What the papers say

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Updated: 37 min 25 sec ago

Solskjær says some Manchester United players need ‘reality check’

6 hours 14 min ago
• ‘There is no hiding place,’ he warns in call for better attitude
• ‘I’ve spoken to individuals and Martial is one of them’

Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes some of his Manchester United squad need a “reality check” before a potentially pivotal few weeks for the club.

A 3-0 defeat at Barcelona in midweek saw United knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, which meant they have lost five of their past seven matches.

Related: The Premier League teams’ ineptitude index 2018-19

Related: Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

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The Premier League teams’ ineptitude index 2018-19

7 hours 57 min ago

It’s awards time for the most incompetent teams in the Premier League, from those who can’t take throw-ins to others who revel in needless yellow cards

Welcome to the Guardian’s fifth annual index of ineptitude, a catalogue of calamity, a prospectus of the piss-poor.

As each season draws to a close, the best moments, players and teams of the year are all charted, celebrated and cheered. Which means that what comprises most of the rest of the Premier League experience is missed.

Related: The Premier League teams’ ineptitude index 2017-18

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Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

9 hours 30 min ago

Hard for Manchester City and Spurs to serve up another classic, Everton can cause trouble for Manchester United and Chelsea fans should lap up Eden Hazard

Before the run-in even started, Liverpool looked like they might be consumed by nerves during it, so tentative were their performances against Leicester, West Ham and Manchester United. But they battled hard to avoid disaster, and now that the run-in is actually under way, are playing like a team who expect to be champions, either riding their good form or maintaining the patience and composure necessary to force the issue. Against both Tottenham and Chelsea, they could easily have flapped in frantic, frenetic style, but instead were able to increase intensity without sacrificing control, which brought them the goals that they needed. Or, put another way, Cardiff are in deep, deep trouble. DH

Related: Mauricio Pochettino says he feared ‘massive’ emotional toll’ of losing to City

Related: Premier League players to boycott social media in protest at racist abuse

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Manchester United condemn online racist abuse directed at Ashley Young

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 15:28

• Young the latest player to be targeted on social media
• ‘We are working to identify the individuals involved,’ say United

Manchester United are working towards identifying the people who racially abused Ashley Young on Twitter following the club’s Champions League quarter-final second leg defeat by Barcelona.

The 33-year-old defender was targeted after Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss, which saw United exit the competition 4-0 on aggregate. He is the latest in a series of players to receive abuse on social media platforms. Tranmere Rovers called in police at the weekend after MK Dons striker Chuks Aneke was targeted in the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 League Two defeat at Prenton Park.

Related: From parks to Premier League: the shocking scale of racism in English football

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Manchester United squad verdict: who should stay and who should go?

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 12:54

After defeat to Barcelona, Ole Gunnar Solskjær admitted he faces a rebuilding job at Old Trafford. How many players he needs exactly is open to debate ...

David de Gea The Spaniard’s howler for Lionel Messi’s second goal on Tuesday was not his first this season but it would still represent good business for Manchester United if their No 1 signed a new deal in the summer. Verdict Stay.

Related: United’s season risks chastening end after Solskjær’s promise of fresh start

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United’s season risks chastening end after Solskjær’s promise of fresh start

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 12:48
Defeat to Barcelona highlighted glaring weaknesses and a Champions League return requires a swift upturn in fortunes

As a chastened Manchester United turn back to the Premier League, where their aim of securing a top-four finish will be tested by the visits of Manchester City and Chelsea, at least they can dispense with the nostalgia bordering on superstition that came with Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s mission to rejuvenate his old club.

Barcelona 2019 did not remotely resemble Barcelona 1999, except in the fact that United trailed for most of the game. The more exact parallel was with Barcelona 1994, where Alex Ferguson’s United were humbled 4-0 by the team of Hristo Stoichkov, Romário and a certain Josep Guardiola in a group game defeat that left the English champions unable to advance into the Champions League knockout stages.

