Crisis averted as Man United and Solskjaer come out fighting

STEVE DOUGLAS
·5 min read

Manchester United’s players came out fighting for their under-fire manager on Saturday.

After his team’s stirring comeback in a 3-1 win at Everton in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t hold back, either.

“The authorities set us up to fail,” an angry Solskjaer said, in reference to United having to play around 48 hours after returning from a grueling trip to Turkey for a Champions League game.

“We’ve had enough of that. I’ve had enough.”

It was a release of energy and emotion by Solskjaer at the end of a week when his managerial credentials were widely questioned — not for the first time.

A 1-0 home loss to Arsenal, which plunged United to 15th place in the fledgling league standings, was followed by a 2-1 defeat at Istanbul Basaksehir, a Champions League newcomer containing a number of Premier League castoffs.

Acknowledging he was back under pressure, Solskjaer called for patience from the club’s ownership and fans. The man known as the “Baby-Faced Assassin” during his playing days at United has had a habit of getting a result when he needs one most during his time as the club’s manager — and he did it again at Goodison Park.

United responded to going behind in the 19th minute to a goal from Brazilian winger Bernard by scoring twice — both times through playmaker Bruno Fernandes — before halftime. Edinson Cavani capped the fightback with his first goal for United deep in stoppage time.

“We’ve been questioned,” United captain Harry Maguire said. “But we know we don’t answer them in 90 minutes, we answer them day in, day out.

“The lads are working tirelessly for this club, everyone wants to improve and do better. The manager has to pull the lads off the training ground.”

Another defeat would have left Solskjaer in a difficult and uncomfortable position heading into a two-week international break, but he can breathe easier now as he approaches two years in charge of United.

ZIYECH STARS

Like United, Chelsea also fought back from conceding an early goal and ultimately swept aside Sheffield United in a 4-1 win.

And like United, Chelsea had a creative playmaker pulling the strings as the catalyst for the recovery.

Hakim Ziyech has had a slow start to life at Stamford Bridge, having picked up an injury during Chelsea’s short preseason to rule him out of the team’s opening games after joining from Ajax. The Morocco winger is fit now, though, and is proving to be Chelsea’s main supply line from the right.

Ziyech’s delivery from free kicks set up goals for Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva while Timo Werner -- the scorer of Chelsea’s fourth goal -- squandered a gilt-edged chance from Ziyech’s through-ball in the second half.

“We played against him in the Champions League last year,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said of Ziyech. “He’s a top-class player. He impresses you even more when you work with him.

“The Dutch league finished a long time ago then he had an injury so to hit the ground running like he has had been remarkable. He will be a big player for us.”

David McGoldrick opened the scoring in the ninth minute for the last-place visitors, as Chelsea conceded for the first time in six games. Tammy Abraham equalized to start Chelsea’s recovery.

VAR DEBATE

VAR was back under the spotlight during Crystal Palace’s 4-1 win over Leeds, whose striker, Patrick Bamford, had a goal disallowed for offside in rather bizarre circumstances.

With the score at 1-0 to Palace, Bamford was played in on goal after pointing to the place where he wanted his teammate, Mateusz Klich, to pass the ball. By stretching out his left arm, Bamford ensured part of it was marginally offside -- as picked up in a review by VAR.

“I actually loathe the way it’s being implemented,” former England captain Gary Lineker said on Twitter about the video review.

Palace is typically goal-shy at home but Leeds’ defending left a lot to be desired. Eberechi Eze set up Scott Dann for the opener and then scored himself off a free kick to put the hosts 2-0 ahead.

Bamford replied with a legitimate goal for Leeds -- as he jogged back for the restart, he jokingly checked with the assistant referee if the strike was going to be referred to VAR -- but Palace pulled clear again through an own-goal by Helder Costa and Jordan Ayew’s second-half goal.

LOOKMAN'S BOTCHED PENALTY

Ademola Lookman had the chance to earn Fulham a point at midtable West Ham with the last kick of the game when he lined up to take a penalty in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Instead of picking his corner or simply putting his foot through the ball, the winger attempted a so-called “Panenka” shot — a disguised chip down the middle — but didn't make good contact. The ball flopped into the grateful hands of West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski as he got up from his dive.

Lookman covered his face with his hands as the final whistle was blown seconds later.

Fulham stayed a point above the bottom three.

What proved to be the winning goal was scored by midfielder Tomas Soucek in the first minute of stoppage time.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80