Liverpool’s long title wait a warning for Manchester United

Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives directions to his team. (AP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Liverpool’s long title wait a warning for Manchester United

  • The problem for United is Solskjaer’s rebuild is just the latest of many that have so far failed since Ferguson retired in 2013

LIVERPOOL: Thirteen months on from the match that finally drew the curtain on Jose Mourinho’s time in charge of Manchester United, the Red Devils again find themselves living in Liverpool’s shadow ahead of their return to Anfield on Sunday.
A 3-1 defeat for Mourinho’s men last December that left United 19 points behind Liverpool at the top of the table was the final straw for the club’s decision-makers.
But over a year on, little progress has been made under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Defeat on Sunday will see the gulf between the teams grow to 30 points with Liverpool also having a game in hand to come over fifth-placed United.
As a player, Solskjaer was used to having the upper hand in the rivalry between English football’s two most successful sides.
The Norwegian won six Premier League titles in the Alex Ferguson era as the pugnacious Scot delivered on his promise to knock Liverpool off their perch.
Ferguson won 13 league titles in total, but the first of which in 1992/93 ended a 26-year drought for United.
At that time, few would have believed that Liverpool, English football’s dominant force in the 70s and 80s, would go at least 30 years without winning the league.
That three-decade wait looks certain to come to an end this season with Jurgen Klopp’s men 14 points clear at the top of the table, but Liverpool’s long route back to the top is a warning for United of what could lie ahead if they do not move fast to arrest their slide. “We are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Let that be a lesson for us,”
said Solskjaer.
“We can’t let ourselves go another 24 years till we win the league and I’m sure won’t because I believe in this club. We started the rebuild now that I believe is going to take a little bit of time, but we’ll get there.”
The problem for United is Solskjaer’s rebuild is just the latest of many that have so far failed since Ferguson retired in 2013.
United are now onto their fourth permanent manager in that time and are now pursuing a policy of signing young, emerging talents after being burned on splashing big money on players past their prime like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez and Bastian Schweinsteiger in recent times.
Liverpool have spent far less in the transfer market of late, but it is the right structure in place above the German allied to Klopp’s ability to inspire and improve players that has made the Reds Champions League winners and English champions in waiting.

BACKGROUND

A 3-1 defeat for Jose Mourinho’s men last December that left Manchester United 19 points behind Liverpool at the top of the table was the final straw for the club’s decision-makers.

“Klopp has moved Liverpool so far ahead because rather than buy a team of superstars, he has made a team of superstars,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher wrote in The Telegraph this week.
“What Klopp is achieving at Anfield is more a triumph of coaching and management, aided by skilled recruitment, than the flexing of financial muscle.”
Liverpool are unbeaten in the league in over a year and have taken 104 points from their last 38 games compared to United’s 59.
Klopp’s galvanizing effect shows the difference having one of the world’s top managers can make, and one is now on the market should United decide to change course again.
Mauricio Pochettino was United’s primary target when Mourinho was sacked just over a year ago, but the Argentine was contracted to Tottenham at the time.
Solskjaer needs a strong end to the season if he is to be given another campaign to right the United ship.
And there would be no better way for him to prove that progress is being made under his watch than ending Liverpool’s unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League stretching back to April 2017.


Five players out of French Open qualifying due to COVID-19

Updated 21 September 2020

Five players out of French Open qualifying due to COVID-19

  • The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27

PARIS: Five players have been withdrawn from the French Open qualifying tournament after two players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19, organizers have said.
The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27.
“The Roland Garros tournament directors can confirm that two players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for COVID-19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for COVID-19,” the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said in a statement.
“In line with tournament health protocols, the five players will not compete in the qualifying tournament and will self isolate for a period of seven days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Sept. 17.”
Organizers did not reveal the names of those who had been pulled out but Damir Dzumhur said he had been withdrawn because his coach Petar Popović had returned a positive test.
“That’s why I can’t play at Roland Garros and I don’t have a chance to compete,” he wrote on his Instagram account.
“He didn’t get a chance to do a second test and we’re sure he was false positive because my coach has antibodies,” added the Bosnian, who reached the third round in Paris in 2015 and 2018.
The French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot.
The FFT is planning to allow 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. It had previously said the claycourt major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day.