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Last Updated: 21/12/18 12:47pm
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gets his Manchester United tenure up and running at Cardiff on Saturday, without Romelu Lukaku to call upon.
Solskjaer’s first game as United’s caretaker manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho and his temporary switch from Norwegian club Molde comes at Cardiff – the club where he spent an ill-fated nine months in 2014 when Cardiff were relegated from the Premier League.
The Norwegian will be leaning heavily on coaches Michael Carrick, a former team-mate, and Kieran McKenna when selecting the side – who are sixth in the table, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea – in the Welsh capital, where striker Lukaku will reportedly be missing after being given compassionate leave.
“He’s had a couple of days off, so I’ve not seen him yet,” Solskjaer said of the Belgian. “I’ve not seen Alexis [Sanchez] because he’s on his way back as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing them. That was decided before me, so that’s fine.”
Meanwhile, Cardiff boss Neil Warnock believes Solskjaer could land the job on a full-time basis.
“I think it’s the best job Ole will have in his life, because he can’t lose really,” said Warnock.
“He’ll hold the fort until the end of the season, he’s there for at least six months and if he does well he’ll get a couple of years. And if he doesn’t, he goes back to where he was enjoying anyhow.”
Cardiff defender Joe Bennett is doubtful after being forced off in the second half of the 3-2 Premier League defeat at Watford last weekend and has not trained this week.
Lee Peltier and Greg Cunningham are on standby to deputise, while Jazz Richards will be checked after a recent hamstring problem.
As for the visitors Alexis Sanchez is out for the trip to south Wales, while Chris Smalling pulled up injured in the warm-up at Liverpool last weekend so is a doubt and Luke Shaw will be hoping to return to the fold. Meanwhile, Marcos Rojo missed the loss at Anfield, as did Matteo Darmian and Scott McTominay.
- Cardiff have won only one of their last 12 league matches against Manchester United (D3 L8), winning 3-0 in November 1960
- United are unbeaten in each of their previous seven matches against Cardiff in league competition (W5 D2)
- Only Arsenal (12) have won more points from losing positions in the Premier League this season than Cardiff and United (9, level with Leicester)
- Cardiff have won four of their last five Premier League home games (L1), as many as they had in their previous 22 in the competition (W4 D6 L12)
- United have lost their last three Premier League away games against promoted sides, as many as they had in their previous 36 such matches (W27 D6 L3)
- United have conceded more goals in 17 Premier League games this season (29) than they did in the whole of 2017-18 (28). Only Fulham (0) have kept fewer clean sheets than the Red Devils this season (2)
Watch. Just watch. United will be running around, flying into tackles, getting people in the box, playing at a tempo. It’s been embarrassing, really. It’s not that the shackles are off… the players have got what they wanted. Simple as that.
They played in their biggest game of the season last weekend and were steamrollered. It was embarrassing. Liverpool won’t have 36 shots against Huddersfield and Cardiff at home combined. It’s player power, simple as that.
Neil Warnock will be pulling his hair out. He’d have wished Jose Mourinho was still manager. That sums it up; Warnock wishing one of the best managers of all time was still in charge of Manchester United the day before you play them. Now, he’ll be gutted. Absolutely gutted.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-3 (10/1 with Sky Bet)