Man U’s po­si­tion in the EPL hasn’t changed, but ev­ery­thing else un­der Sol­sk­jaer has

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS SPORTS - ROB HAR­RIS

Manch­ester United’s league po­si­tion hasn’t changed. Ev­ery­thing else has un­der Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer.

Sur­pass­ing the great Matt Busby in 1946, Sol­sk­jaer has now opened his United reign with a club-record six suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries after beat­ing Tot­ten­ham 1-0 in the Premier League on Sun­day. It was se­cured by Mar­cus Rash­ford’s first-half goal and 11 sec­ond-half saves by goal­keeper David de Gea.

“I am just do­ing my job ev­ery sin­gle day here un­til the con­tract runs out at the end of June, I think,” Sol­sk­jaer said. “I’ll have a hol­i­day in there, so I’m not think­ing about that what­so­ever.”

United re­mains sixth in the stand­ings, just as it was when Jose Mour­inho was fired last month. But thanks to Arse­nal’s strug­gles, United is now be­hind the Lon­don club on goal dif­fer­ence. Chelsea in the fourth and fi­nal Cham­pi­ons League place is only six points in front of United and Arse­nal.

United is used to far loftier tar­gets – win­ning the league a record 20 times – but it has failed to do so in the chaotic years since Alex Fer­gu­son re­tired in 2013.

When Mour­inho was fired last month, Tot­ten­ham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino emerged as favourite as the long-term suc­ces­sor. But Sol­sk­jaer is stak­ing a strong claim to make his loan move from Molde per­ma­nent after win­ning this un­of­fi­cial au­di­tion against Po­chet­tino.

“It’s not eth­i­cal to talk about what he is do­ing or what I [am] do­ing,” Po­chet­tino said. “It was a game and a bat­tle be­tween Tot­ten­ham and Manch­ester United, be­cause if not, we would need to play him against me, one ver­sus one on the pitch.”

Po­chet­tino’s tar­get is se­cur­ing a fourth con­sec­u­tive top-four fin­ish to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League in a sea­son of dis­rup­tion with the de­lay to move back from Wem­b­ley into the club’s new sta­dium at White Hart Lane.

But Tot­ten­ham has now lost back-to-back league home games for the first time since 2015 at the end of Po­chet­tino’s first sea­son. The team re­mains third in the stand­ings, a point ahead of Chelsea, two points be­hind de­fend­ing cham­pion Manch­ester City and nine adrift of leader Liver­pool.

City isn’t in ac­tion un­til Mon­day night against Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers. There was one other Premier League game on Sun­day, with Ever­ton beat­ing Bournemouth 2-0. Goals from Kurt Zouma and Do­minic Calvert-Lewin gave the Mersey­side club only its sec­ond win in nine Premier League matches.

It came at the end of a week when Ever­ton ma­jor­ity share­holder Farhad Moshiri, while back­ing man­ager Marco Silva, told the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing that the sea­son so far was “not good enough.”

Ever­ton is now up to 10th in the stand­ings, three points ahead of Bournemouth, which has lost nine of its past 12 league games.

MESSI SCORES 400TH SPAN­ISH LEAGUE GOAL

Lionel Messi took his all-time Span­ish league scor­ing record to 400 goals on Sun­day after con­tribut­ing to a 3-0 win over Eibar to keep de­fend­ing cham­pion Barcelona com­fort­ably at the top of the Span­ish league.

Messi scored Barcelona’s sec­ond goal shortly after half­time to reach a mile­stone in the com­pe­ti­tion after 435 league matches. In all com­pe­ti­tions, Barcelona says the 31-year-old Messi has scored an as­ton­ish­ing 575 goals in 658 ap­pear­ances.

Barcelona’s all-time top scorer got the land­mark goal in the 53rd minute after Luis Suarez passed to him in­side Eibar’s area. The Ar­gen­tine did the rest by open­ing an an­gle around a de­fender and driv­ing in a low left-footed shot.

It was also Messi’s league-lead­ing 17th league goal and his 23rd goal over all this sea­son.

Barcelona stayed five points ahead of sec­ond-placed Atletico Madrid, which edged Le­vante 1-0 thanks to a penalty from An­toine Griez­mann, as the league reached its mid­way point.

MATT DUN­HAM/AP

Manch­ester United goal­keeper David de Gea makes a save against Tot­ten­ham’s Harry Kane in Lon­don on Sun­day. His 11 sec­ond-half saves helped se­cure the win for United.

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