Peter Schmeichel says the "Manchester United DNA must be brought back into the equation" when the Red Devils appoint a long-term successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Club legend Solskjaer parted ways with United on Sunday in the wake of a humbling 4-1 defeat at Watford, a result that marked their heaviest defeat by a promoted side since September 1989.

The pressure had been growing rapidly on Solskjaer, particularly since a 5-0 humiliation at home to Liverpool last month – a match in that represented their largest margin of defeat against the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League – while they were also outclassed in the derby by Manchester City prior to the international break.

United have already confirmed an interim appointment will be made until the end of the season as they search for a permanent successor, with Solskjaer the fourth boss to have been sacked since Alex Ferguson stepped away from the dugout in 2013.

Schmeichel, who collected five Premier League titles with United between 1991 and 1999, says the club must focus on appointing a manager who understands the ethos of the club and not someone who will seek quick fixes.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Schmeichel said: "It's a very sad day. It's the fourth time we've had to sack a manager. Clearly, there's something not going right at the club – hopefully the fifth time we'll get the right person in, get the club organised.

"Everyone is throwing names about. I want United to get back to being a winning club; not to win one trophy and [leave] two years later – someone to win the Premier League and Champions League every year, or compete for it.

"Build the club up. When one player finishes we want there to be a transition. I want someone there for the long-term who is willing to work with the academy, who is prepared to wait six years for a player to break through, not someone who just has a big network to pluck the best players from around the world.

"The Man United DNA needs to be brought back into the equation, and I think Ole was close to doing that."

Schmeichel, who was part of the same team as Solskjaer for United's famous Champions League final comeback win over Bayern Munich in 1999, also suggested his former team-mate has been hampered by decisions above him.

"I feel really sorry for Ole," he continued. "I think personally he's done a very good job. We only see what happens on the pitch, which is of course the most important thing.

"He's had to work with a big squad he hasn't picked. It's difficult for a manager to do that. I think he's done well, especially behind the scenes to organise the club. But then that's football – you don't get a lot of time. Hopefully he'll bounce back, and hopefully he's okay."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique moved to end speculation over interest from Manchester United as he questioned reporters whether it was April Fools' Day.

United announced on Sunday that they were parting ways with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-1 humiliation at Watford – their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

Pressure had been building on Solskjaer since a 5-0 crushing by Liverpool on October 24, which was United's largest margin of defeat at home to the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Saturday's demolition, which followed a home humbling against Manchester City prior to the international break, proved the final nail, and United are now in the market for a new boss, at least on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Reports have linked the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Brendan Rodgers and, later, Luis Enrique to the role, with Cristiano Ronaldo said to want the former Barcelona coach to join him at Old Trafford.

However, the Spain boss has quickly quashed any talk of a move as he expressed his desire to stay with the national team, who qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Sweden in the final Group B fixture.

Questioned on the speculation by La Sexta, Luis Enrique replied: "Is it April Fools' Day today?

"I am already in the biggest team in Spain, the national team.

"We are 5,000 players, I have the players I want. What's bigger than that? The future changes in 15 seconds. Now we have to enjoy ourselves, and I am happy where I am."

Former midfielder Michael Carrick is set to take temporary charge of United, who travel to Villarreal in Tuesday's Champions League clash before visiting Chelsea on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's near three-year reign as Manchester United manager was officially brought to an end on Sunday.

The Red Devils parted company with the Norwegian, who was appointed on an initial caretaker basis in December 2018, on the back of Saturday's 4-1 loss to Watford.

United's fifth defeat in seven Premier League matches leaves them with 17 points from 12 games – their second-lowest tally at this stage behind the 16 accrued in 2018-19, also under Solskjaer.

As United begin the search for a fifth permanent boss since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind Solskjaer's trophyless tenure.

 

SECOND ONLY TO FERGIE

Solskjaer was given the United job on a permanent basis following an impressive three-month spell as interim boss, which started with a thumping 5-1 win over former side Cardiff City.

