Ole Gunnar Solskjaer labelled Manchester United's 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool as his "darkest day" as manager of the club.

United's poor start to the season hit a potential nadir on Sunday as Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford.

Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick against United, with Naby Keita and Diogo Jota having put Jurgen Klopp's team in control inside the opening 15 minutes.

Paul Pogba came on from the bench for a calamitous 15-minute cameo in which he conceded possession for Salah's hat-trick goal before seeing red for a lunge on Keita, though United at least managed to keep the Reds out while down to 10.

Having seen their team go into half-time 4-0 down for the first time in a Premier League game, United's fans let their feelings known as the players and Solskjaer walked off, and the atmosphere hardly improved after the final whistle.

Solskjaer appears to be under mounting pressure, with United relying on last-minute winners to see off Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League in recent weeks, while they have lost three of their last four top-flight matches, conceding 11 times and scoring just three in return.

"It is not easy to say something apart from it is the darkest day I have had leading these players," a dejected Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"We were not good enough individually and as a team, can't give a team like Liverpool those chances but unfortunately we did.

"The whole performance was not good enough. We created openings, they had chances and they have been clinical. The third goal decided the game."

Asked who had to take responsibility, Solskjaer replied: "It is mine, that is it. The coaching staff are very, very good, brilliant.

"I choose the way we approach the game, we were not clinical enough and gave too much space and when you give good players space they score."

United decided to try and press Liverpool from the off, a tactic that swiftly proved naive, though Solskjaer did not regret his approach. 

"We are at home, playing against Liverpool, we have gone here over the last two and half years and had a similar approach to high press but today they scored on their chances I think as United we should always try to stamp our authority on the game," he said.

"That fourth goal is when you go into half time with having to score one every 15 minutes. I know these boys are capable of it. The fourth, that was probably game over.

"You can look at last season we lose to Spurs 6-1 this is worse, miles worse. This is miles worse for me as a Manchester lad. I've just got to say we have to get over this as quickly as we can."

Solskjaer knows questions over his future will only increase, but he insisted he is in no mood to give in.

He added: "I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now.

"It is going to be a difficult one. The players will be low but there's loads of characters there. We know we are rock bottom, we can't feel any worse than this. Let's see where we take it."

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has apologised to the club's supporters after their humiliating 5-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Mohamed Salah plundered a hat-trick after Naby Keita and Diogo Jota had put Liverpool into a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes, while substitute Paul Pogba was dismissed on a dark day for United.

The result was United's heaviest ever defeat at home to Liverpool, and it is the first time they have lost to-nil by five or more goals at home since February 1955 (5-0 v Man City).

The defeat follows last weekend's 4-2 loss at Leicester City and leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side eight points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Maguire, who was at the heart of a slapstick performance by United's defence, admitted the display was well short of the standards the club should be setting.

"We apologise to the fans, it was nowhere near good enough for this club," he told Sky Sports. "They stuck with us right to the end and we appreciate that but as a club we have to do better.

"I am so disappointed; we gave them so many chances. They were so clinical, we had a lot of chances ourselves but I am a defender and to concede four in the first half, especially at Old Trafford, is nowhere near good enough.

"As a player I know myself. I’ll be looking at myself and my individual performance.

"We have to stick together, there is no point blaming each other but look at ourselves. Look in the mirror when we go home tonight and think where we can do better.

"To lose to Liverpool in any game of football hurts. The rivals, the way we lost the game, to be 4-0 down at half time in front of our fans, like I say it is not good enough."

Asked if it was too strong to say the result was embarrassing, Maguire responded: "Not really. The term I'd use is not good enough. I look at those lads each day in training and we are working hard as we can but at the moment it is not good enough.

"I apologise to the fans, we have to look at ourselves as individuals but also stick together."

Jurgen Klopp closed in on a milestone win in sensational style as Mohamed Salah's hat-trick inspired Liverpool to a 5-0 rout of Manchester United.

Matters look bleak for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the pressure mounting on the United manager, who saw his team torn to shreds on Sunday.

Salah scored the Reds' final three goals, having teed up Naby Keita's opener, while Diogo Jota grabbed Liverpool's second. Paul Pogba's red card merely compounded United's misery.

It was a momentous day for Liverpool and a dismal one for United. Stats Perform looks at the records that tumbled in an historic result.

