said he would side with Cristiano Ronaldo in any debate about who is the best player in the world, his admiration for Salah shone through.

"I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique and his goalscoring record has been fantastic and he keeps on scoring," Solskjaer said.

"But that being said, Salah at the moment is on fire. You've seen some of the goals he's scored lately. We know we need to be at our best to defend against him.

"Players like this don't come around very often and we've got to enjoy them when we watch them – from afar, not on Sunday, that's too close for me."

Wonder strikes against Manchester City and Watford in Liverpool's last two Premier League games have illustrated how well Salah is performing, and he sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart.

Along with those goals in Europe, that lift him into double figures, Salah has found a consistency this season that makes him Liverpool's number one threat.

"So we've got to do a good job, but not just against him," Solskjaer said. "I'm a big admirer of the frontline they've had for many, many years now, with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows?

"They're players you have to focus on and you've got to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet.

"When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool at the moment, they're on a great run of form, with some individuals' skills that you cannot almost defend against. But as a team we need to be compact, we need to be aggressive, we need to go out there and give every drop of nous and knowledge, strong mindset and physical energy.

"It's going to take everything to get results against the best teams in Europe and the world, and Liverpool are one of them at the moment."

Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season, netting twice in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat before hitting the fourth as Liverpool won 4-2 in the Premier League.

No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against United, while the Merseyside giants have not earned consecutive league wins at Old Trafford since January 2002.

Should Jurgen Klopp's men follow up last season's Premier League success at United with another victory, they would hold a seven-point cushion over their great rivals.

United have a disappointing recent record in league games against Liverpool, winning just one of their previous 10 encounters. This game has often failed to live up to expectations in recent seasons, with six of the last 10 ending in draws, and Liverpool coming out on top in the other three.

Solskjaer said he hoped the 3-2 win over Atalanta on Wednesday signalled "the end of a bad period for us" and that it might be "the start of something big". That is bold talk, given United have lost three of their last four domestic games, including a 4-2 setback at Leicester City last Saturday.

Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 in the Premier League, with the turmoil that plagued them at the start of the year banished and replaced by an optimism they can challenge for a second title in three years.

United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest such run since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

Although United finished ahead of Liverpool last season, Solskjaer was realistic enough to recognise it was injury chaos in the Anfield ranks that blunted the 2020-21 challenge from Klopp's men, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sitting out most of the season.

"They're one of the teams we're trying to chase. What they've done in the last four years is something we're striving towards and [trying] to go past them," Solskjaer said.

"We ended above them last season, they had a very bad spell of injuries, so now they're back to their best."

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