That was the first of 109 Premier League games for Solskjaer, meaning only legendary figure Ferguson (810) has taken charge of more matches in the competition than the Scandinavian.

For comparison, predecessor Jose Mourinho managed 93 Premier League games during his time at United, while Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were at the helm for 76 and 34 games respectively.

In all competitions, the Watford humbling was Solskjaer's 168th match – 24 games more than next-best Mourinho was given – with the iconic striker departing with a win rate of 54.2 per cent.

That is a better return than Moyes (52.9 per cent) and Van Gaal (52.4 per cent) managed, but below Mourinho's 58.3 per cent.

SOLSKJAER'S FLAT SEMI RECORD

Despite being given more time than each of the four permanent bosses before him, Solskjaer was the only post-Ferguson manager at Old Trafford to fail to win a trophy of any sort, with even Moyes walking away with a Community Shield.

Solskjaer reached five semi-finals but won just one of them, seeing off Roma in last season's Europa League before falling to a penalty shoot-out loss at the hands of Villarreal in the final.

United also reached the last four of the EFL Cup last season, where they lost to Manchester City, while the 2019-20 campaign saw them fall one step short of the final in the Europa League (defeated by Sevilla), FA Cup (defeated by Chelsea) and the EFL Cup (defeated by Man City).

 

BEST OF THE REST

Solskjaer did at least improve United's league position year-on-year after finishing sixth in his first half-season in charge, the Red Devils ending third in 2019-20 and then as runners-up to Man City last time out, albeit with a 12-point margin on the champions.

Indeed, the 197 points garnered by United since December 22, 2018 is bettered only by Man City (244) and Liverpool (245), though the points difference only goes to highlight the true gulf between United and the Premier League's two leading clubs over the past three years.

THEATRE OF NIGHTMARES

Regardless of their lack of silverware, United had some high points under Solskjaer and recently set an English top-flight record for the number of away games without defeat.

Between February 2020 and September 2021, Solskjaer's side went 29 league games without losing on their travels, surpassing Arsenal's previous high of 27 games in a run that ended in September 2004.

In fact, two of United's longest away winning runs in all competitions came under Solskjaer's management, winning nine in a row (Dec 2018 – March 2019) and 10 in a row (June – October 2020) across two separate periods.

It has been a different story at Old Trafford, though, a ground so often considered a fortress, having lost six Premier League matches on home soil last season – only in 2013-14 (seven) have they lost more times in the competition, while the 28 home goals shipped was their most ever.

 

WOEFUL DEFENSIVE RECORD

After an inconsistent start to the 2021-22 campaign, the beginning of the end for Solskjaer was arguably the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool on October 24.

That thrashing by Jurgen Klopp's side set several unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against their fierce rivals at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Two of the three occasions United have conceded five goals in a home Premier League game have come under Solskjaer, having also lost 6-1 to Tottenham in October 2020 and 5-0 to Liverpool in October 2020.

United quite simply could not keep out opposition teams, and the 21 goals they have conceded through 12 Premier League games this term is their joint-most alongside the 2018-19 season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can have no complaints about his sacking at Manchester United, which became "inevitable", according to club greats Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand.

Solskjaer was dismissed on Sunday after a stunning 4-1 defeat to Watford in United's first Premier League match since the international break.

Big home losses to Liverpool and Manchester City had already increased the pressure on the 48-year-old.

Although only those two title-winning teams earned more points (245 for Liverpool, 244 for City) than United (197) during Solskjaer's tenure, the Red Devils have only once endured a worse start to a Premier League season.

That was also under Solskjaer, as United earned just 16 points from 12 games in 2019-20, compared to 17 points this term. Their 21 goals conceded at this stage represents their worst mark to date.

Seventh in the table, Neville believes United's announcement Michael Carrick will take temporary charge before the club name an interim manager until the end of the season shows they "don't have a plan".

"This is third time in eight years a manager has been given long-term extension and lost their job a few months later," he told Sky Sports, adding: "You have to ask questions."

But Neville accepts Solskjaer has reached "the end" following a dismal run of form.

"Every decision Ole has made in three years at this club were for best interests of United – he loves the club," Neville said.

