Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Last week the inevitable was finally confirmed, when Manchester United announced that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s temporary tenure at the club had been made permanent.
After his arrival as caretaker in January, the Norwegian immediately cleared away much of the negative residue left by his curmudgeonly predecessor Jose Mourinho, simultaneously taking the first steps to restoring some of United’s traditional attacking values and placing himself in pole position for the manager’s job long-term.
Freed from the weight of Mourinho’s repressive tactical philosophy and belittling man-management, United won 14 of their first 19 games under Solskjaer, launching themselves back into top 4 contention and advancing in spectacular fashion on the continent in the process.
With 7 league games left to negotiate this season, a Champions League Quarter Final double header with Barcelona still to play, and the summer transfer window fast approaching, Solskjaer will be bracing himself for an intense first few months as United’s new permanent manager.
Ole’s at the wheel, but can he keep steering United in the right direction?
Check out the latest Premier League news, match previews, betting tips and special offers here.
The Race For a Top 4 Finish
When Ole Gunnar Solksjaer arrived at Old Trafford as interim boss on December 19th last year, United were languishing in 6th place in the Premier League, 11 points off Chelsea in 4th and 13 points behind Tottenham Hotspur in 3rd.
However, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s forward-thinking, positive instruction, United have won 11 from 14 in the league, drawing twice and losing just once, to devour the points difference between them and the division’s Champions League qualification places.
United’s remarkable turnaround has allowed them to cut the gap to Spurs in 4th to just 1 point, while a 3rd place finish is also possible, with Arsenal holding only a 2-point advantage on Solskjaer’s charges.
While Spurs are still favourites to land 3rd spot despite their recent shortcomings, United look to have the edge on Arsenal for the Premier League’s final UCL qualification position.
Crucially, the Gunners’ must play 5 of their remaining 7 Premier League fixtures away from the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have had a severe case of travel sickness this season, winning just 5 of their 14 matches on the road this term – in fact, Arsenal are ranked 10th in the Premier League’s away results table in 2018/19..
United’s own Premier League run-in has a healthy dusting of tricky looking fixtures, however, they close out the season with 4 games out of 6 at Old Trafford. United have been beaten only once at the Theatre of Dreams in the league this season, and Solskjaer will be banking on home advantage making the difference come May.
United take on Wolves at Molineux on Tuesday – check out our match preview for the game with more predictions and betting tips here.
Who will finish as United’s Top Scorer?
Since Solskjaer’s arrival, the improvement in individual performances at United has been miraculous, with players like Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, blossoming with new artistic licence and freedom to create.
After Martial and Rashford’s latest strikes against Watford on Saturday, United now have 4 players on double figures in the Premier League for the first time since the 1995/96 season.
Romelu Lukaku tops United’s Premier League scoring charts with 12 goals ahead of Paul Pogba on 11, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford trail their teammates with 10 goals each.
Each member of United’s goal-getting quartet will be desperate to finish as the club’s top scorer this season, though Marcus Rashford looks the best placed player to claim that individual accolade.
Rashford has started 12 of United’s 14 Premier League games under Solskjaer, ousting Romelu Lukaku as the club’s first choice centre forward in the process.
The big-money Belgian has been a relatively peripheral figure since January, starting just 6 times in the league in total, while his attacking teammate Anthony Martial has been in the starting XI for United on just 7 occasions during the same period.
New favourite Rashford scored 7 of his 10 league goals this term after Solskjaer was installed as United manager, and we’re backing him to take advantage of his extra minutes between now and the end of the season to finish as the club’s leading marksman.
Check out our feature on the race to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot here.
United’s Summer Business
With the 2019 summer transfer window opening in just 89 days, Solskjaer and his recruitment staff will already be busy behind the scenes, identifying possible targets and making the first moves towards securing their signatures.
However, sorting out the future of one of his current players could be one of Solskjaer’s most pressing issues.
During the international break, French World Cup winning midfielder Paul Pogba openly flirted with the idea of playing for Real Madrid, after Los Blancos manager had Zinedine Zidane had already been similarly candid about his admiration for the player just a few days before.
Pogba has been one of United’s most impactful performers this season, though many supporters fear that the midfielder’s commitment to the club is far from absolute.
The situation has all the makings of a protracted summer saga, though nobody would be surprised to see Pogba swap Manchester for Madrid before September 1st.
In terms of incomings, United are in need of renovation and strengthening in almost every department. Several key areas of improvement have been earmarked, with right back, central defence and midfield all said to be priority positions for fresh faces.
However, the links between United and Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation Jadon Sancho have been generating the biggest buzz.
The newly capped England international’s reputation has exploded vertically at a rate of knots this season, and rumours suggest that Solskjaer has made Sancho his number one target to fill the gaping hole in the right-hand side of United’s attack.
Sancho won’t come cheap however, and already valuations north of £100m have been bandied about in the press. Understandably, Dortmund have made it clear that their intention is to hold on to the exciting 19-year old for at least another season, though a 9-figure offer would certainly help loosen their grip on the youngster.
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