 

Klopp closes in on double century

Taking charge of his 229th match as Liverpool manager in the Premier League, Klopp claimed his 198th victory as Reds boss in all competitions. 

If including shoot-out victories, which Opta do not, Klopp has in fact already hit that mark.

He has also overtaken Rafael Benitez and Gerard Houllier (including matches as co-manager with Roy Evans) as the manager to have taken charge of the most games for the club in the top flight.

Klopp's team look well set for a title tilt. They have scored 19 goals in their first five away matches in the Premier League this season.

In English top-flight history only two sides have scored more after five away games – Manchester City in 2011-12 (20) and United in 1907-08 (20).

Salah in dreamland

It has been some season so far for Salah, as he moved onto 10 Premier League goals with a gift-wrapped hat-trick.

He is the first away player to net a hat-trick at Old Trafford since Ronaldo Nazario did so for Real Madrid in April 2003, while he is only the second player to do so for Liverpool, after Fred Howe in 1936.

Salah's goal tally in the Premier League now stands at 107, three clear of Didier Drogba as the highest-scoring African player in the competition's history.

The 29-year-old has scored in 10 consecutive appearances for the Reds in all competitions. Since he joined the club prior to the 2017-18 campaign, he is the only Premier League player to score in 10 successive matches.

 

Solemn times for Solskjaer

United were 2-0 down inside 15 minutes for the first time, and 4-0 down at half-time for the first time in any Premier League game.

The Red Devils have only lost by a larger margin in this fixture in October 1895 when Liverpool beat them 7-1 at Anfield. It is their largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home.

Liverpool are only the second team in English top-flight history to win consecutive away games by a margin of five or more goals without conceding themselves, after United in February-March 1960.

It is the first time United have lost by a margin of at least five goals at Old Trafford without scoring since they slumped to a 5-0 defeat to Man City in 1955.

Pogba's calamitous cameo 

Pogba had a 15-minute cameo to forget. He replaced Mason Greenwood at half-time, but was trudging down the tunnel on the hour mark after lunging in on Keita, who had to be taken off on a stretcher.

He had 20 touches, made 16 passes and was robbed of possession in the build-up to Salah's hat-trick goal. It was one of five occasions he gave the ball away.

The France midfielder's red card was the 17th in Premier League matches between Manchester United and Liverpool – the only fixture with more red cards in the competition is Everton vs Liverpool (22).

Cristiano Ronaldo also struggled to have an impact, despite a disallowed goal. The 36-year-old previously featured in a 5-0 defeat during his time at Real Madrid, to Barcelona in November 2010.

Manchester City's 6-1 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford, 10 years and one day ago, was probably the worst defeat ever endured by Alex Ferguson.

In the club's modern history, even in the post-Fergie wilderness, there had never quite been an occasion to match it, even accounting for Tottenham's victory by the same scoreline last year.

There has now.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the hero of Barcelona 1999, knew a thing or two about creating spectacles as a player. As a manager, he still has the knack.

Manchester United 0, Liverpool 5. Has there ever been a more abject, visceral demolition of the 20-time English champions in the Premier League era? Has it ever looked this bad?

A goal down after five minutes and a missed Bruno Fernandes sitter. A hat-trick for Mohamed Salah, the first in the league away to United since QPR's Dennis Bailey in 1992. A disallowed goal for Cristiano Ronaldo. A 15-minute cameo for Paul Pogba that ended in a red card. A total of 35 home goals conceded in 2021, their worst such return for 60 years. The biggest win for Liverpool over their rivals since 1925. And hardly a whiff of surprise about the whole sordid thing.

As former midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tweeted at full-time: "A devastating day for all Man Utd supporters and the club but it didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a surprise."

City's 6-1 win in October 2011 was a watershed moment; a giant step on the way to their first Premier League title. But it was still an aberration: after all, United finished level on points that season and responded by winning the trophy back a year later.

This was more in keeping with Liverpool and City's 3-0 wins over David Moyes' United. Those games, too, were barely contests, barely surprising given United's problems, and barely left the manager anywhere to hide.