"I have no issue with his commitment, but he couldn't get his side to play football in the past couple of months.

"There is a lack of leaders in the dressing room, irrespective of the manager. You hope they can find a second wind, but it didn't happen. Watford mauled them, messed them around, outfought them – when that happens, it spells the end.

"Managers deserve two or three years in the job. Ole can't complain – he's been backed in the transfer window. [David] Moyes had eight months and was kicked out.

"Ole can't complain about time or money afforded. He won't complain, but he'll be massively disappointed. He expected a lot more.

"Why has a club that has been progressing now look as though they can't pass to each other? The back five yesterday, and midfield two, have been together for a number of years. The confidence is just shot.

"Ole will reflect with sadness, but he should be proud with his previous work. He rebuilt the soul after the end of the Mourinho era.

"The players need to sort themselves out. They'll get battered in front of the whole country against Chelsea if they don't sort it out."

Neville added that "performances have been terrible, results have been shocking", describing the Watford display as "wimpish", and his assessment tallies with that of former United team-mate Ferdinand.

"This has been inevitable," Ferdinand told BT Sport. 

He added: "What we saw against Watford was terrible. I'm not surprised [by the news]. I'm disappointed, obviously, in the way the team's performed.

"It's unfortunate for someone like Ole, but it's the way football goes."

Gary Neville has thanked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for "restoring some soul" at Manchester United after the Norwegian's near three-year reign at the club was brought to an end.

United confirmed Solskjaer's departure in a club statement on Sunday, a day on from a 4-1 loss at Watford that the club legend described as "embarrassing".

That defeat to Watford – United's fifth in their last seven Premier League games – proved to be the final straw, with Michael Carrick taking temporary charge of the Red Devils.

Solskjaer, who was appointed on an initial caretaker basis in December 2018, leaves Old Trafford with a win percentage of 54.2 per cent across his 168 games in charge.

That is the second highest of United's four permanent managers since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, behind predecessor Jose Mourinho's 58.3 per cent from 144 matches.

While Solskjaer failed to win any silverware in three seasons at the helm, Neville believes his former team-mate deserves credit for other aspects of his work.

"Thank you Ole. You did us proud," Neville posted on Twitter shortly after Solskjaer's sacking was confirmed.

"The last two months were tough but before that you restored some soul into the club."

Since Solskjaer's first game in charge – a 5-1 win over former club Cardiff City – only Liverpool (242) and Manchester City (244) have collected more points than United's 197.

However, the 17 points United have collected from their opening 12 games this term is their second-lowest tally in the Premier League era, behind the 16 accrued in 2019-20, also under Solskjaer.

United, who are seventh in the table, return to action next Sunday with a trip to league leaders Chelsea.

Manchester United's 4-1 embarrassment at the hands of Watford proved to be the final straw for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils have performed poorly this season, losing five of their past seven Premier League fixtures, with the loss at Vicarage Road their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

Saturday's demolition may have been the final nail, but a 5-0 crushing by Liverpool on October 24 seemed to make Solskjaer's departure a case of when, not if. 

The thrashing by Jurgen Klopp's side set several 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 – including a home humbling by Manchester City since the Liverpool game – have forced the Norwegian out before a Champions League trip to Villarreal.

With Solskjaer through the exit door, Michael Carrick is in temporary charge. But 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.

Zinedine Zidane

A free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The former France star'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.

Zidane has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. And he just may persuade Paul Pogba to stay.

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous name on this list, but he 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 FA Cup triumph 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.

Rodgers has been linked to the post but said this week the reports were "disrespectful" to Solskjaer "when you have a manager in place, a good manager and a good man, who is working hard at the club". He added: "I am here as the Leicester City manager, proud to be here, privileged to be here and fully committed to the players, the club, the ownership. That's about it, all the other noise around that is something we can't control."

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 he 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

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

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag in Europe this term and, ahead of Sunday's game in hand at RKC Waalwijk, are three points behind title rivals PSV after beating them 5-0 earlier in the season.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who was also linked with the Newcastle United job that Eddie Howe now occupies – would be willing to leave mid-season.

