| 9.2°C Dublin

eyes on the prize There'll be no excuses for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or United if they don't make Europa League semi-final


Close

Paul McGrath and Jack Charlton had special bond.

Paul McGrath and Jack Charlton had special bond.

Paul McGrath and Jack Charlton had special bond.

Manchester United have a right tricky one on their plate against Brighton this evening.

Now before you say that United should not be bothered by a Premier League fixture against Brighton at Old Trafford, let me explain.

Firstly, most of United's squad will have spent the last ten days criss-crossing Europe and playing matches while on international duty.

There will be tired minds, bodies and legs, especially.

And, next Thursday, United, this time as a whole squad, are off on their travels again.

Close

'I suspect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not play his first-choice team this evening.'

'I suspect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not play his first-choice team this evening.'

'I suspect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not play his first-choice team this evening.'

They play the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final against Granada of Spain.

For both of those reasons, I suspect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not play his first-choice team this evening.

The Europa League is the one competition he can win this season - and that must be his absolute priority now.

After all, United went into this weekend sitting second in the table.

First played third yesterday, and, all in all, you have to think that the Red Devils will finish in the first four come May.

So it is now about picking up silverware for Ole and that makes Thursday's match a huge one.

He'll have to gamble that he can beat Brighton with less than his very best line-up.

United should have enough about them to win this game, but they cannot take Graham Potter's well-drilled team for granted.

Brighton have eased away from the relegation zone of late.

A big 3-0 win over Newcastle United, just before the international break, was a huge result for them. It gave them a bit of room in the fight against relegation to the Championship.

Their young centre-half Ben White is coveted by a number of top clubs, and I'll be astonished if Ben is not on the move to one of them in the summer.

We know about Ireland's Aaron Connolly up front, and there's also French star Neal Maupay who is a dab hand at the set pieces.

United would do well not to give away too many free-kicks when he is on the pitch,

For United, it will be about trusting lads like Daniel James up front and defender Eric Bailly to get the job done.

And keeping Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, and one or two others, back for Thursday.

Ole has an interesting call this weekend at goalkeeper - where Dean Henderson is getting more and more experience all the time between the sticks having played Unied's last six games as David de Gea took time out after the birth of a child.

Surely the summer is the latest possible time that Ole can put off making a call on who is Manchester United No 1.

And if the answer to the call is Henderson, then Solskjaer must show full faith in his new man and move De Gea on.

Of course, the manager's own position is not set yet either.

Ole has certainly stablised things at Manchester United after the disastrous management eras of Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

But stability is not what is important at Manchester United. The club is about winning trophies and I just wonder if Ole is the right man to take the club forward in that regard.

That's why Thursday's first leg in Europe is so important to him. Granada are not Barcelona or either of the Madrids. There's no excuse for not getting to the semi-final.

I'd like to finish my column today by thanking all the people who got in touch to say how much they enjoyed my contribution to the Jack Charlton documentary shown last Monday night.

I really enjoyed my modest part in the making of it, and fair dues to my old Ireland captain Andy Townsend for all the work he put into it.

Many people said it was a lump in the throat moment for them when Jack looked at his lap-top and saw me and named me.

I was so proud too. But afraid that the next thing that might happen was that Jack would then fling the lap-top at the wall as all the trouble I caused him over the years came back to him.

He didn't of course, and it was a wonderful TV programme that raised a massive amount of money for dementia research.

Well done Andy, I'm delighted I was able to help you. Well done also to Pat Charlton and all her family for the way they helped put the programme together as their beloved Jack faded away from them.

It was a worthy way to remember a great man, one to whom I owe so much.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Privacy