Football

Solskjaer: Manchester United still hopeful of catching Man City

Red Devils are 10 points behind EPL leaders, after Bruno-led win over Magpies

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not giving up hope that Manchester United can challenge Manchester City for the English Premier League title, despite the scintillating form of the league leaders.

City have soared 10 points clear of their local rivals - thanks to an 18-game winning streak in all competitions.

United's own inconsistent form has helped open up the gap. The Red Devils beat Newcastle United 3-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time) to win for just the second time in six EPL games.

"We've got to be there just in case," said Solskjaer.

"Every time we get three points, we've done our job and that's what we've got to do and see what other teams do."

Solskjaer had to rely on star men Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to paper over the cracks of an unconvincing performance, despite United coming on the back of a 4-0 thrashing of Real Sociedad in the Europa League last 32, first leg last Thursday.

Rashford lashed in the opener in the 30th minute before earning the penalty which Fernandes converted in the 75th minute.

Daniel James made full use of a rare start by scoring United's second to put them 2-1 ahead, after Magpies winger Allan Saint-Maximin levelled proceedings at Old Trafford.

"We had to find a way to win it in the second half. The first half wasn't up to the standard that we wanted," said Solskjaer.

"Maybe because of Newcastle, maybe because of what we did in the week. We asked them to go again after a high-intensity game and it took us to half-time to get our legs and energy."

Fernandes had a relatively quiet game by his lofty standards, and yet registered a goal and an assist - the seventh time he has done so this season, with no other player in Europe's top-five leagues with the same tally.

Said former United midfield maestro Paul Scholes of the Portuguese talisman on BT Sport: "There's definitely progress, Ole has brought a real attacking threat to this team and Fernandes has been the big difference.

"The influence he has had on this team has been sensational... He didn't really have a massive effect (against Newcastle), but these are the standards we expect from him now. Assist and another goal, he's made a hell of a difference to this team."

While Fernandes is affecting the present at United, 17-year-old Shola Shoretire, who is seen as one for the future, came on in the 89th minute for his debut.

TESTAMENT

Former England international Michael Owen tipped the teenager to have a "long and successful career", describing the winger as someone "who's got a cracking attitude" based on previous interactions.

Arsenal great Ian Wright added that it was testament to United that they continue to give opportunities to academy graduates.

Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Steve Bruce remains confident his side will survive the drop, despite a run of two wins in 14 games that has left the Magpies just three points clear of 18th-placed Fulham.

"There are a few of us (battling relegation). My message to the supporters is that I'm convinced we'll be OK," said Bruce. - REUTERS

Football