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Solskjaer now banking on Europa to end trophy drought

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows what is expected of the man in the Old Trafford managerial hot seat, having been a part of Alex Ferguson’s trophy.

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Solskjaer now banking on Europa to end trophy drought

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows what is expected of the man in the Old Trafford managerial hot seat, having been a part of Alex Ferguson’s trophy-winning Manchester United machine.

Fighting for a place in the Premier League’s runners-up spot and making it to the final stages of cup competitions isn’t really winning. That’s why United’s disappointing FA Cup quarterfinal loss to Leicester City on Sunday came as such a surprise.

Even though there were limiting factors in Solskjaer’s team selection, most notably a difficult Europa League last-16 assignment three days prior in Milan, which they successfully passed, it still felt like a great opportunity was lost.

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Solskjaer started without the likes of in-form Luke Shaw, talisman Bruno Fernandes, and dependable Scott McTominay, and his side was outplayed in a 3-1 loss.

Solskjaer could have been forgiven for gambling at Leicester if he had already won some silverware since taking over full-time two years ago, or if he had a chance of catching Premier League leaders Manchester City.

They were eliminated in the semifinals of the League Cup FA Cup, and Europa League last season, and the quarterfinals of the Champions League the season before.

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While Solskjaer is correct in pointing to signs of improvement, the fact that the trophy cabinet is collecting dust does not sit well with the fans or, presumably, the hierarchy, who last celebrated a trophy when Jose Mourinho won the Europa League in 2017.

“I am demoralised a little bit as a Manchester United fan as I thought (the FA Cup) was a really good one to go for,” Gary Neville told Sky Sports.

With a win, United would have advanced to the semifinals against a Southampton side in disarray and a chance to face either Chelsea or Manchester City in the final – the kind of high-profile match United craves.

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Solskjaer has hopes of winning the Europa League

Instead, they’ve put all of their hopes in the Europa League. They face Granada in the last eight, but the semifinals will be against either Ajax Amsterdam or AS Roma, so there are no guarantees.

United is only in the Europa League because they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage after a terrible loss to RB Leipzig.

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Angelino (r.) grabbed a goal and an assist as RB Leipzig reached the UEFA Champions League last 16 with victory at home to Manchester United. – © ANNEGRET HILSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Solskjaer claims he has no regrets about rotating his squad at Leicester, where Donny van der Beek and Paul Pogba both started, claiming that players like Fernandes needed rest.

“Every team selection has reasons behind it, Bruno has played lots of football – he broke all his records physically on Thursday. He is a human being, he’s played a game every three or four days,” said Solskjaer.

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According to Neville, the Norwegian’s former teammate, the United coach needed to win a trophy.

“Of course, finishing second would be the priority at the start of the season, but winning a trophy with that would be a real priority and now they only have the Europa League left,” he said.

“I genuinely believe that that group of players need to win a trophy under Ole. Also, there comes a point when if you are going to catch Manchester City, you have to beat them in a big game in a big competition.”

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Rangers

Rangers fear major exit for ‘key’ player wanted by clubs abroad

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Rangers fear major exit for 'key' player wanted by clubs abroad
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Scott Arfield has been a vital part of the Rangers team since joining in 2018, and his current form, especially after van Bronckhorst took charge, is nothing short of exemplary.

The 33-year old Scottish-Canadian’s display is on a high now, and he recently helped his side’s win against Livingston with his “unbelievable” (according to Richard Foster) 75th minute goal.

He is a must-keep, but according to transfermarkt, the reigning Scottish champions risk losing him and other senior team members, including Steven Davis and Allan McGregor, in the summer following contract expiry.

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The Mirror’s print edition reported that the Gers fear letting their No. 37 go in exchange for nothing, given that USA clubs have their sights set on the midfielder, and his contract is only months away from expiry.

Money included or not, Scott’s departure could be a big blow come next season since he now practically determines Rangers’ performance (the one time he didn’t play after Gerrard’s exit is the only time Rangers dropped points.)

Hopefully, Rangers will consider holding talks to fight for the former Huddersfield Town’s contract extension, and he (Scott) is willing to stay in Scotland and at Ibrox, otherwise the double loss in terms of money and talent could hugely affect the Gers next season.

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Liverpool FC

Liverpool win race for £50m Porto star

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Liverpool win race for £50m Porto star
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Liverpool are preparing a late £45 million bid for Porto striker Luis Diaz, who is also being pursued by Tottenham.

The Colombian winger was Jurgen Klopp’s first option for the summer transfer window, but due to Spurs’ significant interest, Liverpool have hastened their preparations.

Liverpool is thought to be proposing an initial £37 million, plus bonuses, which will only be activated if Diaz is a major success at Anfield.

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Tottenham has been in discussions with Porto over Diaz, reportedly willing to spend up to £46 million for the player.

Spurs are reportedly willing to pay £37.6 million upfront for Diaz, with an extra £8.4 million in performance-related add-ons, according to reports in Portugal.

Spurs have already appeared to miss out on Wolves attacker Adama Traore, who appears poised to return to Barca on loan, and missing out on Luiz would be another major blow this month.

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It is unclear whether Diaz will move to Anfield this month or wait till the end of the season. In 18 outings for his current club this season, he has managed to score 14 goals.

Sky Sports reporter Vinny O’Connor:

“Obviously, it’s far from done and could easily come to nothing.

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“However, Liverpool view this as an excellent deal if it gets completed – very much close to a Diogo Jota-type fee. Also, it is far better value than the original €60m asking price.

“Diaz was Jurgen Klopp’s first choice for the summer, but they have brought those plans forward because it was clear if Liverpool didn’t act this window, the player would move on.

“This isn’t done and could yet collapse – the player is in Argentina with his national team, so it will be far from straightforward to complete the deal.

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“However, if it does get done, it’s a big coup for Julian Ward, who is to succeed sporting director Michael Edwards in the summer. It was a deal in which Ward lead for the first time, but it is fair to say he’s been supported strongly by Edwards who put together the strategy to secure the player this month.”

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Everton

Two Everton midfielders out for minimum of four weeks

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After suffering injuries in the last week, Everton midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure and Fabian Delph will both be out for at least four weeks.

The injury to Doucoure occurred in the second half of Everton’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Saturday, while the injury to Delph occurred in training.

Duncan Ferguson, the interim manager, suddenly has a scarcity of fit midfield players, with Tom Davies also sidelined for a prolonged period.

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Allan, Andre Gomes, and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, as well as Tyler Onyango, are available.

An Everton statement read: “Everton midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure and Fabian Delph are expected to be out for a minimum of four weeks after sustaining injuries.

“Frenchman Doucoure was forced off in the 65th minute of Saturday’s Premier League match against Aston Villa at Goodison Park due to a groin problem.

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“Subsequent tests have revealed the 29-year-old requires a period of rehabilitation under the care of Everton’s medical staff at USM Finch Farm.

“Meanwhile, Delph sustained a thigh injury during a training session this week and is now undergoing treatment with the club’s medical team.”

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