Related: Solskjær must chuck out Manchester United chintz or Ole years are doomed | Barney Ronay

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Football quiz: when English clubs meet in Europe

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 11:00

Spurs are facing an exotic trip to Manchester in the Champions League. How well do you remember other all-English ties?

Who were the first two English clubs to meet in a major European final?

Chelsea and Manchester United

Tottenham and Wolves

Liverpool and Aston Villa

Blackburn and Arsenal

Nottingham Forest won the European Cup in the 1978-79 season. Which English team did they beat in the first round?

Arsenal

Derby County

Liverpool

Leeds United

Manchester City picked up their first (and so far only) European trophy by winning the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1970. Which English club beat City in the semi-finals the next season and went on to win their title?

Liverpool

Chelsea

Everton

Southampton

Liverpool reached the Champions League final in 2005 thanks to a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the semi-finals. Which Spaniard scored the only goal of the tie?

Antonio Núñez

Xabi Alonso

Fernando Morientes

Luis García

Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties in the Champions League final in 2008. Which United player missed in the shootout?

Paul Scholes

Anderson

Cristiano Ronaldo

Michael Carrick

Arsenal went unbeaten in the league in the 2003-04 season, but they lost to Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals. Who scored Chelsea’s late winner in the second leg at Stamford Bridge?

Mario Melchiot

Scott Parker

Robert Huth

Wayne Bridge

Who was the last English manager to knock an English club out of the European Cup?

Steve McClaren

Harry Redknapp

Tony Barton

Brian Clough

Liverpool beat Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate in the Champions League quarter-finals last season. Who was the only English player to score a goal in that tie?

Jordan Henderson

Raheem Sterling

James Milner

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Liverpool and Manchester United have only met in one European tie. Who was the United manager at the time?

Matt Busby

Ron Atkinson

David Moyes

Louis van Gaal

Who was the last English manager to win a European trophy?

Terry Venables

Bob Paisley

Bobby Robson

Roy Hodgson

1 and above.

More of a Scottish football fan?

2 and above.

More of a Scottish football fan?

3 and above.

That's a decent(ish) score. Enjoy the big match

4 and above.

That's a decent score. Enjoy the big match

5 and above.

That is an impressive score. Enjoy the match

6 and above.

That's an impressive score. Enjoy the big match

7 and above.

That is a very impressive score. Enjoy the big match

8 and above.

You are a football genius. Enjoy the big match

9 and above.

You are a football genius. Enjoy the big match

0 and above.

More of a Scottish football fan?

10 and above.

You are a football genius. Enjoy the big match

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Lionel Messi’s one-man show draws curtain on Manchester United dreams | Sid Lowe

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 09:14

Barcelona’s talisman broke a personal hex and exorcised last year’s demons with yet another mesmerising big-game display

Ernesto Valverde said Lionel Messi had left Old Trafford “dazed”. Six days later, it was Manchester United’s turn. Chris Smalling’s challenge had left him with a bloody nose but on a night where he sometimes seemed to be playing a different sport, he was the one who delivered the knockout blow. He did so early in the second leg, two goals inside 20 minutes enough to end this as a contest – taking Barcelona into the semi-finals for the first time in four years – and turn it instead into a performance, a show, an exhibition of superiority. Ultimately there was little United could do but at least they are not alone.

Messi’s victims are many, and one of them is him. He is a victim of his own ability, of over a decade spent making the extraordinary routine, normalising genius. There are 880 words in this article, but maybe two are enough: Lionel and Messi. For years there’s been a severe shortage of superlatives, all those adjectives inadequate, and this was another of those nights. Sometimes the simplest judgment is the best: Messi is just better.

Related: Solskjær must chuck out Manchester United chintz or Ole years are doomed | Barney Ronay

Related: Messi magic and De Gea blunder ease Barcelona past Manchester United

Related: Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United: Champions League player ratings

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Football transfer rumours: Ryan Sessegnon to Tottenham Hotspur?

