Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s magic touch continues for United after Leicester victory

Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring the opening goal for Manchester United against Leicester City. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s magic touch continues for United after Leicester victory

LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains unbeaten 10 games into his caretaker reign of Manchester United as the rejuvenated Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba combined to earn a 1-0 win at Leicester on Sunday to close in on the Premier League top four.
Rashford blasted home his sixth goal since Solskjaer took charge after taking an exquisite touch to control Pogba’s lofted pass and United held out to move above Arsenal into fifth and within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea.
A 2-2 draw at home to Burnley in midweek is the only match Solskjaer has failed to win and much of that form is owed to the turnaround in both Rashford and Pogba’s roles since Mourinho was sacked in December with United 11 points adrift of the top four.
Solskjaer again chose to leave Romelu Lukaku on the substitutes’ bench, with Rashford preferred as his center-forward.
Rashford took just nine minutes to respond with the crucial goal, having already missed a good chance when he headed over when unmarked from Nemanja Matic’s cross.
Ricardo Pereira was the guilty party for Leicester with a dangerous ball that was intercepted by Pogba.
The Frenchman proceeded to display his deftness of his touch with a beautiful pass that was lofted over the Leicester backline for Rashford to run onto and he did the rest, taking a touch before drilling a low shot past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel.
“That pass by Paul Pogba is great and the control by Marcus better,” added Solskjaer.
Leicester have now conceded in the first 11 minutes in each of their last five games.
“It’s crazy. At the start we don’t believe enough in our quality,” said under-fire Leicester boss Claude Puel. “Afterwards we play with intent and we can hurt teams like United.
“It’s a big disappointment because we found good quality in the second-half with a lot of chances to come back.”
However, as is often the case on the road, United relied on goalkeeper David de Gea for all three points as a Leicester side that have often troubled the top six this season improved after half-time.
Twice the Spaniard stood tall to deny Jamie Vardy, but De Gea’s best save came from Rachid Ghezzal’s free-kick that arrowed toward the top corner.
“Leicester got in a few dangerous positions, David de Gea made a few great saves and blocks,” said Solskjaer.
“We could have done better higher up the pitch in terms of defending but we deserved the three points I thought,” he added.
A Ghezzal goal would have been rich vindication for Puel who was met with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from his own fans for replacing James Maddison with the Algerian just after the hour mark.
Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire also failed to hit the target as the Foxes laid seige toward the United goal in search of an equalizer that never came to pile more pressure on the under-fire Puel.
His stock at Leicester remains on the slide but Solskjaer’s at Old Trafford continues to soar.


Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

Updated 29 September 2020

Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

  • Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February 2020

RIYADH: The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) on Tuesday announced the return of the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, as well as a prize money increase and a new international race at the February 19-20 event.

At a series of press events held via video link from King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February this year.

“It’s hard to overstate the success of Saudi Cup 2020 when you consider that in year one of a brand-new international racing event, we attracted some of the very best horses, trainers and jockeys in the world,” he said. “We witnessed 22 individual Group or Grade 1 winners, who had accumulated an impressive 34 wins at that level between them. That would be an excellent statistic for even the most well-established race meetings in the world, let alone to have that calibre in year one.”

Prince Bandar also revealed that the prize money across the whole Saudi Cup event next year would increase from $29.2m to $30.5m.

Next year's event is scheduled a week earlier than the inaugural event, and the free-to-enter, free-to-run 1,800 meter Saudi Cup with a purse of $20 million remains the highlight of the eight-race card, which now features a boost to the prize money of three dirt races on the undercard.

The 1,600m Saudi Derby sees a prize money increase from $800,000 to $1.5m. The Obaiya Cup for Purebred Arabians held over 2,000m will now be worth $2 million, up from $1.9 million while the purse for The Jockey Club Local Handicap will double to $1 million up from $500,000.

The International Jockeys Challenge, held the Friday before the Saudi Cup will once again see 14 of the world’s best jockeys, seven women, five international men and two Saudi-based jockeys, compete.

Lisa Allpress became the first woman to win a race in Saudi Arabia this year when the four-time New Zealand champion claimed the opening leg of the challenge. The overall title was won by another woman, Swiss jockey, Sibylle Vogt with French female rider, Mickaelle Michel second and US Hall of Famer, Mike Smith third. Each of the four legs of the Jockeys Challenge are again worth $400,000 in prize money and contested on the dirt track.

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READ MORE: Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts

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The first staging of the Saudi Cup weekend showcased a number of “firsts” for the Kingdom and saw the JCSA plan and deliver two days of top class racing. As well as raising the profile of Saudi Arabia as a racing and sporting venue, the event successfully introduced the country’s first turf track, a surface acclaimed by jockeys and trainers, and celebrated the first female jockeys not only to ever ride under rules in the country, but also to win races.

In 2020 the Saudi Cup card saw 64 foreign runners, representing ten different countries, take on 26 locally trained rivals in the seven international races. Five of these races witnessed overseas victories. 

The event in 2021 will also see the running of a new race, held on Friday — the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap will be held over 2,100m of the turf track.

Horses must be trained in a country which is not included among the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Part I nations, subject to quarantine protocols being in place and must have had at least one run in their trainer’s country prior to entry.

Locally trained horses must have had a least one run in Saudi Arabia by February 1, 2021.

“With the changes we bring to Saudi Cup 2021 we hope to offer the racing and sporting public the most interesting and intriguing race cards possible, whether they are able to be with us in person or watching from home,” said Prince Bandar.

“The 2020 event was a great beginning but now we turn our attention to year two and to taking on board the lessons we learned from year one. We will be using that knowledge to steer the JCSA and the Saudi Cup weekend to new heights, building regional and international bridges within the industry to engage with global racing fans, inspire domestic involvement and enhance not only our own offering but that of racing as a global sport.”

Tom Ryan the JCSA’s Director of Strategy and International Racing said: “To have the sport’s key players bring their horses to an untested and unproven event and furthermore to see the progressive form that those horses have displayed since is something for the JCSA to be proud of. The strength of form to come out of our event acts as a great advert to trainers and owners next year.

“Mishriff, trained in England by John Gosden, would be one we could point to having won his next three starts following his second place in the Saudi Derby, including the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club [French Derby].

“Call The Wind, who won the Red Sea Turf Handicap was a Group 3 winner on his first outing back in France and followed up with a runner up spot in a Group 2 and another Group 3 win.

“In addition, a number of horses have held their form since the Saudi Cup race itself. As well as the winner, Midnight Bisou, Tacitus, McKinzie, Chrysoberyl and Magic Wand have all won Group races on either a first or second appearance and indicate that horses travel well to the Saudi Cup and even return to their global campaigns having come on for the run.

Ryan acknowledged the significant global challenges to holding international sporting events saying: “It is nevertheless a difficult time to stage large-scale global events and we know that now the real hard work begins. We will keep the lines of communication open and work closely with the authorities as we seek to hold this event in the best and safest way possible.”