Solskjaer suggests Man Utd's poor home form partly down to red seats and banners

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has offered a novel explanation for Manchester United's underwhelming home form this season – the players' jerseys are blending into the red canvas of banners and empty seats at Old Trafford.

United's form both at home and on the road have made for curious reading for much of the season – after all, their 6-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford in October was the Red Devils' joint-heaviest Premier League loss and saw them beaten in their opening two home games of a league campaign for the first time since 1986-87.

Yet, United have not lost a Premier League away game since January 19, 2020, winning 15 of those 23 matches on the road since.

Delving into the numbers a little more, United's 54.2 per cent win rate at home across all competitions this term is their second-worst record since the Premier League's inception in 1992 – only in 2018-19 (46.2 per cent) have they won a smaller percentage of their games at Old Trafford.

Conversely, their 65.4 per cent win rate on the road (17 victories in 26 matches) is better than they have ever managed in the same timeframe.

While many have put the drastic changes down to a lack of fans – so, less intimidating atmospheres away and reduced motivation at home – in stadiums, Solskjaer offered an alternative conclusion as he addressed the media ahead of Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg with Granada.

"You'll see a change now, the banners around the pitch, they're not red anymore," Solskjaer said when queried about why United failed to beat Real Sociedad and Milan at Old Trafford in the two previous rounds of the competition.

"We've looked into this and there shouldn't be any reason really, but some of the players have mentioned, that split-second decision you have to make – look over your shoulder if your team-mate is there or not – and the red shirt is on the red background with the red seats.

"So, we've tried to change that, along with the anti-racism campaign [banner], so of course it was important that wasn't red anymore.

"Then again, there shouldn't be any reason, but if you've got a 4-0 advantage [in the Real Sociedad tie] you don't really have to win that game [second leg at home], 0-0 was a good result.

"Then the first game against Milan, that's still a draw, we conceded in the last minute. I still think we've played some good football at home.

"We started off badly with three defeats to Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal early on, so we've improved."

United host Granada having won 2-0 in Spain a week earlier, and it is just as well they are in such a commanding position given the depleted nature of Solskjaer's squad.

Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are all suspended, while Eric Bailly remains absent having contracted coronavirus and Marcus Rashford is reportedly a doubt after missing training on Wednesday.

An experimental, and potentially inexperienced, starting XI could be named, with Solskjaer confirming Axel Tuanzebe is set for a rare game at centre-back.

"I don't think it affected him," Solskjaer said when asked if Tuanzebe's confidence had been damaged after being targeted with online abuse.

"Axel has always been a very positive and hard-working boy. Victor and Harry have formed a very good partnership, so his chances have been limited. He is ready for this opportunity."

Regarding any hints of complacency, Solskjaer added: "We have got a great foundation, but we have to win. They will give everything they have got.

"Momentum is big in football. We have to make sure we go through, I always pick a team I think will win a game.

"We will go into the game wanting to win this. We want to improve our performances.

"It is a quarter-final in Europe, they need to score goals. We have seen them against Barcelona, Real Madrid how dangerous they can be. We have to play a good game and not give them those opportunities."

Related items

  • Vlahovic pledges to 'become a champion' at Juventus Vlahovic pledges to 'become a champion' at Juventus

    Dusan Vlahovic pledged to improve on his first half-season with Juventus and "become a champion" as the Bianconeri prepare to end their Serie A campaign against his former club Fiorentina.

    Vlahovic joined Massimiliano Allegri's side in a €70million move in January after scoring 17 goals in 21 Serie A appearances for Vincenzo Italiano's men this season, adding a further seven in 14 league appearances for the Old Lady since arriving in Turin.

    The striker became the joint-highest scoring Serbian player in Serie A history in Monday's 2-2 draw with Lazio (51 – level with Dejan Stankovic), while one more league goal would make him just the second player aged under 23 years old to hit 25 in a Serie A season in 60 years – the other being Ronaldo for Inter in 1997-98.

    However, Vlahovic has struggled to match his Fiorentina form during Juventus' frustrating end to the campaign, averaging a league goal every 151.86 minutes for Juve as opposed to every 109.47 minutes for his former club.

    Juventus are guaranteed to finish fourth in Serie A for a second consecutive season, having won the title in each of the nine previous campaigns, and lost the Coppa Italia final to rivals Inter this month.

    But Vlahovic remains happy with his decision to move to Turin and sees room for improvement moving forward.

    Speaking at the Turin book fair, Vlahovic was asked about former Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli labelling him a "true champion" recently, replying: "I would like to say, speaking of myself as a champion... I don't like it. There is a long way to go, to work. I will give my all and I hope I will become a champion.

    "I like Juve's DNA, this desire to fight and not give up, to go over the limit, until the end. 

    "I am a bit like that too. I like working, above all because when I stop playing, even if it's early, I don't want to have regrets. I want to give everything, I don't want to have regrets. 

    "This is my job, I am privileged and I don't see why it should be different. You can always do better. Even when you have done something extraordinary, you must be aware and satisfied, without exaggerating."

    Juventus can end this Serie A campaign with a maximum of 73 points, guaranteeing their worst such return since the 2010-11 campaign (58 points, under Luigi Delneri).