The Glazers have stood by Solskjaer, resolutely, perhaps misguidedly. Watching United lose 3-1 at Anfield was enough for them to sack Jose Mourinho three years ago. If they tuned in to Sunday's match, if they saw homecoming hero Ronaldo eclipsed by Salah and 'legacy fans' leaving in droves at half-time, can they afford not to act?

United have played nine games since the fanfare of Ronaldo's goalscoring return against Newcastle United. They have won three of those, drawn one and lost five.

That's bad enough, but consider the circumstances. Only a last-second penalty save from David de Gea ensured the 2-1 win at West Ham; only Ronaldo's injury-time intervention salvaged an undeserved victory over Villarreal; only Tom Davies' strange decision to pass to the offside Yerry Mina, rather than shoot, meant Everton left Old Trafford with only a 1-1 draw.

Fine margins have been the difference between United's form being considered merely unacceptable, and the alarms this embarrassment will sound. Nobody who has watched them across those nine matches could seriously claim what happened against Liverpool could not have been foreseen.

The rain-soaked turf was a glistening canvas depiction of everything wrong about Solskjaer's team – if we needed reminding.

There are the collective tactical concerns, as seen for Naby Keita's opening goal, when Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan-Bissaka gave up their positions to press Liverpool with all the ferocity and endeavour of an apathetic tortoise.

There are the individual mistakes, some of which would be incomprehensible for amateurs, never mind those playing for the world's most supported football club. Keita and Salah each scored with the United back five blocking not their route to de Gea's goal, but back to the halfway line. Before Diogo Jota's tap-in, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, defenders who cost a combined £110million, shied away from a loose ball as though under duress to keep dirt off the sponsor logos on their shirts.

United have committed eight errors leading to shots this season, the joint-most in the Premier League along with Wolves. But where Bruno Lage's men counter that through tackling – only eight sides have won more – United have won a league-low 61. When it comes to making amends for these mistakes, the Red Devils right now are either not interested or not capable.

Salah completed his hat-trick early in the second half, Ronaldo had a fine goal of his own disallowed by VAR, but many United fans were no longer in the stadium to watch. The loyalty to Solskjaer's legacy as a player has kept him immune to the kind of vitriol seen in the final days of Moyes, or Louis van Gaal, or Mourinho, but little served up by any of Fergie's successors was quite as horrifying as this.

United's daunting run of games since the October international break has yielded one win, two defeats, five goals scored and 11 conceded. With Tottenham, Atalanta and City to come next, you'd expect them to lose all three.

This is Manchester United's new normal: a total, shameful mess.

Mohamed Salah maintained his scintillating form with a hat-trick and Paul Pogba was sent off as Liverpool hammered Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's shambolic Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford.

Liverpool humiliated their fierce rivals to pile more pressure on Red Devils boss Solskjaer, with Jurgen Klopp celebrating 200 wins as manager of the Merseyside club in dream fashion.

United were blown away as they went in at half-time four goals down for the first time in a Premier League game, making it all too easy for the Reds as Naby Keita and Diogo Jota were on target before Salah struck twice.

The magnificent Salah completed his hat-trick early in the second half, taking his goal tally for the season to 15, before substitute Pogba was dismissed for a poor challenge on Keita.

Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games and Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 matches, while United are in disarray after the most chastening of defeats in their own backyard.

Keita silenced the United faithful when he capitalised on poor defending to slide beyond David de Gea with his right foot after being slipped in by Salah.

That strike in the fifth minute was the Reds' earliest at Old Trafford in the Premier League and they did not have long to wait for a second, Trent Alexander-Arnold's cross giving Jota a tap-in after a mix-up between Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

Liverpool, already without the injured Fabinho, lost James Milner midway through the first half but Salah put them out of sight with a double before the break after Alisson had denied Mason Greenwood.

The abysmal Red Devils were all over the place and the ruthless Egypt forward made them pay, finishing with his right foot when he was picked out by Keita and tucking home with his left from close range just before a half-time whistle that was greeted with loud boos.

Salah completed his treble five minutes into the second half, racing onto Jordan Henderson's incisive pass before beating De Gea with a clinical left-foot finish after Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside.

United's day took yet another turn for the worse when Pogba was dismissed for a reckless lunge on Keita following a VAR check, having initially been shown a yellow card on the hour mark.

Keita was unable to continue and the United players look like they would rather not, as only a brilliant save from De Gea prevented Alexander-Arnold adding a sixth.

