Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Manchester United at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern UK, November 24 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS / AFP
Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Manchester United at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern UK, November 24 2019. Picture: PAUL ELLIS / AFP

Manchester — Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says there is little hope of Manchester United being able to make significant additions to their underperforming squad in the January transfer window.

United have been linked with a long list of potential new recruits as Solskjaer seeks to improve after an inconsistent start to the season. Names such as England winger Jadon Sancho, now with Borussia Dortmund but reportedly keen to return to English football, Leicester playmaker James Maddison and Salzburg striker Erling Braut Haaland, one of the most sought after young talents in Europe, have all been linked with United.

A possible move for Haaland appears particularly plausible, given that Solskjaer worked with the forward while at Norwegian side Molde. But, given the constraints presented by the midseason window, Solskjaer insists talk of a wholesale injection of fresh blood in January is fanciful.

“It is not about ‘x’ amount of money, it is about who do we think will be good for the club in the long term, not just three or four months,” he said. “Not many clubs want to sell players that they would otherwise want to keep in January.

“Maybe one or two could be a loan deal, but that is not a big money thing, it is just to help the team. But we are getting players back and we are looking at what can be available for us.”

Getting players back to fitness has been one of many challenges faced by the United manager over the opening weeks of the campaign, with French World Cup winner Paul Pogba the most notable absentee. There is still no firm date for Pogba to return from a persistent ankle problem, with the most optimistic estimates appearing to put his comeback in mid-December.

But United’s difficulties in the centre of midfield have been worsened by the loss of Scott McTominay, who injured his ankle before the international break, and veteran Nemanja Matic who has only just returned to training after nearly seven weeks out.

The problems do not appear likely to be solved in time for the start of December which kicks off with United welcoming Tottenham, and their recently-appointed former United manager Jose Mourinho, to Old Trafford before visiting City in the season’s first Manchester derby.

However, Solskjaer has pointed to the improvements shown by Brazilian midfielder Fred, a disappointment last season after a £52m move from Shakhtar Donetsk, with his manager finally believing the 26-year-old is living up to his potential.

“First of all, the price tag, that is none of Fred’s concern, and it shouldn’t be because that is just how football has gone,” said the United manager. “The prices nowadays, you think ‘hmm’, but the market today is different to what it was. That shouldn’t be on Fred, that should be on us.

“Fred came in, he did well to start with. Then he hit a difficult period. Then when I came in, he found it hard, then he had a very good period. And now he is having a very good period again. He is showing what we saw in him.

“He is more confident, he believes in himself. He has come to a new country, the biggest club in the world, he is learning the language. He is speaking good English now, I don’t have to speak very slowly to him when we talk to him now.” 

AFP