Ole reveals team news for Palace opener
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has delivered his first team news bulletin of the 2020/21 season, which starts with Saturday's visit of Crystal Palace to Old Trafford.
The Reds take on the Eagles, looking to make a positive start to the campaign, after climbing the table to finish in third spot last term.
With only one friendly under our belts - last weekend's game at Aston Villa - there are many questions to be answered about the selection of the side, although new boy Donny van de Beek is available after starting in the Midlands.
Centre-backs Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are still unavailable so youth-team product Teden Mengi is continuing to take part in first-team training.
"Phil Jones is still out," Ole told us on Friday morning during his exclusive pre-match interview. "Axel is not 100 per cent back with us yet, but he's on the grass running, which is a positive. Apart from that, we don't have any serious injuries, but, as we've said, the players are at different stages of their training programmes.
“Teden's jumped up. He’ll probably play some Under-23s games this season, when it's possible for him. He needs games at that stage regularly. But he’s done absolutely brilliantly in training and he came on for half an hour against Villa and didn't put a foot wrong. He's with us every single day.”
Obviously, with the players at different levels with their fitness, it will be interesting to see which XI Ole opts for. Some Reds have had international games to get some more minutes in the tank, while Paul Pogba has recovered, after testing positive for COVID-19, and trained this week.
"The players are at different stages," confirmed the manager. "Mentally, I think everyone’s ready. Physically, they’re at a different stage, some of them have played more games than others. So we’ll have to be clever and good about when to play players because we know this period now, until the first international, is a hugely important one.
“We need points and the players need games but some of them haven’t trained enough or had enough football. Some of them have been in quarantine, it’s just one of these situations which we’ve adapted to really well before and the players have done well.”
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Certainly, there is great anticipation ahead of kick-off and Ole hopes the spell in Germany at the back-end of last season will prove beneficial.
"We’re as ready as we can be," he asserted. "We’ve had a strange pre-season. We’ve had players away on internationals, we’ve had some players working here and some players are just getting back fit, so it’s been a strange pre-season, but it’s been a good one for the ones who have been working hard.
“We played in the Europa League until 16 or 17 August, round about a month ago, so that will stand us in good stead. That was almost like our pre-season.”
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PALACE TEAM NEWS
Roy Hodgson handed starts to summer recruits Michy Batshuayi and Eberechi Eze during in the midweek penalty shoot-out defeat to Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup.
Defenders Gary Cahill, James Tomkins, Nathan Ferguson and Patrick van Aanholt, who was injured against the Reds last season, remain sidelined but the overall picture is looking rosier for the Eagles.
"We are starting to get players back from injury," Hodgson told the official Palace website. "Mamadou Sakho, of course, is the latest to be able to take part in training sessions. Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham took part in today’s training session, albeit, with Connor, it was more modified than with Christian.
"We hope also that Jaïro Riedewald will train on Friday – he didn’t train with the first-team today – but we hope he will tomorrow having recovered from the injury he picked up last week.
"In terms of fitness of players, we are in a much healthier position than we have been in some time."