Andrew Robertson's block sent the ball crashing against the crossbar late on to prevent Edinson Cavani from finding the back of the net and there were inevitably more boos at the final whistle to end a totally one-sided contest.

A knee injury kept Fabinho out of Liverpool's squad to face Manchester United, who left Paul Pogba on the bench.

Fabinho sustained the knock during Liverpool's Champions League win at Atletico Madrid in midweek.

It is not thought to be a long-term issue but was serious enough to see him miss the clash at Old Trafford.

Ibrahima Konate and Diogo Jota came into Jurgen Klopp's starting XI, with Joel Matip and Sadio Mane left on the bench.

Named among the substitutes for United was midfielder Pogba as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made three changes to the side that lost at Leicester City last week.

Marcus Rashford started up front while Fred and Scott McTominay were deployed in midfield and Bruno Fernandes was declared fit to play having sustained a knock in United's Champions League comeback against Atalanta.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists Jadon Sancho can prove himself as a "world-class talent" at Manchester United, despite a slow start to his Old Trafford career.

England international Sancho has been restricted to three Premier League starts since joining United from Borussia Dortmund in an €85million (£73m) deal ahead of this season.

The 21-year-old featured in all but one of the Red Devils' 12 games this term, starting half of those, but is so far without a goal or an assist for his new club.

That is in stark contrast to Sancho's form across his four seasons as part of Dortmund's first team when scoring 50 goals and assisting 57 more across 137 appearances.

Sancho has gone from averaging 2.59 chances per 90 minutes with the German side to 1.91 for United, leading to inevitable suggestions that he may be a flop signing.

But former Dortmund boss head coach Klopp has no doubt the Manchester City academy product will come good if given time to adapt on his return to English football.

"Jadon Sancho is a world-class talent, definitely," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's huge showdown between Liverpool and United.

"He has all the things you need to become really one of the best players in the world in the future, that's how it is. But he's still very young.

"At Dortmund they were full of praise about him and rightly so. I saw a lot of games of him playing outstandingly well.

"Some people lose patience a little bit quickly – and don't forget the options United have in this position."

Sancho will be pushing for a starting spot when United host Liverpool but faces competition from the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

In the Premier League era, only Wayne Rooney (six goals) has scored more times for United against Liverpool than Rashford, who has four goals in eight appearances.

Greenwood has impressed with four goals in eight league games this season, meanwhile, and Klopp was full of praise for the youngster.

"Wow! What a talent he is," the German said. "I think he has maybe pushed Jadon out of position. 

"Mason can play in the centre, but there is no space any more, so maybe they will share. It's a problem that you want to have as a manager, 100 per cent."

Cristiano Ronaldo intends to "close the mouths" of those who have questioned his defensive work by firing Manchester United to silverware this season.

The Portugal international has made a huge impact in an attacking sense since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in a shock transfer two months ago.

He has scored a team-high six goals in eight appearances, including late winners in the Champions League victories over Villarreal and Atalanta.

However, with United struggling for consistency in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool, Ronaldo has been criticised by some for his lack of defensive effort.

Indeed, Opta data shows only defenders Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are averaging fewer pressures than Ronaldo (12.1) for United in the league this term.

But Ronaldo has hit back at his critics by pointing out his past glories, which includes a haul of 31 trophies for club and country since his first spell with United started in 2003.

"I know when the team needs my help defensively. But my role is to win, help the team to win and to score goals – [the defensive side] is part of my job," he told Sky Sports.

"The people who don't want to see that is because they don't like me. But to be honest I'm 36, I win everything so am I going to be worried about the people who say bad things about me? 

"I sleep good at night. I go to my bed with my conscience very good. Keep going with that because I will still close mouths and win things.

"Criticism is always part of the business. I'm not worried about that. And I see it as a good thing to be honest. 

"If they worry about me or they speak about me, it's because they know my potential and value in football still. So it's good.

"I'll give you an example: if you're in a school and you're the best student, you ask the worst student if he likes the best, they'll say they don't like him."

United rank eighth in the English top flight for high turnovers as a team this season with 66, compared to 87 for next opponents Liverpool.

Ronaldo has every right to feel confident in his goalscoring ability, though, having become the first player ever to finish top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League with his 29 league goals for Juventus last season. 