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 08:43

Today’s rumours are keeping it Reggaeton

While few, if any Fulham players have covered themselves in anything approaching glory during their disastrous return to the Premier League, Ryan Sessegnon is one of several who are unlikely to be with the club when they return begin their Championship campaign next season. Assorted tabloids are reporting the left-sided 18-year-old is likely to be in big demand this summer, with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham all believed to be interested in luring him away from Craven Cottage. It is the club from the new White Hart Lane who are believed to have the whip-hand and with just one year left on his contract, Sessegnon would almost certainly be available for considerably less than the £50m he was valued at a year ago.

Related: Manchester United facing rebuilding job after Barcelona defeat, admits Solskjær

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Solskjær admits Manchester United face 'rebuilding job' after Barcelona defeat – video

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 01:25

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted 'the next few years are going to be massive' for Manchester United as they seek to re-establish themselves among the European elite.

United were comprehensively outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League losing 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, their heaviest aggregate defeat from a two-leg European tie in the club’s history.

Speaking after the match, Solskjær said: "We know there’s work to be done. I’ve said all along this isn’t going to change overnight and the next few years are going to be massive to get to the level of Barcelona and other teams."

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Solskjær must chuck out Manchester United chintz or Ole years are doomed

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 00:15

Four members of the back five run ragged in the defeat at Barcelona were brought to the club by Sir Alex Ferguson

On the stroke of half-time Lionel Messi did something awful, but also quite funny, to Phil Jones. Messi had spent the previous 45 minutes picking up the ball in half-spaces and running in a series of vengeful repetitions at Jones and Chris Smalling.

Related: Manchester United facing rebuilding job after Barcelona defeat, admits Solskjær

Lionel Messi

How do you defend this man?! ‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/LhWWJgLESi

Twitter: follow us at @guardian_sport

Related: Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United: Champions League player ratings

Related: Messi magic and De Gea blunder ease Barcelona past Manchester United

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Manchester United facing rebuilding job after Barcelona defeat, admits Solskjær

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 23:09
• Manager acknowledges ‘there is work to be done’
• ‘I’ve said all along this isn’t going to change overnight ‘

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted Manchester United are facing a rebuilding job after watching them suffer their heaviest aggregate defeat from a two-leg European tie in the club’s history.

Related: Messi magic and De Gea blunder ease Barcelona past Manchester United

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Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United: Champions League player ratings

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 22:24

Lionel Messi starred for Barcelona with more routine genius , while it was a difficult night for Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young

Marc-André ter Stegen 7 For 89 minutes he was an 11th outfield player – but then he made a beautiful save from Alexis.

Related: Messi magic and De Gea blunder ease Barcelona past Manchester United

Related: Matthijs de Ligt strikes decisive header for Ajax to overcome Juventus

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Messi magic and De Gea blunder ease Barcelona past Manchester United

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 22:00

If there was one tiny glimmer of consolation for Manchester United it was that they encountered Lionel Messi on one of those nights when he appeared to belong to a different species. Messi loves the big occasion and, once again, he used the Champions League to provide yet more evidence for the already bulging portfolio that tells us nobody, not even Maradona, has ever taken football artistry to a higher level.

Related: Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United: Champions League player ratings

Twitter: follow us at @guardian_sport

Related: Matthijs de Ligt strikes decisive header for Ajax to overcome Juventus

Lionel Messi

We are blessed to watch him play football

Another amazing goal... pic.twitter.com/4wbZ7uECuP

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Barcelona v Manchester United: Champions League quarter-final – live!

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 20:43

8.43pm BST

41 min Barca win a free-kick down the right 30 yards from goal, and Messi picks out Rakitic at the near post, running from out to in; no one bothers to go with him, but he can only guide a header straight at De Gea. That’s a spectacular save, by the standard.

8.42pm BST

41 min “You say Messi is better on grass,” tweets Michael Hann, “but to paraphrase a now-disgraced American athlete, has he ever smoked AstroTurf?”

I think he’s more a 3G man, man.

