Rio Ferdinand's Between The Lines with Rashford and RooneyMay 10
Solskjaer happy with his summer’s work as he looks ahead without Lukaku
United open up against Chelsea.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United will be better off without Romelu Lukaku as the manager approaches the season with positivity amid a backdrop of discontent.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea arrive at Old Trafford on Sunday as the Premier League season gets under way on the back of some promising performances and impressive training work during pre-season.
But things away from the pitch have not been so rosy, with fan disillusionment fuelled by a perceived lack of improvements in the transfer market.
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James all look impressive acquisitions, but Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Lukaku have left on the back of Marouane Fellaini’s January departure.
“I think when the transfer window closes it’s that great feeling of relief,” Solskjaer said the day after it shut.
“Now it’s done now, we know (who) we’re looking forward with and I’m delighted with the three we’ve signed.
“Well (frustration) is not the feeling inside the club anyway and the feeling with the fans I’ve met, they are excited with the ones we’ve had.
“Of course, there is always going to be fans out there wanting to sign players. That’s just part and parcel of being here.
“The players are here now, they’ve been shown that trust and we believe in them.”
Teenager Mason Greenwood is among those that Solskjaer will put faith in this season – and is part of the reason why he was happy to let Lukaku leave.
The 26-year-old’s inevitable exit to Inter Milan became rather unsavoury as he started the week training with boyhood club Anderlecht, but an 80 million euros (£73.75million) deal was sealed on Thursday.
“It was time now for Rom to go because I think we got a good deal, he’s happy, so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be,” Solskjaer said.
“Rom was injured for a while this pre-season, he didn’t participate, so I just hope for him that he’ll get a good start at Inter Milan.”
Pulled up on the fact that he had last month said any further sales would be replaced, Solskjaer said: “Towards the end of last season, we didn’t score a lot of goals, did we?
“And you do have players that you think will have an impact and Mason Greenwood’s pathway would have been a lot more difficult, of course, if we had another forward there.
“For me, I believe Mason is going to be playing and involved a lot and when he is, he’ll score goals.”
It is a fair amount of pressure on a 17-year-old, who will be involved in some capacity against Chelsea – a Premier League opener that, for some, comes without the normal buzz and excitement due to frustrations about how the club operates.
“Of course, we want to put that right – and the only way we can put any doubts and that (right) is by playing good football,” Solskjaer said when asked about the cloud heading into the new season.
“That’s showing the team we want to be, the style of football we want to play. Our fans, when they see that intention, they’ve always been supporting the team.
“But, as I said earlier on, within the team and the club, we are feeling very confident and we don’t feel that negativity you’re talking about.”
One clear positive has been the way Paul Pogba knuckled down in pre-season after publicly expressing his openness to a new challenge elsewhere.
“(His attitude is) always the same,” Solskjaer said. “He’s been great. “I’ve always said every time I’ve been asked about Paul, I keep saying the same things.
“When he comes, when he plays, when he trains, he’s absolutely fantastic.”
Pogba is fit to start Sunday’s Premier League opener after missing the final pre-season friendly against AC Milan due to a back spasm.
Eric Bailly faces a lengthy spell out with a knee injury, while Alexis Sanchez – a player Solskjaer expects to stay at the club this month – may not be utilised after returning late from the Copa America where he injured his hamstring.
United later revealed Anthony Martial has reclaimed the number nine shirt following the departure of Lukaku.
The Frenchman was given the number when he arrived from Monaco in 2015 but, despite making a big impact in his debut season, it was taken off him the following summer when Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived.
It was a controversial decision considering Martial had developed an am9 brand based on the shirt.
The 23-year-old will carry more responsibility for goals after Lukaku’s big-money move to Inter Milan and United will hope this show of faith helps inspire him to display his best form on a consistent basis.