Ralf Rangnick

Ralf Rangnick, who is working for Lokomotiv Moscow as their head of sports and development but is better known for his high-pressing philosophy as a coach and his influence on some of the Bundesliga's brightest minds, could be a short-term option for United.

The 63-year-old's managerial career dates back to 1983 when he started in charge of Viktoria Backnang but – despite spells with RB Leipzig, Schalke and Hoffenheim – the German remains relatively unknown outside his homeland.

Rangnick faced United in his time with Schalke, who were defeated by Alex Ferguson's side in the 2011 Champions League semi-final as the Red Devils made their third final in four years.

Manchester United have confirmed the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Saturday's Premier League defeat to Watford.

The pressure has been building on Solskjaer throughout the season, but the 4-1 loss at Vicarage Road – their fifth defeat in seven league matches – proved the final straw.

The former striker's future was reportedly decided during a long board meeting after the match before a mutual agreement over his exit was reached, with Michael Carrick placed in temporary charge.

A club statement released on Sunday read: "Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as manager.

"Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision. While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.

"Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as Manager and our very best wishes for the future. His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a Manager who gave us many great moments. He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.

"Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season."

Solskjaer survived the 5-0 hammering by Liverpool at Old Trafford last month and the 2-0 derby defeat to Manchester City, with a 3-0 win at an out-of-sorts Tottenham and a Champions League draw with Atalanta helping to placate the club's hierarchy.

However, the apathetic nature of the performance against Watford, who started the match just three points outside the relegation zone, was too much to overlook for United co-chairman Joel Glazer, the man who holds final say over the hiring and firing of managers.

The result left the Red Devils eighth in the table with just 17 points from 12 matches, as they failed to beat a promoted side for the fourth game in a row, something that last happened when Solskjaer was a United player back in September 1997. This was also the first time they had taken as few as four points from seven consecutive league matches since December 2001.

United have now lost as many league matches this season as they did in their previous 43 games in the competition. Their two goals conceded in the first half against Watford took their tally this season to 11, the worst such record in the division.

Solskjaer took charge from Jose Mourinho initially on an interim basis and oversaw a marked improvement in performance while dispelling the toxic atmosphere that developed during the Portuguese's final weeks at the club.

He led United to sixth in his first half-season at the helm, before finishing third in 2019-20 and second in 2020-21, while his team enjoyed an English league record run of 29 away games without defeat.

However, he failed to win a trophy, reaching just one final, going down on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League last term.

Manchester United have confirmed the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Saturday's Premier League defeat to Watford.

The pressure has been building on Solskjaer throughout the season, but the 4-1 loss at Vicarage Road – their fifth defeat in seven league matches – proved the final straw.

The former striker's future was reportedly decided during a long board meeting after the match before a mutual agreement over his exit was reached.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it seems, is no longer at the wheel.

Following another drubbing, this time a 4-1 rout at Watford on Saturday, Manchester United have reportedly called time on Solskjaer's tenure.

After a lengthy meeting, the club great is set to be axed.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER TO BE SACKED

Manchester United have agreed to sack manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to widespread reports.

Having already been humiliated by Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City prior to the international break, United's season hit a new low following Saturday's 4-1 rout at lowly Watford.

Amid a worrying slump, The Athletic, Manchester Evening News and Fabrizio Romano claim United have opted to part with Solskjaer amid links to former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport says Raheem Sterling has told Premier League champions Manchester City he wants to join LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Barca and City are among the clubs interested in Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, per Fichajes.

- The Sun reports Newcastle United are looking to sign Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international, who scored twice to sink Milan on Saturday, has been linked with City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head for the signature of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, says Mundo Deportivo. The Germany international is a free agent at season's end. Bayern are also believed to be interested.

Saturday provided no shortage of talking points as the Premier League returned after the international break.

Manchester United suffered another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of Watford, and it will likely be one too humiliation too many for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

There was also a harsh dose of reality fed to Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, as they were given a bruising by Liverpool at Anfield.