8.41pm BST

40 min Slightly better from United, Rashford finding space down the left after a few consecutive passes and nicking away from Rakitic to drive a low cross, but Lenglet is there to clear.

8.40pm BST

38 min United’s first attack in sometime and Pogba, who seems to lost his goals from range in the elan black-hole that is post-Fergie United, dribbles an effort straight at Ter Stegen.

8.38pm BST

37 min There’s a tie brewing in Turin! Van de Beek has equalised for Ajax, who now need to score once to force Juve to score twice!

8.38pm BST

36 min Pogba tries to force the issue, close to halfway but inside his own half, and takes a succession of hacks at Arthur. Gosh, he really showed everyone.

8.37pm BST

35 min Messi fancies a shot - he wants to put De Gea under pressure again, I shouldn’t wonder - and who’s about to argue with him? But he wafts over the bar, and United try to do something, anything.

8.36pm BST

34 min Barca are enjoying this, popping the ball about as United struggle to stop them. Fred pulls Rakitic back, then catches the back of his heel, and Barca have a free-kick about 40 yards out, dead centre.

8.34pm BST

33 min United have not had decent possession for quite sometime. While we wait for Barca to score again, what on earth is wrong with David de Gea? His kicking has gone, he’s never dominated his box less, and he’s making more errors than once. His reactions are still immense, but this has not been a good season for him.

8.33pm BST

31 min Another one to crtl c, ctrl v: Ronaldo has scored for Juventus against Ajax, putting them 2-1 up on aggregate. His record in the knockout stages of this competition is absolutely obscene - though Messi is obviously better on grass, you can make a strong case that he is better on paper.

Related: Juventus v Ajax: Champions League quarter-final – live!

8.31pm BST

30 min It’s been bothering me, who Messi reminds me of. Not anymore.

8.29pm BST

28 min A quiet period, which is the respite United needed.

8.27pm BST

26 min Jordi Alba has started the game brilliantly, and Lindelof is struggling to handle him and Coutinho with no help. He breaks down the left again and finds Rakitic, who clips into the box; Messi is first to the ball and nicks it away in a trice before panelling a shot over the bar.

8.26pm BST

24 min Barca are playing a back three now, with Busquets between Lenglet and Pique - at least when United have the ball. Which isn’t that often, at the moment.

8.25pm BST

23 min “The most remarkable thing about Larsson’s spellat Man United,” emails Simon McMahon, is that it was IN 2007!!! Time really does speed up the older you get. Soon I’ll be eating breakfast every five minutes.”

This sounds like an excellent ruse, and well worth wearing a suit to go to the newsagent.

8.23pm BST

22 min “The ‘Walking’ in ‘Walking to Glory’ sounds like a schoolchild’s go at translating ‘Caminando’,” advises Charles Antaki, “but to be fair, caminar can mean to walk, but also, presumably more appropriately, moving or, better marching. Here endeth the evening class Spanish lesson, misremembered from a very long time ago.”

8.22pm BST

Er, I think this one might just be over. McTominay and Fred do well to unload Coutinho, but the ball breaks for Messi, who eyes up Jones and quickly swerves away, as you would, before hitting a pretty tame right-footer over which De Gea somehow dives, allowing it to squirm under him and in. This could get, er, messy.

8.20pm BST

18 min United now need to score twice, as they were always going to have to. The problem is that they’ve not finished conceding.

8.19pm BST

He is so, so, so, so, so good. Deep inside his own half and close to the touchline, Young loses the ball as Messi pounces, and he tricks his way across Fred then Jones sells himself and suddenly he’s central and with a clear sight of goal. Naturally, he measures a perfect, low, curling finish into the far corner for a perfectly routine piece of association football by his ludicrous standard.

8.17pm BST

15 min Alba goes down the left and swings over a fine cross; Suarez is just adjusting his position at the back post to cushion home the opener and race off celebrating, parading his magnificence in front of all his friends, when Jones pokes out a head to send the ball away. Excellent de-fence.

