The five urgent issues facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United
The manager is calling for patience but faces a number of issues
The manager is calling for patience but faces a number of issues.
Paul Pogba's future
Pogba has publicly declared his desire to quit Old Trafford and the France midfielder’s agent, Mino Raiola, is busy trying to engineer a move to Real Madrid or Juventus. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clear both that Manchester United would not be bullied into selling and that there had been no bids for their record £89 million signing.
"We don't have any bids for our players," the United manager said. "Paul and most of our players have long contracts. We are Man United, we don't have to sell players."
Solskjaer had no intention of venting any frustration he may feel towards Pogba or Raiola and made a point of praising the player's attitude for the club's pre-season tour of Australia. "Paul's never been a concern for me," he said. "He's a top bloke, a great professional. We've got a few years left on his contract."
Solskjaer even suggested there was an "agenda" against Pogba after footage of the Frenchman momentarily clashing with team-mate Jesse Lingard during a walk around Perth drew attention. "It's portrayed as a fight and I know you're here to sell stories but there are no problems between the boys at all," he added.
The disquiet among United fans over the squad and recruitment has been gradually building, with many directing their anger at the Glazer family, the club's deeply unpopular owners. Solskjaer's talk in April about making "ruthless" decisions and a "survival of the fittest" cull has yet to materialise, with the squad that finished sixth in the Premier League last season, 32 points behind champions Manchester City, remaining largely unchanged.
Wales winger Daniel James and England Under-21 right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka have arrived for a projected £68 million but only Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have departed and new contracts have been awarded to fringe players such as Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata.
Supporters want to see more incomings and outgoings but Solskjaer urged patience and warned that United were not going to be held to ransom. "I can see your point but doing business … is not going to be a quick fix overnight," he said. "We don't have to sell and don't have to overpay. You want the right players at the right price."
United are so far balking at Leicester's £90 m valuation for England centre-half Harry Maguire and are reluctant to pay more than £25 million for Newcastle midfielder, Sean Longstaff.
Similarly, they are determined to recoup their £75 million plus outlay on unsettled Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku.
Fitness and discipline
Anyone who has witnessed United's training sessions since they returned for pre-season will have noticed a marked step up in intensity and, while improved fitness alone will not solve the team's problems, it is a start.
Solskjaer has been holding double, two-hour sessions on some days and Marcus Rashford says the benefit is already being felt. "We've worked harder than ever to try to put things right," the England striker said. "The sessions have been quite tough but that's what we need."
Solskjaer is also trying to instil greater discipline and officials previously confirmed he would speak to Lingard over a crude holiday video that the forward posted on Snapchat.
Rashford, who was on holiday in Miami with Lingard at the time, defended his team-mate, who had not intended to post the video. "People have to understand that he was enjoying his holiday and it was a mistake," Rashford said.
Solskjaer believes Lukaku, Rashford and Anthony Martial each have 20 goals per season in them. Yet with Lukaku hoping to secure a move to Inter Milan, Rashford knows there could be an even bigger onus on him, but has warned he is never likely to be an out-and-out centre-forward, such as Harry Kane or Sergio Aguero.
De Gea's contract
United have been involved in a stand-off with David de Gea for the past year but, having recently made the goalkeeper an improved offer worth in excess of £350,000-a-week, Solskjaer is optimistic an agreement will be reached. (© Daily Telegraph, London)