But two new managers began their respective tenures with victories, as Aston Villa and Norwich City each hope to enjoy a prolonged 'new manager bounce'.

Below, Stats Perform looks through the pick of Saturday's Opta facts…

Watford 4-1 Manchester United: Writing's on the wall for Solskjaer

Another week, another humiliating defeat for United and Solskjaer – Watford were the latest side to toy with the Red Devils.

United's loss was their biggest league defeat to a promoted side since a 5-1 reverse to Manchester City in September 1989, and it took them to 20 goals conceded this season already.

Only in 2001-02 (11 games) have United conceded 20 or more after fewer than in 2021-22 (13 games), while this is the first time Watford have ever beaten them in successive home league games.

United were still in with a shout at 2-1 until Harry Maguire's first red card in 121 appearances for the club, but it all fell apart thereafter.

It looks set to be the result that costs Solskjaer his job.



Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea: Foxes intimidated by pacesetters again

Most would have expected Chelsea to get a proper examination of their title credentials here – who knows, maybe this was a real statement.

Either way, Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Leicester City with great authority, or so it seemed.

In reality, Leicester actually have a dreadful record against teams starting the day top of the table. Granted, the side at the summit is usually fairly handy, otherwise they wouldn't be setting the pace, but Leicester's run is particularly poor.

They are now winless in 17 league games against the team that started the day top of the table, conceding 40 goals at a rate of 2.35 per game.

In the process of winning here, Chelsea moved level with Tottenham and Manchester City with the most away wins (five) at the King Power Stadium in the top tier.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Gunners come crashing back to reality as Reds continue domination

Although Arsenal came into the weekend in good form, having not lost any of their previous 10 matches in all competitions, there was more than a hint of predictability about their Anfield defeat and the manner of it.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal (37) than any top-flight side has against another opponent since October 2015, which in itself is a fairly damning indictment of the Gunners' fall from grace.

Mohamed Salah got Liverpool's third goal of the game, which was also their 100th against Arsenal in the Premier League, a haul they can only better in meetings with Newcastle United (105).

It was the fifth time this season Arsenal have failed to score in a league game, with only Norwich and Watford (both seven) having a worse record.

The Gunners aren't "back" yet.

Aston Villa 2-0 Brighton and Hove Albion: Gerrard off to winning start

Steven Gerrard began his tenure as Villa boss in positive fashion, seeing off Graham Potter's Brighton.

It was a largely unspectacular bow for Gerrard but Villa eventually got the job done with two goals late on, making the Liverpool legend only the club's third permanent manager to begin with a win in the Premier League.

Ollie Watkins was the man to get the first goal of the Gerrard era, taking his tally to a club-high 17 strikes since the start of last season in the top flight.

There was also a first assist of the season for Ashley Young, who set up a Villa goal for the first time in 10 years and 189 days.

Norwich City 2-1 Southampton: Smith lifts Canaries off the foot the table

The man who made room for Gerrard at Villa, Dean Smith, also began the latest chapter of his career with a victory.

Norwich initially trailed to Che Adams' goal, but they turned things around as the Canaries came from behind to win a Premier League game for the first time in five-and-a-half years, or 36 matches.

But if they were going to end that run against anyone, the Saints would have been a good bet – since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge in December 2018, they have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (67).

Grant Hanley got Norwich's winner, his first Premier League goal in nine years and 324 days since netting for Blackburn Rovers against Manchester United in December 2011.

Bruno Fernandes has refused to single Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out for blame following Manchester United's humiliating 4-1 defeat against Watford on Saturday, insisting it is a collective failure.

Josh King, Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Bonaventure helped themselves to goals against the Red Devils who had Harry Maguire sent off after receiving a second yellow card.

The result means United have won just once in their last six Premier League games, losing four and conceding 12 goals in that run, with pressure intensifying on Solskjaer's position as manager. Indeed, a board meeting is rumoured to have taken place in the wake of the loss.

Fernandes however, instead directed the blame for the side's poor form at the team as a collective unit.

