Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to-do list: Contracts, transfers, pre-season and youngsters

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United boss full-time, but what key issues does he need to address this summer and beyond?

The Norwegian has revived United’s season since taking over from Jose Mourinho in December, with their pursuit of a top-four finish and strong Champions League run back on track.

Those improved performances have earned former United striker Solskjaer the permanent post – but now he faces some crucial longer-term issues to resolve…

Though Ed Woodward will take care of expiring contracts at the club, Solskjaer revealed in February he was advising the chief executive on United’s long-term plans.

No doubt these three names would have been raised: Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia. Each of those players see their contracts expire in the summer.

The case for Herrera’s extension is strong. The 29-year-old has played 669 Premier League minutes under Solskjaer and has looked a terrier in that central midfield position, with his man-of-the-match display in the FA Cup win at Chelsea a particular highlight.

But with PSG reportedly lurking, Herrera has himself admitted his future is up in the air.

“The rest is left to my agent, both the possible renewal with United and if you talk to another club for my departure,” he told El Periodico earlier in March. “I enjoy being at the biggest club in England, the fans love me, they have treated me phenomenally and my duty is to listen to them, although I honestly do not know what is going to happen.”

But having only just turned 20, and Ashley Young nearing 34, Solskjaer may look to the market for competition or a starter to bridge that age gap.

United have been linked with Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe, Juventus’ Joao Cancelo and AC Milan’s Davide Calabria, but may even look closer to home with Aaron Wan-Bissaka enjoying a superb season with Crystal Palace.

Then there’s the centre-back issue. Despite Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling performing well under Solskjaer, don’t be surprised to see at least one central defensive recruit this summer.

Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly has been linked with a Premier League move for the umpteenth time in recent years, this time to United, as has Inter Milan’s Skriniar, while Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld has a £25m release clause.

 

Give youngsters a chance

Solskjaer has looked to continue United’s proud tradition of bringing through youth, with focus on four teenagers looking to make the grade.

Angel Gomes (18 – midfielder), James Garner (18 – midfielder), Tahith Chong (19 – winger) and Mason Greenwood (17 – striker) have all enjoyed first-team minutes under Solskjaer, having seen none this season under Mourinho.

All were taken on the US tour last season by Mourinho, but eyes will be on Solskjaer to see how he drip-feeds the teenagers minutes in the opening months of next season.

Though injury issues in the first-team had forced his hand somewhat, to finish the 3-1 win in Paris with Chong and Greenwood on the pitch said a lot about Solskjaer’s philosophy.

Beyond the teenagers, Scott McTominay (22) and Andreas Pereira (23) have seen their minutes increase under Solskjaer, too, while Tim Fosu-Mensah, Alex Tuanzebe, Joel Pereira and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson are all 22 or under and will all return from loans this summer.

Jose Mourinho made no secret of his frustration at United’s pre-season in 2018, regularly speaking about missing key players after the World Cup, game schedules, player holidays and the quality of officials on tour.

Solskjaer will want more control over the 2019 programme, although money-spinning pre-season tours tend to be organised above the manager’s head without much thought of how logistics may impact player preparation.

Having spent the last two summers predominantly based in the USA, United have announced they will be heading to Australia in July to face Perth Glory (July 13) and Leeds United (July 17). They’ll then move on to Singapore to tackle Inter Milan (July 20), Shanghai to face Tottenham (July 25) and Cardiff (August 3) to play AC Milan before the season begins on the weekend of August 10.

Getting a good summer of preparation under their belt will be key to their hopes of stepping up a level next season.

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