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With or without Haaland, Solskjaer's Manchester United are finally going places

Thursday26 December 2019 | 20:40
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United took another step forward by beating Newcastle but must not stop to admire their own progress.

Erling Haaland is going to Juventus. No, sorry, that should say Manchester United. Or is it Leipzig, I can never quite remember. Did the papers say Dortmund? You might be right.

What we know about Haaland is that it should be a matter of days before his future becomes clear. The Salzburg striker is surely going somewhere in January.

If his eventual destination is Old Trafford, then that raises an issue. Because on the evidence of the 4-1 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United, the Red Devils have a set of forwards who should be going nowhere.

In 22-year-old Marcus Rashford and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, they possess two of the brightest young forwards in the Premier League certainly, perhaps in all of Europe.

And with two-goal Anthony Martial looking the part again, do United even need Haaland? The answer is that yes, they need all the top-class young players they can possibly draw to Manchester, even those who crow about supporting long-time foes Leeds United.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to truly build a team to stand the test of time, then the most eminent substitute of his day knows better than most the benefit of United boasting deep resources.

As United's supporters drawled through their 'Twelve days of Cantona' routine and patted themselves on the back over petty slights at former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, there was a sense amid the festive cheer was that this is a club trapped in time.

The legendary Bobby Charlton watched on, and even in the opposition dugout there was a former United favourite in Steve Bruce.

Who within the United ranks as we head towards 2020 will be held in similar esteem to Charlton in 20, 30, 40, 50 years?

David de Gea? Still fault-prone. Rashford? Give the lad time. Paul Pogba? There were high hopes when he returned, but surely not.

So there is nobody quite there yet. The serial winners have all left, and any predictions of United lifting a Premier League title in the next five years might be widely frowned upon.

But while Liverpool are on top of the world, Manchester City have long cast off the tag of 'noisy neighbours', and intrigue surrounds Frank Lampard at Chelsea and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, it is almost as though something has slipped beneath the radar.

Perhaps we are seeing a modern United team beginning to blossom into something rather special.

There will be bumps in the road for any young team, and the loss to Watford on Saturday was a thudding example.

But since a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on October 6, this Manchester United team have been rather good more often than not.

The Manchester Evening News said of that St James' Park performance: "This predictably awful team was predictably awful."

Yet in the 11 weeks between that game and a reunion with the Magpies, United have become the first side to prise Premier League points from Liverpool this term, stunned derby rivals City, seen off Jose Mourinho's reborn Tottenham and scored league wins over Norwich and Brighton.

All this while steadily marching on in the Europa League and EFL Cup, with losses to Watford and Bournemouth the only real blemishes.

So yes, now is the time to build and keep building, to get Haaland if that deal is achievable, to show mettle at Burnley on December 28 and at Arsenal on New Year's Day.

With the excellence of Rashford complemented by the flourishing teenage talent of Greenwood and a steadily improving supporting cast, this is not the time to stand still.

Predictably awful? Not anymore. United are back in the realm of being merely unpredictable. Given their youngsters, and given the depths to which they sank, file that away as progress. Next stop, consistency.


source: SportMob