8.15pm BST

14 min United are in this game, Rashford screeching at Pique and making an angle for a shot, only to slip in the process of applying it. Ter Stegem saves easily, but United are finding space without much difficulty here.

8.14pm BST

12 min We restart with a drop-ball in the United box - I’ not sure how Rakitic has got away with that - and it goes behind for a goalkick.

8.14pm BST

The ref goes to look at the screen, sees what happened, and reverses his decision.

8.13pm BST

Given for Fred’s foul on Rakitic, but that’s never one “for me”. Fred gets in front of his man, stands his ground and moves the ball away, as Rakitic vaults over him. I think we’ll see this overturned, which is funny because the ref was so pleased with himself when he awarded it, contemptuously shaking his head when the United players appealed.

8.11pm BST

10 min In defence, United’s first line has Lingard in the middle and Rashford on the right. But the pattern of things has changed slightly, Barca pushing and United looking to break; Pogba has to clear another corner, and...

8.10pm BST

8 min Alba makes his first foray forward and wins a corner off Jones. United get it away and Sergi Roberto crosses from the right, but Smalling is up to chuck a go-go gadget neck which gets rid well.

8.09pm BST

7 min “Missed all the build up,” emails Matt Dony, “just caught the first couple of minutes. Barcelona are in pink, yeah?”

This really is very strange. United are pushing the pace, and not only that, but playing with some quality.

8.08pm BST

6 min Martial and Lingard link, the latter scurrying into the box after a bouncing ball, and forcing three defenders to hack about til one of them sees it away. And back come United!

8.06pm BST

5 min “ALDI’s interesting new beer is a hitherto unsuspected 6.8%,” says Geoff Wignall, “and I’ve been up since 5:00a.m; wanna fight? (He says from the safety of central Portugal).”

Hold me back, hold me back.

8.05pm BST

4 min ... Young hits the first man, ctrl c, ctrl v.

8.05pm BST

4 min This is a fine start from United, and Rashford wins a corner down the right...

8.05pm BST

3 min United come again, and this time McTominay breaks through the middle, but can’t quite control the pass from Lingard.

8.04pm BST

2 min Jones is playing centre-back, with Lindelof on the right, and here comes Coutinho down the left; Smalling dhalsims into a fine sliding tackle.

8.03pm BST

1 min Marcus Rashford hits the bar! United enjoy some nice possession, moving the ball with tempo, and Pogba flips a ball around the corner for Rashford! He’s in behind, but doesn’t have a great angle, so jabs a dink over Ter Stegen and onto the face of the bar!

8.02pm BST

1 min United are all over them!

8.01pm BST

1 min United get us away. For those watching in black and white, they’re wearing the pink shirts.

8.01pm BST

Ashley Young and Leo Messi shake hands, then hug. I can only assume Young promised a mate he’d achieve that.

7.59pm BST

Uefa gets lots wrong, but:

Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Es sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event

7.59pm BST

“WALKING TO GLORY” reads a banner behind the goal, which seems like a lot of trouble to go to for what is, let’s be real, a slogan that’s mediocre at best and dying to be misread at worst.

7.58pm BST

Here they come! The noise is pretty aight.

7.57pm BST

The Barca anthem starts up and the flags start going. Things are warming up, and the players are in the tunnel, Phil Jones with a bandage around his head, presumably to stop brain seeping out.

7.54pm BST

They’ve been absolutely blasting the tunes at Camp Nou – someone had the brainwave to put on Eye of the Tiger, bound to end in disappointment when Raymond van Barneveld didn’t show. Tangentially, I saw the weirdest pre-match entertainment I’ve ever seen at Camp Nou, and this was it – feel free to send in your favourites too.

7.48pm BST

“Did Saha’s increasing injury problems not do more to disrupt his partnership with Rooney in 06/07 than on-loan Henrik?” asks Booboo76.

Those didn’t help. But if you look through January and February 2007, you’ll see Larsson starting, Saha on the bench, goals drying up and performances deteriorating.