And while he may be approaching his 37th birthday, Ronaldo insists he has no current plans to call time on his illustrious career.

"I think the main word is that I'm still happy and enjoying football," he said. "It doesn't matter how many things I won in my career. I win everything but I'm still motivated. 

"I'm in a new chapter of my life, even with my age, and this is why I am here –  to try to win and I think Manchester needs to be at this level of winning and thinking to win big things so I'm here to help."

Ronaldo is expected to start when United welcome fierce rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday.

United trail their opponents by four points and have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with the Reds, losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season.

Toni Kroos has fallen out of favour with Real Madrid. 

A January transfer is a top priority with the World Cup looming.

Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola await? 

 

TOP STORY – KROOS HEADED TO CITY?

Manchester City have reached out to Toni Kroos about a January transfer, El Nacional reports. 

The Germany international has played in just one league match for Real Madrid this term. 

The 31-year-old previously played for City boss Guardiola at Bayern Munich and a reunion could be on the cards. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Ferran Torres is set to land a contract extension at Manchester City, says the Daily Star, with the new five-year deal set to pay him £100,000 a week.

- Lazio midfielder Luis Alberto could be headed for a reunion with Simone Inzaghi at Inter, reports Calciomercato. 

- Everton lead several clubs in pursuit of Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, says Football Insider, with West Ham and Newcastle United also interested. 

- Liverpool and Manchester United are among the clubs queuing for 18-year-old United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi, the Mirror reports. Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich also have been linked to the teen. 

- Newcastle have increasingly focussed on Ajax's Erik ten Hag to replace Steve Bruce, the Express reports, adding that Marc Overmars could also make the move to St. James' Park as director of football. 

 

Jurgen Klopp believes Mohamed Salah has the ability to match the sustained level of performance Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to achieve.

Salah's Liverpool visit Ronaldo's Manchester United in the Premier League's headline fixture on Sunday.

The Egypt forward has been in sensational form this season, scoring 12 goals in all competitions, with seven of those coming in eight top-flight matches.

Salah's tally includes brilliant individual goals against Manchester City and Watford in his last two Premier League outings and, while Ronaldo hit the ground running in his second spell at United in terms of goalscoring, the 36-year-old has been part of a disjointed Red Devils attack.

At this moment, Salah's all-round game seems to be at its peak. He has provided four assists from 25 chances created and has outperformed his expected goals (xG) value by some way (12 goals from an xG of 9.0).

 

Klopp insists he has never thought to compare Salah and Ronaldo, though he believes the professionalism and commitment of the duo is one area in which the players are very similar.

Asked if Salah could hit the levels of continued success that Ronaldo has enjoyed late into his career, Klopp said: "You need luck, because things can happen with injuries and so on, but I think the professionalism of both Mo and Cristiano is the one thing you can compare 100 per cent.

"It is probably the same. Mo is incredibly professional. He is really the first one in and very often the last out of all the players.

"He is constantly interested in all the things he can do and has to do to keep or improve the standard. I think he still has a lot to give, 100 per cent.

"It helps him for sure and the team he is playing for then as well and I hope it is for us [in the future]."

Salah scored another fantastic individual goal in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid in midweek, becoming the first player in the club's history to score in nine consecutive matches across all competitions.

"It's true that I have been blessed with incredible players during my time but, no, when the ball went over all players in that situation and Mo had to already run pretty quick to get it before the sideline and then he turns, it didn't look for me like a proper goalscoring opportunity to me," Klopp added.

"But challenge by challenge it developed into that. That's the situation and that is the difference between a moment when momentum is not on your side and when momentum is on your side.

 

"It is all about the quality of Mo in this moment to do it, to try it and you can imagine how much all the players of Atletico knew about this ability and wanted to defend it desperately and still couldn't do it.

"That is pretty special, pretty special. I am really happy and more than fine with the players I could watch during my time, and being quite positive when they got the ball, that something special will happen."

Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season (two in the FA Cup, one in the Premier League) – no Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive games at Old Trafford.

Liverpool head to Manchester unbeaten in 18 league games, the longest current run in the top four tiers of English football (W13 D5).

Away from home, Liverpool have scored at least three goals in each of their last five Premier League games (17 in total), with only United last season having a longer such run in the competition (six).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often seems destined to fail at Manchester United, and this season the stakes appear higher.

