Solskjaer under renewed focus as United aim to halt three match barren run

Manchester United have not only failed to win their last three English Premier League matches but also failed to score; 0-2 at Anfield, 0-2 to Burnley and 0-0 to Wolves both at Old Trafford. As a result they have not been able to close to the gap on the fourth position presently held by their next opponents Chelsea whom they face on Monday night. Ten points separate ten chasing teams below the fourth spot and based on worst start since 1989 United are certainly not the favourites to clinch it.

Two different stories emerged recently linked with Molde, Solskjaer's former club. The desperation to land a striker meant Solskjaer turned to his own ex-business partner, friend and agent Jim Solbakken whose associates deal with both Joshua King and Odion Ighalo. United had signed just one player in keeper Anders Lindegaard from Solbakken under Sir Alex Ferguson and now this deadline day transfer does raise concerns as the tenure of Solskjaer at Cardiff City paints a grim picture of a manager unable to come to terms with task at hand. Solskjaer to his credit has avoided the mistakes in recruitment that was a catastrophe at Cardiff City which included three Norwegian players who were also Solbakken clients. The second issue was the case of Solskjaer persisting with a player Babacar Saar while awaiting trial. Whatever the issue with Glazers handling of United they as a club will not like to be associated with an entity under cloud. Will that lead to Tommy Docherty like situation all over again remains to be seen.

The media adviser of Ed Woodward the ex-reporter for tabloid The Sun, Neil Ashton was spotted at Griffin Park where Mauricio Pochettino was also in attendance to watch Leeds United play. Rumour-mill was in overdrive coupled with above stories to paint a doomsday scenario for Solskjaer. That pressure was eased greatly by the news of UEFA banning Man City from Champions' League for next two seasons and a fine of 30 million Euro's which means that if United were to finish fifth they could still play in Champions' League next season thus saving Solskjaer's job. Europa League Cup has too many good teams left that makes a United win improbable. The English FA should also investigate if the titles won by Man City since the take over by Sheikh Mansour are legitimate. The 2011-12 win by City over United on goal difference under Sir Alex Ferguson and 2017-18 win by City over United with a massive 19 point difference under Jose Mourinho. Twenty times league Champions might become Twenty two! This ban reminds of the early days of last century wherein an alert United under shrewd Ernest Mangnall lured City's star players Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbull who had helped them win the 1904 FA Cup were banned subsequently to aid the Red Devils win their first League and Cup titles in 1907 and 1908.

Solskjaer has three wins and a draw against Chelsea including the opening day 4-0 win of this season and earlier beat an under strength blues at the Bridge in the League Cup. United have a chance to do a double over their bogey team in Premier League for the first time since 1987-88 when it was the old First Division. Solskjaer confirmed he will not play Scott McTominay, Eric Bailly or Timothy Fosu-Mensah nor long time absentee Paul Pogba and of them the loss of McTominay will be huge that might tilt the match in blues favour. Marcus Rashford is out injured.

Usual back five, Fernandes-Fred with Pereira-Mata-James and Martial likely the starting XI. Ighalo off the bench for his debut as Martial moves to left in the second half. Thus far Solskjaer has played all his signings straight into first XI to underscore his point about poor quality of the side he inherited - Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes. Without Rashford to run in and supply a pass or a one-two, Martial seems aloof hence Solskjaer will be tempted to start with Ighalo and revert Martial to left of front three. Ighalo will push Martial to deliver or step-in himself. Greenwood in his breakthrough year has exceeded expectations whenever has has come off the bench while he is still in his developing years in terms of physique to start the match.

First match of this season and the first match after the first winter break, both against Chelsea! This break isn't like the international one where players disperse to national teams and then lose focus on return to their respective clubs but instead its renews the focus with training sessions away from media glare like United's at Marbella, Spain. Solskjaer got his wish in January transfer window with two signings and not Frank Lampard that increases the expectations despite the blues shrewdly signing Hakim Ziyech for the summer instead of comparatively costly and inexperienced Jadon Sancho. United need to learn and tie down their overseas targets now for the summer thinking ahead especially how slow they negotiate a player transfer. Commercial deals do not take that much time given Woodward's specialty! That once again proves the need for a Director of Football at United.

Hope Tommy Docherty is present to watch his two great sides battle it out as he hasn't been invited to Old Trafford since 2014. United are six points behind Chelsea and if they lose this match top four will be almost out of sight increasing the pressure on Solskjaer that Luke Shaw tried to deflect on players.

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