7.46pm BST

“You could have a fight about whether Sergi Roberto is more defensive than Semedo,” emails Charles Antaki. “Roberto has more experience playing in the middle (and indeed everywhere else) for the team (and for the national team), while Semedo, though faster, seems naturally glued to the touchline. Both do crosses, to be sure, but Roberto can also come in a bit, and can score a goal or two. (Inevitably, watch as he never leaves his half, and scores an own goal).”

I could have a fight about anything. Who wants a straightener?

7.45pm BST

Rio Ferdinand says he hopes Solskjaer is lying about an open game, and trying to psyche Barca out. I’m inclined to agree, because if United try to get out in midfield, they’re getting passed around.

7.44pm BST

Ole speaks: “We can’t wait to get it started ... be disciplined, work harder than ever, ride our luck ... but we need more quality than last Wednesday ... express ourselves.”

He also reckons United have a better chance in an open game and says United can’t sit back and wait for errors - “we need to go a little bit at them”.

7.42pm BST

Didn't want Martial to start but never thought I'd get this lucky. #UCL #BARMUN #BarcaMUFC @DanielHarris pic.twitter.com/J50dfQqF7w

7.41pm BST

“Camp Nou & OT are the same size,” chides Christopher Smith, “at least per Wikipedia (which also currently has the stadium being demolished by Ole and the boys tonight, mind you).”

My favourite 80s prog-country band, by far. I guess the size of the ground make it look bigger, same way, to paraphrase John Toshack, time passes more slowly in the Bernabeu. Tangentially, I’d forgotten until yesterday that before the 99 final, Bayern successfully lobbied to have the pitch narrowed. If only they’d applied that same attention to detail to their finishing.

7.38pm BST

Rio Ferdinand reckons United can take their time in this game, and I agree. Even if they go one down, well, the likelihood is they need to score twice anyway. And they’re capable of that, but they’ll need to play a lot better than they did last week, where they just lacked the class and cohesion around the box. I’m sure they’ve been practising some set-piece moves, but they also need to improve their give and goes. or should that be gives and go, I don’t know.

7.34pm BST

OK, go on. Let’s cast our footballing Game of Thrones. I can think of about 1063 Joffreys.

7.33pm BST

Owen Hargreaves took United’s first leg defeat hard.

7.31pm BST

Henrik Larsson is on the pitch with Des Kelly, so an unpopular opinion: he was an absolutely useless signing for United. He scored only one crucial goal, and because Fergie was so smug about the situation, he disturbed the Rooney-Saha partnership and that team was never as electrifying again.

7.28pm BST

Barcelona haven’t lost a European home game in six years, and in that time they’ve never conceded more than once. In fairness, though, they’ve never come up against your Freds and your Lingards.

7.25pm BST

“Just seen the lineups,” emails my colleague Paul Doyle.” Out of interest, what’s United’s biggest ever defeat in Europe?”

I can answer that! I can answer that! The lost 5-0 to Sporting Clube in the 63-64 Cup Winners’ Cup, having won the first leg 4-1.

7.22pm BST

On BT, they’re rhapsodising Scott McTominio. Hargreaves says that he had a good game for Bayern against Madrid in the 01 semi, and that made his career; he reckons the same has just happened to McTominio.

And he’s a funny one. Last season, I concede, I saw almost nothing in him - it looked like Mourinho was trying to replace Pogba with the worst possible player to wind him up the maximum extent. But he’s played with much more dynamism and authority recently, to suggest that he can at least be a squad player. For United to be relying on him tonight, though, should shame every other midfielder at the club.

7.19pm BST

“FCB could take MUFC to the cleaners here tonight,” predicts John McEnerney. “First leg they showed their class in possession this evening they’ll show their teeth and boy what a set of gnashers they have! They’ll come bursting out of the gates and hit United early & then take them apart! 4-0 or 5.”

I’m not sure about that. I’d expect Barca to be circumspect early on because they’ve no need to force the issue and won’t want to expose their defence. Obviously they’re much better than United, but I’d expect them to ease to a 2-0.

