Ole puts squad strength to use

Ole puts squad strength to use

LONDON • Manchester United’s 5-0 rout of Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday showed signs that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the nous to manage his squad.

The result against last season’s semi-finalists was all the more impressive, with key players given a rest from the starting line-up and an untested midfield was fielded.

Marcus Rashford struck three times after coming on as a 63rd-minute substitute, with Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, who both also scored, starting in attack.

Bruno Fernandes was also held back until the second half with summer signing Donny van de Beek given his first start outside of the League Cup.

Paul Pogba, who had not started since the 6-1 home defeat by Tottenham, was recalled along with Nemanja Matic, forming a midfield diamond alongside van de Beek and Fred.

It was not until Fernandes and Rashford were on the field that United ran away with the game but as Solskjaer noted, the basis had been built without them.

“Marcus Rashford came on and did well but the groundwork was there from the team, that’s what you want from the subs. What a shift they put in. Leipzig are a high press (team), (they play with) intensity, so we had to dig deep,” he said. “We had to rest a few because the season is relentless, so we used the squad. This group is coming together. The more quality and spirit you have, the more you get the performance.”

There was even a cameo appearance for Edinson Cavani, who had a goal disallowed in the latter stages. After being forced to over-play a number of players last term, Solskjaer can now manage his players’ minutes on the pitch.

“We made some changes today because of (Arsenal on) Sunday as you have to be ready for that. We need to pick up points,” the Norwegian said.

One player who is unlikely to feature in Sunday’s Premier League clash is left-back Alex Telles, another of United’s new signings.

The Brazilian tested positive for Covid-19 but is showing no symptoms and is expected to return to action soon.

“Telles has tested positive for the coronavirus so he’s been out for a few days,” Solskjaer said. “No symptoms though, so he’ll be fine. Back soon.”

United, who endured a torrid start to their domestic season with only two wins in five games, have taken control of the Champions League Group H after building on their impressive opening 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain.

Leipzig are third, level on three points with PSG, who beat Istanbul Basaksehir 2-0.

A shell-shocked Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, for whom this was his first defeat of the season, said: “It was a bit crazy because after they scored the first goal, we did well. Then the final 20 minutes were very bad.”

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE