Man United strong favourites to sign world-class striker, deal will cost £8.6m

Everything indicates that Mario Mandzukic’s next club will be Manchester United, according to reports from Italy.

Man United’s interest in the Croat dates back to the summer, with Mandzukic mentioned initially as part of a deal involving Paulo Dybala and then considered as a target in his own right, although no such move materialised.

Since then, however, United and Juventus have reached an agreement in principle over Mandzukic ahead of the January transfer window.

According to Calcio Mercato, there is very little standing in the way of the striker moving to Old Trafford.

Juventus want €10m (£8.6m) for the 33-year-old – a sum that United are said to be open to meeting in the next window.

And if they are not willing to pay that nominal fee, they ought to have their heads looked at carefully. Here is a player who gives United two things they desperately lack: maturity and goals.

Do the maths, Ed. This one really is a no-brainer.

Attacking 4-2-3-1: Man United can smash Partizan Belgrade with this attack

Manchester United travel to Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday with some much-needed confidence following an impressive 85 minutes against Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, whilst clearly limited in quality, demonstrated excellent organisation and application of the Norwegian’s game-plan, coming within minutes of beating the European champions.

However, they face a different task on Thursday as they look to break a winless run away from home which now stretches to 11 games.

Here is an attacking quartet which could cause the Serbian side some trouble on Thursday.

Solskjaer spoke confidently about Jesse Lingard‘s fitness after the game against Liverpool and the Englishman, in turn, should be given a run-out if he passes all the tests.

For a player who has seemingly forgotten to score goals, a solid performance against a team like Partizan – an organised but ultimately limited team – whilst playing down the middle would remind United supporters of his key qualities.

Lingard will be helped by the return of Anthony Martial, who came off the bench against Liverpool and looks set to receive a chance to inflict some damage from the start against Partizan as Solskjaer hands a rest to Marcus Rashford ahead of the meeting with Norwich City.

Why Marcos Rojo is Manchester United’s player of the 2019-20 season so far

Manchester United’s 2019-20 campaign so far ought to be viewed as less of a defeat and more like a set of circumstances whereby any kind of victory is simply impossible.

For all the debate about who is to blame and what needs to be done, what we can ascertain, beyond doubt, is that any concrete, fundamental solutions to Man United’s current predicament exists in the distant future, not to be smelled let alone touched for quite some time.

To paraphrase the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; now is the time for monsters.”

Enter, Marcos Rojo.

United consists of individuals – from directors to players to staff – unsure of what they are meant to be, what they should be, and how to get there. We are living in the climate change era of extremities, of things being out of balance, oscillating one way and then another, and United is a wonderful example of this – a club forever searching for an identity like a dog chasing its own tail.

That is why – and I am not joking here – when Rojo, with 20 minutes left against Astana last month and the score still goalless, decided he would ignore the packed box full of United shirts and instead attempt a rabona pass from an angle that absolutely did not permit it, was and still is my favourite moment of United’s season. It was the poetry that United 2019 deserved.

Plenty has happened since Rojo joined United in 2014 – both at the football club and in the wider world – but the beauty of that moment, for me, was that if he were presented with the same circumstances five years ago, Rojo would have done the exact same thing. Without compunction. And he would have been utterly convinced that it was the right thing to do.

Amid the rubble of this season, with players injuring themselves left right and centre, the Argentine has picked himself up off the treatment table and hit us with both barrels of Pure Undistilled Marcos Rojo™, and I, for one, am seriously here for it.

Rojo looks at you with those deep-set, manic eyeballs, his boot with sharpened studs on your throat, and says: “Any time, any place, mate. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got NOTHING to lose.”

Somehow, as if through some force field of his own making, Rojo has managed to live through six seasons of the post-Fergie era without even changing in the slightest. Think about who was in that team when he joined: Radamel Falcao, Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind, Tyler Blackett, Robin van Persie, Jonny Evans, etc. Some have retired, others have deteriorated, others have improved.

But Rojo continues as ever, playing only when better players are injured and flinging himself at opposition defenders with a sense of childlike joy, giving no regard to its potential consequences for the team or indeed his own personal safety.