7.17pm BST

A back-four featuring Alas Smalling and Jones, plus Ashley Young, in the year 2019 C.E. – absolutely remarkable.

7.14pm BST

“A refreshing absence of half-and-half scarves in the preamble photo, I must say,” emails Peter Oh. “I imagine that Marcus Rashford will be particularly motivated to impress. Which side, I’m not sure. In any case, it should be an entertaining game and I look forward to following it on your Mes Que Un Blog.”

A Euro away is probably the place that they’re least unacceptable. I’m not sure the game will be so entertaining, though - that doesn’t especially suit either side.

7.10pm BST

United have had a win already - Coutinho starting instead of Dembele is to their advantage. I’ve a feeling he might like a look at United’s full-backs; heyzoos, I’ve a feeling I’d like a look at United’s full-backs.

7.08pm BST

Just the one change from the first leg for Barcelona, and it’s a defensive one: Sergi Roberto is in for Nelson Semedo.

As for United, Jones comes in at right-back with Young moving left to cover the suspended Shaw; I’m a little surprised Dalot isn’t playing, because Coutinho isn’t much into running back and Jordi Alba leaves space in behind. In front of them, the midfield is the same, with McTominao set to dominate once more while, up front, Lingard and Martial are in - in theory that makes sense, because both have pace and skill, but in reality is a gamble, because both are in rotten nick - and Lukaku drops out. That is unsurprising, because when the ball goes forward, it’ll need to stick, and if a chance comes, it’ll need taking.

7.03pm BST

Barcelona (a matter of principle 4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suárez y Coutinho. Subs: Cillessen, Semedo, Umtitti, Alena, Vidal, Malcolm, Dembele.

Manchester United (a theoretical 4-3-3): De Gea; Jones, Lindelöf, Smalling, Young; McTominay, Pogba, Fred; Lingard, Martial, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Dalot, Matic, Mata, Pereira, Sanchez, Lukaku.

1.41pm BST

For Manchester United fans, the last few months have been the most uplifting since Alex Ferguson retired and winter came. A low bar, admittedly, but nonetheless: where once there was José, now there is hopé.

But is there really? If you think this has a happy ending, then you haven’t been paying attention. Never before has there been a season which, at this late stage, retains the capacity for such multifarious awfulness – verily, the night is dark and full of terrors. And, at the end of it, Manchester City might win a domestic treble, something Manchester United have never managed; or they might win the actual treble something Manchester United have managed; or they might win absolutely everything.

Alternatively, Liverpool might win their first league in 29 years, perhaps thanks to a helping hand from United; or Liverpool might win their first league in 29 years, perhaps thanks to a helping hand from United, then add to it a sixth European Cup; or Liverpool might share every trophy with City, a sweep culminating in a European Cup final that, for United fans, will forever be known as the Battle of the Bastards.

And yet, the question begs: do United even want to win tonight? A silly question, you might think, but stick with me. What happens if their reward for so doing is a pumping from Liverpool, who then go on to reclaim Ol Big Ears? Or what happens if they somehow sneak by Liverpool as well, only to be brutally murdered by quadruple-chasing City in the final, their very own red wedding. Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.

Of course, these are all worstest case scenarios. More likely, United subside gently this evening and then hope that Ronaldo and Messi can, between them, limit the season to a straight, upstanding worst. The Nou Camp pitch is wide, and it’s hard to see how United can cover all of it, at the same time as keeping Messi, Suarez and Dembele quiet, at the same time as finding a goal or two for themselves.

But, at 1-0, they’re not entirely out of things - leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe. The thing is, that though Barca are good, they’re not that good - the same issues that make them unreliable insurance also render them slightly vulnerable Their defence is far from the tightest, their midfield is slow, and in Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, United have players able to trouble any team – on a good day. Today will need to be their best day. Dracarys!

