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young guns Solskjaer should put his faith in United's kids for Liverpool clash and focus his attention on title chase


Manchester United's Anthony Martial greets manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after being substituted

Manchester United's Anthony Martial greets manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after being substituted

Manchester United's Anthony Martial greets manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after being substituted

IF I was in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s boots this afternoon – I’d go for broke.

I’d fill out my team with kids against Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford and let the chips fall where they may.

Remember, if you are a young footballer at Manchester United, you are a very good player.

So let them take on a very fragile Liverpool, who may well have youngsters in action themselves, and the young Devils might win.

If they don’t, then what harm in the bigger scheme of things.

Bring back the first-teamers for the match with Sheffield United on Wednesday and try to get the three points there.

We’re halfway through the Premier League and Manchester United are leading it.

If you have told any Stretford Ender that at the start of the season, they’d have taken you hand off for the club to be where it is now.

So trying to win a Premier League, that is without a dominant team, has to be United’s sole ambition now.

And before you point out that the two Manchester clubs are on good runs, let me defend myself.

Yes, United lead the league, but again last Sunday, they could not beat one of the teams around them.

Manchester City are going well, but they are going through a phase of just doing enough.

That won’t be enough long term. Their breakthrough goal, in what was a real struggle against Aston Villa last week, was as a result of a rule made by someone who knows nothing about football.

If what happened to Tyrone Mings, in the build-up to Bernardo Silva’s goal, had happened to me as a centre half, I’d have taken the ref’s head off.

I’d have said a lot more than Villa boss Dean Smith said.

The idea that Rodri was not interfering with play when he tackled Mings while coming back from an offside position is ludicrous.

Anyway back to today. And I believe that Liverpool will come out with a different team too this afternoon.

They’ve a crucial Premier League tie, away to Spurs, on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp needs to rest five or six senior guys and try to get them mentally ready for that game.

Liverpool have been on a great run, since August 2018. They’ve only lost a handful of matches in all that time.

Something had to give eventually and even now I’d suggest that they would have beaten Burnley 3-0 on Thursday night had Divock Origi converted that golden first-half chance.

But those are the little things that go against you when times are hard.

If I’m looking for reasons why Liverpool are having a hard time, the first one that comes to mind is the board’s failure to back Klopp last summer, when he wanted to buy Timo Werner from RB Leipzig.

Yes, Liverpool, like every other club, have taken in no gate receipts since last March.

But Klopp had earned the right to get who he wanted, finances or no finances, by winning the European Cup and the Premier League.

Before you point out that

Werner isn’t shooting the lights out at Chelsea, it doesn’t matter. Klopp wanted a player, the board should have got him.

But Liverpool’s owners are

American. And in American sport, the worst teams are replenished with the best young talent every year through their draft system.

American sports teams are not familiar with the way Liverpool worked in the 1980s or Manchester United did in the 1990s – when you are on top you buy a big player every summer.

To give you just one example, it was AFTER he won his first Premier League title that Alex Ferguson bought Roy Keane in 1993.

A further issue is that Liverpool’s ace striker Mo Salah is just a shadow of the player he has been for the last two seasons.

It’s known that the club were very unhappy at pictures of him dancing at his brother’s wedding in Egypt at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.


Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, Thiago Alcantara and Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, Thiago Alcantara and Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, Thiago Alcantara and Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The player’s response was the usual “I’d love to play for Barcelona/Real Madrid some day” interview in the Spanish media.

Well good luck to Mo if he thinks he’ll get a move during the summer.

Both Spanish giants are groaning under a pile of debt as they suffer too without gate money.

The only way Barca could finance a move for him right now would be to sell Lionel Messi.

And if Mo thinks playing for Liverpool is pressure, try being Messi’s replacement at the Nou Camp.

And as for Real, well look at what has happened to Eden Hazard there.

The Belgian has gone from being one of the best players in the world to a shadow of the footballer he once was.

Speaking of shadows, what about a player who might, or might not, play this afternoon, Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani.

He was a type of forward I hated marking, one for whom movement was his thing.

Cavani is always on the move, sniffing where the ball might be.

A defender never gets a minute’s peace with him, because you know he is a deadly finisher and will turn the smallest ‘quarter-chance’ into a goal.

But Cavani is now 33. Why was he not playing for Manchester United at the peak of his career?

Why is the great Thiago Silva only now leading Chelsea’s back-line at the age of 36?

And what is Gareth Bale doing back at Spurs, but hardly playing, at the age of 31?

Do they all see the Premier League as some sort of gigantic pension scheme from which they can knock out a couple more years of decent salary?

If that’s the case, good luck to them. But why are England’s finest clubs employing them?

England’s finest ought to have the best players when they are 23, 25 or 27, not ten years later.

And no, I am not being a hypocrite. I played the bulk of my career with the biggest club in the world, Manchester United, and with Aston Villa, when they were a power in the land.

When my legs slowed to a crawl, I played for Derby County and Sheffield United – two clubs whose colours I was proud to wear.

But where the opposing centre-forwards were slower too, and maybe not as skilful as the ones I spent most of my career facing.

Maybe players look after themselves better these days and can go on for longer at the top level.

Yet I worry when I see ‘the best league in the world’ ready and willing to take in players who didn’t want to play in it ten years ago.

For all the short-term fix these players can offer, they do not form part of a vision for the future.

Liverpool may be happy to have 29-year-old Thiago Alcantara in their ranks.

But did anyone at Anfield stop to ask why Bayern Munich were happy to let him go last summer? Maybe the answer is that they had a younger, better, player ready to step in for the Spaniard.

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