"It's everyone's fault," Fernandes said to beIN Sports after the game. "It's not the coach, it's not one player or two, it's everyone. Everyone has to take responsibility because everyone has to do better, everyone. Not one of us can say 'I'm doing well'."

Fernandes feels United only turned up for one half of the game and described the first half as "sloppy", while also highlighting the Red Devils' defensive issues.

"We [played like a wounded animal] but just for one half and that is not enough in these kinds of games in the Premier League," Fernandes continued. "It's not enough playing just for one half.

"Watford are a good team, they are aggressive, they have quality up front, and if you give them chances, you will concede goals. That has been a problem for us for many games and I think the attitude in the second half was there but in the first half, it was too sloppy from everyone.

"We didn't go on the front foot, we didn't tackle, we didn't win our duels and against these teams, you have to do that. You have to try to keep the same intensity as them and after that, show your quality, show why you play for Manchester United."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims Donny van de Beek will soon "reap his rewards" at Manchester United.

Van de Beek joined from Ajax for a reported £40million last season, but chances have been sparse for the 24-year-old at Old Trafford.

The midfielder has started just four games for United in the Premier League, his last coming against Wolves in May, while appearing just 21 times in the top-flight for his 528 minutes.

United supporters greeted Van de Beek's introduction off the bench against Manchester City two weeks ago with rapturous applause, highlighting the faith they have in the Netherlands international.

Solskjaer joined in with the praise for Van de Beek as the Norwegian pinpointed his work ethic ahead of Saturday's clash with Watford.

"I think our fans can see a top professional and a very good player," Solskjaer said. "And Donny is one that has never ever let himself or his team or his family down by his attitude.

"His approach to the game and training is spot on. I can't fault him, and he knows that.

"I keep in contact and I speak to him and communicate with him because it's not easy when players are not playing as much as they think they should do, and Donny thinks he should be playing more and he will be involved.

"I can't say anything other than he's another example of what to do when you're not in the team and he'll reap his rewards."

Van de Beek was looking to feature at Vicarage Road as United attempted to bounce back from four losses in six league games, as many as they had in their previous 40 matches in the Premier League.

But the Red Devils were expected to be without Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, who has a tendon injury.

"Unfortunately he felt something in one of the last sessions before City and he had to pull out of the game because he didn't feel right. We've got to give him time to feel right," Solskjaer added.

"I can't give you a timescale if it's tomorrow or Tuesday or Chelsea. We'll see how he is, that's important."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledged Jesse Lingard's disappointment at a lack of playing time following rumours suggesting contract talks with the midfielder had collapsed.

Various publications claimed on Thursday that discussions over a new Manchester United deal for England international Lingard had broken down.

The 28-year-old's contract is due to expire at the end of the season, and United seemingly look set to lose a valuable asset on a free transfer.

The speculation has stoked criticism of United's decision-making, given the club almost certainly could have fetched £25million for Lingard in pre-season after he enjoyed a scintillating loan spell at West Ham.

Between his Hammers debut in February and the end of 2020-21, Lingard scored nine times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by just five players.

Only one of those was a penalty, leaving him with a non-penalty expected goals (xG) outperformance of 4.7, the second best record in that time.

That form earned him an England recall, and while he was ultimately left out of their Euro 2020 squad, Lingard had given himself a solid platform to build on upon his return to United, but Solskjaer has not rewarded him with the playing time he feels he deserves.

"Jesse is training really hard, really well and he's ready and available for me," Solskjaer said ahead of the trip to Watford after being asked about the rumours around Lingard's contract talks.

"He's disappointed he's not playing more. In regards to contract situations and talks, I've not been in them very closely.

"For me, Jesse is still a big part of this squad and important, and he gives quality to the group every day.

"Every player wants to play as much as possible, with Jesse and all my players.

"They're working really hard, I can't fault the attitude when they're called upon. Jesse has done well when he's played for us, and with the games coming up, he's going to play a part."

In that respect, the busy schedule over the next eight weeks could potentially see United turn the situation around.

They have 11 fixtures in all competitions before the end of the year, a hectic run that will undoubtedly lead to some squad rotation.