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Categories: What the papers say

Ole Gunnar Solskjær preaches belief on historic return to Camp Nou

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 21:20
The manager thinks Manchester United can raise their level again in the Champions League second leg in Barcelona on Tuesday

It is, as everyone knows by now, 20 years since Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored that goal in European football’s biggest stadium and on European football’s biggest night. And, if it has often felt inescapable over the last fortnight, inevitably it was there again when he finally returned two decades later, playing on the screens of the press room as he got up and made his way to the Camp Nou pitch for the first time since 1999, BarçaTV recalling the moment more than the man in the middle of it.

“I don’t know how I will feel when I get there – there will be many emotions and it is a fantastic memory for me of course,” Solskjær said before heading out. He was 26 then; he is 46 now. “That was the only time I have ever been on the pitch, actually. I came here to the clásico in 2016 with my young son; we bought two tickets and sat high up in the stands. And I came again 10 days ago [to watch Barcelona-Atlético], but that’s it and I don’t really look back that often. I’ll just focus on tomorrow, on a better performance.”

Related: A topsy-turvy title race and the John Delaney saga – Football Weekly

Related: Ole Gunnar Solskjær insists his strikers must step up against Barcelona

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Categories: What the papers say

Ole Gunnar Solskjær insists his strikers must step up against Barcelona

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 20:21
• Manchester United trail 1-0 in Champions League quarter-final
• Alexis Sánchez among forwards who travelled to Barcelona

Ole Gunnar Solskjær called on his strikers to step up as Manchester United look to overcome a 1-0 home defeat to beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou and progress to the Champions League semi-finals, describing doubts over who could provide goals as “the $100m question”.

United need to score at least once, with Solskjær insisting that, “if it’s a game with a lot of goals in it, we have a better chance of going through”. But his side registered a single shot on target in the first leg at Old Trafford and the manager admitted that, while the remarkable comeback at the Parc des Princes has given them belief, they will need to play considerably better in Catalonia. Solskjær’s response to United’s shortage of goals also suggested that he sees it as a personnel problem, and a costly one to fix.

Related: Chelsea launch legal campaign to crack down on ticket touts at Stamford Bridge

Related: Neil Warnock says Tiger Woods’ Masters win can be Cardiff’s inspiration

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Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 08:35

Neil Warnock cuts out the moaning, Jordan Henderson scythes through Chelsea and injuries may leave Spurs’ midfield blunted

After 76 minutes, when he was withdrawn to a deafening ovation, Jordan Henderson’s work was done. A lung-busting display by the Liverpool captain set the tone for a vital victory, a relentless performance typified by the moment when he burst to the byline and supplied a hanging cross for Sadio Mané to convert. Henderson asked Jürgen Klopp if he could play further forward in a “more natural” No 8 role – one he has impressed in for his country – and he flourished there against Chelsea. Mohamed Salah’s rocket, another peerless defensive display by Virgil van Dijk or indeed Mané’s 18th league goal of the season will likely dominate the post‑match discussion, but as the business end of the season takes hold, Henderson is just where he wants to be: at the very heart of Liverpool’s push for the title. Ben Fisher

Related: Jürgen Klopp ‘blown away’ by Mohamed Salah’s thunderbolt against Chelsea

Related: Razor-sharp Sterling gives teeth to Manchester City’s invisible monster | Barney Ronay

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Categories: What the papers say

The Dozen: the weekend’s best Premier League photos

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 20:14

Your weekend roundup of the best photography from England’s top flight

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West Ham 'disgusted' after fans are filmed chanting antisemitic abuse

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 22:11

• Video circulating online shows group chanting abuse
• Incident happened before West Ham’s loss at Old Trafford

West Ham have vowed to ban a group of supporters filmed engaging in antisemitic chants on their way to the club’s Premier League match at Manchester United.

In the latest in a recent series of incidents of racist abuse in football, the group were filmed singing an abusive song about rivals Tottenham on a tram before the game at Old Trafford, which West Ham lost 2-1.

Related: From parks to Premier League: the shocking scale of racism in English football

Related: Danny Rose ‘can’t wait to see the back’ of football because of racism

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