With media scrutiny mounting, Solskjaer's future looked bleak at half-time against Atalanta on Wednesday, with United 2-0 down and staring at a fifth defeat in eight games across all competitions.

"There is pressure all the time. There is pressure on me of course but we've been through this before and come through it stronger as a team and as individuals," Solskjaer said before that match.

His players came good. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose arrival seems to have presented more questions than answers regarding Solskjaer's tactical set-up, rescued a vital three points in the Champions League, but Sunday brings an altogether different challenge, with Liverpool in town.

How the managers match up

Prior to the clash with Atalanta, Solskjaer had taken charge of 162 games at United, with Jurgen Klopp having hit that figure at Liverpool back in September 2018.

Four months earlier, Liverpool had slipped to a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Strengthened by the arrivals of Alisson and Fabinho, they would go on to win the European trophy in 2019 – Klopp's first piece of silverware at Anfield. A Premier League title followed in 2019-20.

Yet looking back over the pair's first 162 matches at the helm, it is Solskjaer who can boast the better win percentage (54.9 compared to 53.1).

While Klopp recorded fewer defeats in those games (31 to 37), Solskjaer won 86 times, three more than the Liverpool boss managed.

Klopp did, however, take Liverpool to two finals in his first half-season in charge, only to lose both, in the EFL Cup and Europa League. His third final, and the last within his first 162 games, was the defeat to Madrid in Kiev.

Solskjaer, comparatively, has reached just one final – United going down on penalties in the Europa League showdown against Villarreal at the end of last season.

United scored 299 goals under Solskjaer before Wednesday, from an expected goals (xG) value of 269.6, suggesting the level of chances they have created has not quite matched the finishing. That xG figure outperforms Liverpool's xG of 259.9, though the Reds netted 327 times.

Defence has been a major cause for concern this term, but overall Solskjaer's United kept 59 clean sheets in 162 games prior to tackling Atalanta, conceding 168 goals.

An expected goals against (xGA) of 185.2 suggests United's goalkeepers had plenty to do, though Liverpool only kept 62 clean sheets in the same amount of matches under Klopp, conceding four more goals (172).

Alisson's signing in July 2018 has certainly proved key, given Liverpool's xGA from Klopp's first 162 games was 135.3, suggesting goalkeeping may have been responsible for some of the Reds' issues.

On the right track?

"We've progressed over the years since I was [first here for] half a season. Sixth, third, second. You can see the progress, development and improvement. This season we still want to improve. We've signed players that have raised expectations," Solskjaer said before the Atalanta game.

While the underlying metrics may back up Solskjaer's point, digging deeper presents a more worrying picture.

United's goal tallies have improved, yet Solskjaer's crux is clearly in defence. His team allowed 685 shots last season, 70 more than in 2019-20 from the same number of games (61), with their xGA leaping from 59.2 to 71.5.

Klopp's side, on the other hand, managed to get Liverpool's defeats down from 12 to nine (in both 2016-17 and 2017-18) to seven in his third full season.

As Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah hit their stride, Liverpool's goal totals ticked up, from 87 to 92 to 129, and their highest xGA value in this period was 49.5, way down on United's worst figure.

While there may be similarities in results, Klopp used the first half of his Liverpool spell to implement a style of play, and lay the groundwork for European and domestic triumphs.

Solskjaer will insist he has a vision of what his incarnation of United should be, and though his record against other 'big six' Premier League sides is decent (W13 D10 L10), Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 league games, the longest current run in the top four tiers of English football.

Away from Anfield, they have scored at least three goals in each of their last five Premier League games. United have not kept a clean sheet at home in nine top-flight matches and, despite the calibre of players brought in during Solskjaer's tenure, the old rivals look worlds apart.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated headlines following a busy off-season in the French capital.

Donnarumma was part of an incredible transfer window for PSG, which included the likes of Lionel Messi and Achraf Hakimi arriving.

But Donnarumma is already reportedly considering his future with the Ligue 1 giants.

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA WEIGHING UP FUTURE

Gianluigi Donnarumma will leave Paris Saint-Germain if he continues to be overlooked in favour of Keylor Navas, according to Calciomercato.