Lingard will be hopeful of capitalising on that given he has played in just five Premier League games this season.

Despite a lack of game time, his tally of two goals is bettered by only Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood, all of whom have played more than 10 times as many minutes as Lingard's 63.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes being under pressure at Manchester United is normal and vowed his players would produce a strong response against Watford.

United travel to Vicarage Road in the Premier League on Saturday amid huge speculation over Solskjaer's job security.

Demoralising home defeats against main rivals Liverpool and Manchester City have increased criticism of the United manager, with his team already nine points behind leaders Chelsea after 11 matches.

But asked if he felt safe in his job, Solskjaer replied: "Yeah, the players, the staff, myself, the club - we are working to one goal which is to improve and get better results.

"When you lose a game you are always disappointed and under pressure – we have been communicating openly and honestly. 

"The fans are still supporting the team and the club, they have been through this period and backed the team through the rebuild.

"There is one game that matters and this week has been really good for training.

"Form and performances haven't been good enough. We can do better, should do better and it's down to performances on the day. I am sure we will see a reaction."

Solskjaer believes a lack of confidence is hindering United but reminded his players that consistent runs of form are not too far in the rear-view mirror.

Watford have lost 12 of their 14 Premier League matches versus United - against no side have they lost more – and Solskjaer is optimistic going into the latest meeting.

The 48-year-old added: "We've been through periods like this before. Our away form, we have just gone 30-odd games and lost one. 

"Last season we turned it around and went on a run of 20-odd games and one defeat and that is the kind of run we need to get back.

"Human beings, sometimes you hit the post and it goes out, sometimes it goes in. That can affect the mood and atmosphere.

"We have got to focus on getting the start of the match right. It has been a very determined and focused group this week."

Solskjaer revealed he had spoken with the club hierarchy during the international break but stressed that was normal.

He added: "Of course, I've been in contact and communicated with the club as I do all the time anyway.

"It has been a long international break but it's one that we've utilised to our benefit, we feel it's been a good response from the players and we are ready for the Watford game.

"We have had a chance to work with a lot of players on quite a few things because of how many international drop-outs we had.

"The players love playing football and winning. When we left each other 13 days ago no one was happy when they left Old Trafford. But then there is another game."

Injured France duo Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane will be out for some time, but Solskjaer was optimistic about the rest of his squad.

"I've got to say this week has been really positive," added the Norwegian. "Of course, there are a couple of doubts with illnesses and small niggles.

"Paul is out still for a while, Raphael is out for a while still but apart from that, players will be coming back, call it in the near future - some this weekend and some during the week." 

Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford have been involved in training this week, while Edinson Cavani is doubtful to feature.

United are winless in three Premier League matches against promoted teams after drawing against West Brom, Leeds and Fulham last season. Not since 1997 have they gone four such games without a victory.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insisted the club's "top priority is success on the pitch" amid growing doubts over manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future as the Red Devils struggle this season.

Solskjaer is under mounting pressure after United were outclassed 2-0 by neighbours Manchester City in the Premier League derby prior to the international break, having been humiliated 5-0 at the hands of Liverpool last month.

United have lost four of their past six games as the Red Devils already find themselves nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea ahead of Saturday's trip to Watford.

Woodward – who is due to leave his role at the end of the year – backed Solskjaer as he announced United's latest financial results.

"While these financial results today demonstrate our resilience through the pandemic, our top priority is success on the pitch," said Woodward.

"The manager, players and everyone at the club are determined to achieve that objective."

United have lost four of their last six league games (W1 D1), as many as they had in their previous 40 in the competition (W24 D12). Four points is United's fewest over a six-game spell in the Premier League since November-December 2015 under Louis van Gaal (three).

Meanwhile, United are winless in three Premier League matches against newly promoted teams, drawing against West Brom, Leeds United and Fulham last season. They have not gone four in a row without a win against such opposition since a run ending in September 1997 that saw them fail to beat Sunderland, Derby, Leicester City and Bolton.

 

 

 

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