    The Bianconeri's hopes of a successful campaign suffered a huge blow when Italy's Euro 2020 star Federico Chiesa suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in January.

    Vlahovic played with Chiesa at Fiorentina and cannot wait to see the winger return to full fitness next term as he looks to rekindle their on-pitch relationship.

    "He saw me grow up as a kid," he said of Chiesa. "We shared three years at Fiorentina, luckily we're together again. 

    "He got injured when I arrived, I hope he'll be back as soon as possible. We hope to find our understanding on the pitch, which has remained from Florence. 

    "I can't wait to play with him, to take the field and fight with him and win together."

  • Kohli returns to form as RCB keep playoff hopes alive with Titans win Kohli returns to form as RCB keep playoff hopes alive with Titans win

    Virat Kohli returned to form with a crucial 73 as Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their Indian Premier League playoffs hopes alive with an eight-wicket victory over Gujarat Titans.

    Titans opener Wriddhiman Saha scored a brisk 31 and David Miller added 34 in a 61-run partnership with captain Hardik Pandya, who finished unbeaten on 62 as Gujarat posted 168-5 at the Wankhede Stadium.

    That total was boosted by a late flurry from Rashid Khan, who smashed 19 off just six balls, but the target seemed below par as RCB's openers raced out of the blocks.

    Kohli and Faf du Plessis made a blistering start to the chase, the India star reaching his second half-century of the tournament off 33 deliveries with a six against Khan (2-32).

    Khan then removed Du Plessis, caught by Pandya, for 44 with the score on 115-1 in the 15th over, before beating Glenn Maxwell for pace and clipping the stumps without the bails coming off with the next ball.

    Maxwell capitalised on the reprieve by blasting the next Pandya over for 21 and, although Khan had Kohli stumped in the 17th over, the Australian's unbeaten 40 off just 18 balls saw RCB over the line with eight deliveries to spare.

    RCB's playoff hopes now rely on Delhi Capitals losing to Mumbai Indians on Saturday, while IPL debutants Gujarat are already assured top spot after winning 10 of 14 games.

    King Kohli

    Before this game, Kohli averaged just 21.45 in the IPL this term – his lowest in the tournament since 2008, when he averaged 15 – and had been dismissed for under 10 runs six times, including three golden ducks.

    The 33-year-old has acknowledged he may need a break to rejuvenate mentally and physically, but he was at his imperious best here, smashing eight fours and two sixes in his 54-ball 73.

    Hasaranga keeps it tight

    Wanindu Hasaranga, who claimed 1-25 from his four-over allocation, continues to dominate through the middle overs for RCB.

    The Sri Lanka international dismissed Miller with a wonderful caught and bowled to pick up his 24th wicket of the tournament – the joint-most with Rajasthan Royals' Yuzvendra Chahal.

  • Ramsey backed by Wales boss Page to quickly respond to Rangers penalty misery Ramsey backed by Wales boss Page to quickly respond to Rangers penalty misery

    Aaron Ramsey has the character to put his penalty miss in Rangers' Europa League final shoot-out defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt behind him, according to Wales boss Rob Page.

    The on-loan Juventus midfielder, brought on in the second half of extra time, missed the only spot-kick as Frankfurt prevailed 5-4 in a game that finished level at 1-1 in Seville on Wednesday.

    It marked the first time Rangers had tasted defeat on penalties in European competition since the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup when losing to Borussia Dortmund in the last 32.

    Ramsey was visibly upset after Rafael Borre converted the decisive penalty for Frankfurt, who are the first German team to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League since Schalke in 1996-97.

    But Page insists he has no worries about selecting the 31-year-old to take a penalty should Wales' upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine go the distance.

    "I have no doubt whatsoever that if it comes to penalties that he will take one," Page said at a news conference on Thursday after naming his 27-man squad for that June 5 showdown in Cardiff.

    Asked if he still has faith in Ramsey, Page said: "Absolutely, 100 per cent. It happens to the best in the world. Top players, they put themselves up.

    "I am so proud of him for putting himself up [to take a penalty]. He is a world-class footballer. He had the courage and conviction to take a penalty. Top players recover from that, no problem."

    Ramsey is part of Wales' latest squad, as is Gareth Bale, who will become a free agent when his Real Madrid contract expires in the coming weeks.

    Bale's agent this week suggested a return to English football is the most likely option, with the forward aiming to keep fit ahead of November's World Cup should Wales qualify for the tournament for the first time in 64 years.

    "I think everybody is probably thinking the same thing about his future," Page said. "It will depend on how results go with regards to what he does next season with a club.

    "The only person who can answer that is Gareth. All I know is whenever he turns up for us he is first class. The full focus on himself is winning this game against Ukraine or Scotland, so he can worry about that after."

    Bale has started just four games for Madrid in all competitions this season and has not been part of their matchday squad for any of their past five games because of a back problem.

    The Wales skipper is back in training, however, and Page expects him to be part of Los Blancos' squad for next week's Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris.

    "I think Gareth puts himself when he is fit to be available for Real Madrid like he does with us," Page said. "It is down to the manager then whether he wants to select him or not in the squad. 

    "I think he is confident he will be involved and we will wait and see whether he is involved. We will then get him in camp as soon as we can."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.