Donnarumma only joined PSG from Milan on a free transfer at the start of the season, but he has found himself playing second fiddle to Navas in Paris.

The Italy international has already been linked with Juventus and Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

Luis Suarez is seeking a new contract at Atletico Madrid but the LaLiga champions want to hold off until the end of the season before deciding, per Saturday's Marca. Atletico have been linked with wantaway Fiorentina star Dusan VlahovicManchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Inter have also been linked to Vlahovic.

Bayern Munich are pushing to sign Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi, reports Sport1. The 19-year-old has impressed in Austria, where he has been linked with Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Real Madrid.

- Porto's Luis Diaz is attracting interest from Newcastle United, Chelsea, Bayern and Madrid, claims Nicolo Schira.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted it is wrong to criticise Cristiano Ronaldo's work ethic as he launched a staunch defence of the Red Devils superstar.

Ronaldo was the hero again on Wednesday, scoring the match-winning goal in a thrilling 3-2 Champions League win over Atalanta, having trailed 2-0 at half-time.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored six goals in eight matches across all competitions since returning to United from Juventus, though there has been some scrutiny of the 36-year-old amid the club's struggle for form.

Ronaldo has been criticised for not working hard or defending enough and as United prepare to host bitter Premier League rivals Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer backed the all-time leading scorer in men's international football.

"First of all, he's fit enough to do it still. But he's played this game 500 times before," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"He's been in that situation so many times, and it's one of them: 'I know what [team-mate Luke Shaw] is going to do, I know where I need to be and I'm still capable of doing it'. That's key.

"He's changed his position from being a wide forward into more of a box centre forward because he knows how to score a goal, he wants to score goals. When he first came, with all the tricks and the pace, he had the hunger - and he's still got the hunger.

"He's done what every player has to do throughout his career, you have to evolve."

Solskjaer added: "When Cristiano came to us, he'd not had a proper pre-season at Juventus and you can see he's gradually getting fitter and fitter.

"Now he feels: 'I'm getting towards the level I know I can be'. Wednesday night, the focus, the physical effort, the run… he had the highest amount of sprints, the longest sprint distance, the longest high-intensity distance.

"We talk about players who run a lot, he does as much as them. If people want to criticise his work ethic, that's completely wrong. You see him running down the channels, which he has to do as a centre forward.

"He does the work that we want him to do for the team. Of course, the team, when you have a player like him, you've got to get the best out of him, but he knows he's part of the jigsaw of that team and he's been brilliant."

United – sixth in the table and four points behind second-placed Liverpool – have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings against the Reds (D6 L3), losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season.

Solskjaer's United shipped four goals in a home Premier League game for only the fifth time in last season's encounter with Liverpool. The last team to score four-plus goals in consecutive top-flight visits to Old Trafford was Burnley in 1961-62 (won 4-1) and 1962-63 (won 5-2).

United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest streak without one since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

Meanwhile, United have only picked up eight points from their last seven home Premier League matches (W2 D2 L3), winning twice as many points in their previous seven at Old Trafford (16 – W5 D1 L1).

Cristiano Ronaldo says a period of adaptation for Manchester United is only natural after the club made three huge signings in the transfer window.

The Portugal forward also insists he has no plans to quit international football to prolong his club career, with the 36-year-old still one of the most prolific players in world football.

Ronaldo has scored six times for United since making his sensational return from Juventus, a move that came 12 years after he initially left Old Trafford for Real Madrid.

The signings of Ronaldo, his former Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane and Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho had United fans dreaming of a first Premier League title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

But going into Sunday's crunch home clash with Liverpool, United are sixth in the table and five points behind leaders Chelsea, with Ronaldo's compatriot Bruno Fernandes an injury doubt.

Ronaldo has netted memorable late Champions League goals in the recent wins over Villarreal and Atalanta and he remains patient despite the pressure that is growing on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"We are in a moment in my opinion that Manchester do a few changes; they buy me, they buy Varane and Sancho," he said to Sky Sports.

"The adaptation will take time, even the system of the game that we play, but I think step by step we have to put it in our mind that everything is possible.

"I don't speak only about my individual stuff, I put the collective in first place. It's more easy to win individual stuff.

"Everyone should know their role. I know my role in the team, in the club - my role is to score goals, to help the team with my experience and know-how to understand the game.