Even now, despite all that has changed and all this new information that we are struggling to hold in this godforsaken year of our Lord that is 2019, Rojo remains knowledgeable of and loyal to his art in an absolute sense. Much like how Japanese sumos maintain a way of life first established many generations ago, Rojo knows nothing other than his creed of smashing into people harder than they can smash into him.

Being true to who you really are is a gift that only some people have. Pressures from all corners can force you to pigeon hole certain aspects of yourself away.

That is why, if nothing else this season, we can learn something from Rojo, the man who prepares toast in the exact same way that he deals with a 50/50 challenge – by completely obliterating it.

The best photos from Man United 1-1 Liverpool

Manchester United surprised the watching world by coming within minutes of securing an unlikely victory over Liverpool on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to play five across midfield, with Daniel James and Marcus Rashford attacking down the middle, successfully stifled Liverpool’s passing lanes and allowed for the pair to combine for an excellent counterattacking goal just before half-time – albeit with some controversy (but not actual controversy) over VAR.

The home side defended resolutely in the second half, preventing Liverpool from creating clear-cut opportunities, only for a mistake at a cross to afford Adam Lallana an easy tap-in at the far post.

Here are the best photos from what was a pulsating affair at Old Trafford.

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Ornstein: Man Utd to sign key midfield target “within the next year”

Reliable journalist David Ornstein has been told by all parties involved that James Maddison could move to Manchester United “within the next year”.

The English midfielder has emerged on the radar of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following an impressive 18 months in the number eight role under Brendan Rodgers.

Pressure has mounted on United to add to its midfield following its failure to reinforce that area over the summer.

According to Ornstein in The Athletic, sources from United, Leicester and Maddison’s camp suggest that a move to Old Trafford is on the cards next summer.

You can picture it, can’t you? Having just pinched Harry Maguire from the same club, Maddison will feel that, with another year of Premier League football under his belt, that he is ready to make the big leap next summer.

Of course, there is still a chance that he could sign a new contract at the King Power, but doing so would be inimical to the interests of any player who wants to play at the highest level possible. Moving forward and moving upwards is something all footballers aim for, surely?

The Englishman is without a doubt a player whose quality is too good to pass up for a club desperately lacking invention in midfield.

4-3-3: How Man United can beat Liverpool without their two best players

Manchester United could very well be without their two best players for the meeting with Liverpool – Paul Pogba and David de Gea.

The Frenchman is a major doubt as he continues to recover from a foot injury, while De Gea picked up a groin problem on Wednesday night whilst playing for Spain.

In other words, United’s hardest game of the season yet has been seemingly made a whole lot harder.

So, how can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get round this problem and beat the league leaders? I will show you. Here is how.

Juan Mata in midfield is a red flag, I know, but Solskjaer does not trust Fred and nor I do, and United need somebody who can pass from deep. That is absolutely crucial.

The Spaniard will need to rely on Nemanja Matic being sharper on the ball than he has been in recent times (he did not feature in the international break) along with a pressing trio of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira, whose task will be to simultaneously squeeze the midfield and pin back Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson by bombing forward, thereby providing a link for Anthony Martial.

It is a long shot. But this combination of intense midfield pressing and Martial staying on the last man serves as United’s only real chance.

The main reason why Man United still haven’t appointed technical director

Manchester United will not appoint a technical director any time soon because the board feels that the role is partially filled by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan as it is, according to a report.

Ed Woodward initially outlined promises of installing a director at the start of last season, repeating the same message over the summer.

Following a miserable start to the season which has left United hovering two points above the relegation zone, calls for structural change from above have intensified.

According to a report in The Athletic, however, United’s hierarchy believes that Solskjaer and Phelan are already playing that role.

The aforementioned pair have embarked on a three-year project whereby the club’s culture will change and young British players will dominate transfer policy, all of which is fine.

Why, though, does this mean United cannot have a director – a specialist, someone who really knows the business – who can oversee strategy and help with the actual recruitment side of things? Do United not know that knowing the transfer market constitutes a high-profile role in itself.

Either way, do not expect a technical director to arrive any time soon.