Ole Gunnar Solskjær ‘relieved’ window closed as Manchester United look ahead | Football

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To listen to Ole Gunnar Solskjær sitting before a larger than usual audience to preview Manchester United’s season was to witness a man who conspicuously did not want to say anything that could add to the sense – once again – that the club could have had a much more productive summer.

Solskjær wanted to make the point that the negativity swirling around Old Trafford was not shared by himself or his colleagues. Every question was seen as a potential trap. He even declared he had no problem whatsoever with Romelu Lukaku despite the striker in effect abandoning all sense of duty to train with Anderlecht before finalising his move to Internazionale. Was he disappointed with what had happened? Solskjær smiled and answered the question, choosing his words very carefully, in a way that did not really answer the question.

To give him his due it was easy to understand the manager’s thinking at a time when many United supporters are questioning why the club have not overhauled the squad in the way that was anticipated. On several occasions it was put to Solskjær that the club’s fans were dissatisfied and each time he tried his best to remain upbeat, doing his best perhaps to sound positive before Sunday’s home game against Chelsea.

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All the same, it was difficult not to come away with the feeling that this was simply a case of a manager putting on a brave face for the television cameras bearing in mind United have restricted themselves to the signings of Dan James, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, while losing Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini from midfield and Lukaku from attack without recruiting replacements.

Lukaku, for example, may not have been the most refined striker Old Trafford has ever seen but he did manage 42 goals in two seasons. He was also the team’s only one-goal-per-two-games man whereas Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial average more like one every four appearances.

“Of course, Rom has a good record and stats,” Solskjaer said. “He’s one of the top number nines around when you want to play with that kind of striker. I’m very confident we’ll get goals from Martial, Rash, Dan James will create, Jesse Lingard will get more. Mason Greenwood’s pathway would have been a lot more difficult if we had another forward there. I believe Mason is going to be playing and involved a lot and he’s going to score goals.”

Alexis Sánchez also got a mention, though only because a journalist asked about a player who is in danger of becoming the forgotten man of Old Trafford. Could Sánchez be the man to fill the void? Maybe in time, Solskjær replied, pointing out the Chilean was four to five weeks behind the other players in terms of fitness and had been restricted to one appearance in United’s colours this summer – a behind-closed-doors game at the training ground.

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Solskjær also had to tackle the issue of Paul Pogba after a summer in which the World Cup winner made it clear he wanted to leave. “Always the same,” the manager said. “He’s been great. I’ve always said, every time I’ve been asked about Paul, that when he comes in, plays, trains, he’s absolutely fantastic.”

It sounded very much like Solskjær was trying to tell his audience there was no problem whatsoever. Was there frustration when the transfer window closed? “It was a great feeling of relief,” he said, straight-batting another one away. “Now it’s done we’re looking forward and I’m delighted with the three we’ve signed.”

As for the negative headlines and the general complaint that United’s summer dealings are going to leave them considerably short of a title challenge, Solskjær said: “That’s not the feeling inside the club and the feeling of the fans I’ve met. There are always going to be fans out there wanting to sign players, that’s part and parcel of being here. The players are here now and have been shown that trust that we believe in them.

“We want to put that [negativity] right and the only way is by playing good football, showing the team we want to be, the style we want to play. Our fans, when they see that intention, have always been supporting the team. Within the team and the club we’re feeling very confident and don’t feel that negativity you’re talking about.”

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As for Lukaku, Solskjær was asked about Gary Neville’s comments that the Belgian had not acted professionally. “It was time for Rom to go because I think we got a good deal. He’s happy, so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be. I have always had a good relationship with Rom, open and honest. We’ve spoken to each other openly and frankly and there is no issue between me and Rom.”



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