"If everyone is thinking like that, sacrifice for the team, we will be a better team. We have fantastic supporters behind us, fantastic stadium, fantastic team, so we have to carry on."

United have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D6 L3), losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season, and will hope Ronaldo helps them to secure a different outcome this time.

Ronaldo recently became the highest scorer ever in international football and does not see the need to stop playing for Portugal, with the World Cup just over a year away.

He compared his drive to play on for his country with his club career, where he still pursues success despite holding the record for most Champions League goals (137). 

Asked about retiring from internationals, Ronaldo replied: "But why? I think it's not my time yet. It's not what people want, it's what I want. 

"It's when I feel that I'm not capable to run, to dribble, to shoot, if the power is gone - but I still have that stuff so I want to continue because I'm still motivated.

"It's the main word - [motivated] to do my stuff, to make people happy and my family happy and the fans and myself. 

"I want to put the level even higher. You speak about Portugal but in the Champions League I have the most goals, the most wins, assists - everything. 

"But I want to carry on. I like to play football. I feel good to make people happy."

United need to improve their form at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Going into the Liverpool match, Solskjaer's men have only picked up eight points from their last seven home matches and are without a clean sheet in nine, their longest league run without one since 1971.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has commanded Manchester United to douse the blazing brilliance of Liverpool's "on-fire" forward Mohamed Salah.

The United manager knows Salah is capable of turning up at Old Trafford on Sunday and making a game-winning contribution, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games this season.

Six of those goals have come in Salah's last four games, including Champions League doubles against Porto and Atletico Madrid, and the Egypt international has only failed to net in one game this term: the 2-0 win over Burnley in August.

Although Solskjaer said he would side with Cristiano Ronaldo in any debate about who is the best player in the world, his admiration for Salah shone through.

"I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique and his goalscoring record has been fantastic and he keeps on scoring," Solskjaer said.

"But that being said, Salah at the moment is on fire. You've seen some of the goals he's scored lately. We know we need to be at our best to defend against him.

"Players like this don't come around very often and we've got to enjoy them when we watch them – from afar, not on Sunday, that's too close for me."

Wonder strikes against Manchester City and Watford in Liverpool's last two Premier League games have illustrated how well Salah is performing, and he sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart.

Along with those goals in Europe, that lift him into double figures, Salah has found a consistency this season that makes him Liverpool's number one threat.

"So we've got to do a good job, but not just against him," Solskjaer said. "I'm a big admirer of the frontline they've had for many, many years now, with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows?

"They're players you have to focus on and you've got to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet.

"When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool at the moment, they're on a great run of form, with some individuals' skills that you cannot almost defend against. But as a team we need to be compact, we need to be aggressive, we need to go out there and give every drop of nous and knowledge, strong mindset and physical energy.

"It's going to take everything to get results against the best teams in Europe and the world, and Liverpool are one of them at the moment."

Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season, netting twice in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat before hitting the fourth as Liverpool won 4-2 in the Premier League.

No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against United, while the Merseyside giants have not earned consecutive league wins at Old Trafford since January 2002.

Should Jurgen Klopp's men follow up last season's Premier League success at United with another victory, they would hold a seven-point cushion over their great rivals.

United have a disappointing recent record in league games against Liverpool, winning just one of their previous 10 encounters. This game has often failed to live up to expectations in recent seasons, with six of the last 10 ending in draws, and Liverpool coming out on top in the other three.

Solskjaer said he hoped the 3-2 win over Atalanta on Wednesday signalled "the end of a bad period for us" and that it might be "the start of something big". That is bold talk, given United have lost three of their last four domestic games, including a 4-2 setback at Leicester City last Saturday.

Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 in the Premier League, with the turmoil that plagued them at the start of the year banished and replaced by an optimism they can challenge for a second title in three years.

United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest such run since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

Although United finished ahead of Liverpool last season, Solskjaer was realistic enough to recognise it was injury chaos in the Anfield ranks that blunted the 2020-21 challenge from Klopp's men, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sitting out most of the season.

"They're one of the teams we're trying to chase. What they've done in the last four years is something we're striving towards and [trying] to go past them," Solskjaer said.

"We ended above them last season, they had a very bad spell of injuries, so now they're back to their best."

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