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Old 'tradition' cheers Ole's Christmas

China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-31 09:38
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MANCHESTER, England-Manchester United is reviving its "tradition" of late winners that could lead to an unexpected Premier League title challenge, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring Manchester United's injury-time winner that earned a 1-0 English Premier League victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Marcus Rashford's deflected strike deep into stoppage time beat Wolves 1-0 on Tuesday to move United up to second and within two points of leader Liverpool, which was due to face Newcastle on Wednesday night.

After come-from-behind wins at Brighton and Southampton already this season, United has now won three of its first 15 games of the season in added time, a trait Solskjaer knows well from his playing career at Old Trafford under Alex Ferguson.

"It's one of the points we brought up early in the season, that we didn't win many points towards the end of games," said Solskjaer.

"We have a tradition for it at this club. Obviously we've normally got many more supporters helping us to do that.

"Now we've won many more points towards the end of games and that's both a mental aspect and a physical aspect."

United labored for long spells against a youthful Wolves side despite having a day's extra rest than the visitor, which was in action just 48 hours previously against Tottenham.

But Solskjaer described snatching victory from an uninspired performance as a "big step forward" as United beat Wolves for the first time in five meetings between the sides since Nuno Espirito Santo's men returned to the top flight two-and-a-half years ago.

"We didn't perform as well as we want to do but we win a game against a very difficult side to play against," added Solskjaer.

"We've struggled against them, this is the first win in the league. We've played them seven times (over the past three seasons) and there has never been many goals in the games.

"This is a big step forward that you don't perform, but you still win."

United's victory continues an excellent run of 23 points from a possible 27 to mount a title challenge that looked unlikely after winning just two of their opening six league games.

Solskjaer's men host Aston Villa on New Year's Day before traveling to face Liverpool on Jan 17, in a match which could have huge ramifications for the title race.

"We cannot get too far ahead of ourselves," said Solskjaer. "We've got to a decent position at the moment but we are not even halfway, there is a long, long way to go."

Defeat was harsh on Wolves, who competed manfully given the tight turnaround for two hugely demanding fixtures.

However, the West Midlands side again lacked a goal threat in the absence of Raul Jimenez, who is expected to miss much of the rest of the season due to a fractured skull.

"This is football and a learning process," said Wolves boss Nuno. "It's cruel in the moment but you can't stay feeling sorry. You have to move forward."

The last clash between the sides at Old Trafford in February was Bruno Fernandes' debut for United.

The Portuguese has had a transformative impact on United's fortunes, but he could not beat international teammate Patricio with by far the host's best chance of the first half as he snuck in at the back post to meet Mason Greenwood's cross.

Solskjaer lauded Edinson Cavani's predatory instincts on the eve of the game, suggesting the Uruguayan will be handed an extension to his contract for next season.

The 33-year-old did find the net with his only chance 20 minutes from time, but was ruled offside.

Instead it was Rashford who made the telling impact as he raced onto a hopeful Fernandes long ball.

The England international cut inside, but Patricio looked to have his shot covered until it hit Romain Saiss and flew in at the near post.

Virus fears

Fears over the continuation of the season due to rising coronavirus infection rates in England grew across on Tuesday.

A record 18 positive tests for COVID-19 among players and staff were detected in the Premier League's weekly round of testing.

After Manchester City's trip to Everton on Monday was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in Pep Guardiola's squad, all five matches scheduled for Tuesday went ahead despite disruption for Sheffield United and Southampton.

The bottom-of-the-table Blades revealed they had suffered a number of positive cases but were still able to field a squad of 18 for their 1-0 defeat at Burnley.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche said the league would have to take action if cases continued to rise.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl coached his side from his home for a 0-0 draw against West Ham after a member of his household tested positive.

The Telegraph reported the Premier League will discuss plans for a two-week circuit breaker with infection rates soaring across England.

New West Bromwich Albion manager and former England boss Sam Allardyce called for a temporary halt to the season as a "circuit break".

"Everyone's safety is more important than anything else," Allardyce said following his team's 5-0 defeat to Leeds.

"When I listen to the news the variant virus transmits quicker than the original ... we can only do the right thing which is have a circuit break.

"I'm 66 and the last thing I want to do is catch COVID. I'm very concerned for myself and football... We (West Brom) had one positive this week and it seems to be creeping around no matter how hard we try."

However, Solskjaer called for the competition to continue.

"I'm not sure if stopping playing football will make a difference," said the 47-year-old Norwegian.

"In our bubble we've proven to be quite (safe), we haven't had too many cases transmitting within the group."

Agencies

 

 

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