Tue. Mar 9th, 2021

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Solskjaer surrenders! Gloomy Ole writes off Manchester United’s title hopes

4 min read

Harry Maguire checked with referee Jon Moss for confirmation that Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s last-second equaliser would stand, and there was indeed no more time left on the clock, before roaring an expletive into the cold night air. Manchester United kicked off again and Moss blew the final whistle.

Maguire’s sentiment will have been shared by everyone associated with United. This was a painful draw that felt like a defeat.

But was it a fatal blow to United’s hopes of winning the Premier League? Not yet. Curtains for a club that has fought so many title battles to the last? Hardly.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrote off Manchester United's title chances after their draw with Everton

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrote off Manchester United’s title chances after their draw with Everton

So it was odd to hear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effectively write off his team’s chances shortly afterwards.

The United manager has been trying to manage expectations around Old Trafford for the last few weeks and that is perhaps understandable. But this was altogether more downbeat.

‘We’re not talking about winning titles,’ said Solskjaer. ‘We’ve come a long way this team and we shouldn’t have been considered as title contenders.’

Why not? Manchester City are the clear favourites but United are their closest challengers in this strangest of seasons that has opened up so many possibilities.

Harry Maguire was left appealing in vain after Dominic Calvert-Lewin's dramatic late equaliser

Harry Maguire was left appealing in vain after Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s dramatic late equaliser

We are only in February and no one wins the title now, as Solskjaer has said. If United had held on for another few seconds, they would have gone joint top with City having played two more games.

The manager has been in charge for more than two years and named a match-day squad against Everton that cost nearly £600million. If United aren’t title contenders by now then perhaps they ought to be.

They are clearly making progress under Solskjaer and if there is still the slightest hope of challenging for the title a little earlier than he expected, why not take it? There are no guarantees City will be any weaker next season and Liverpool certainly won’t be.

United were on course to draw level with City before Calvert-Lewin saw them drop two points

United were on course to draw level with City before Calvert-Lewin saw them drop two points

Roy Keane has already suggested his old club are ‘frightened’ of mounting a title challenge, and Sportsmail pundit Jamie Redknapp also thinks United should have more conviction.

‘You’re not going to have a better chance,’ said Redknapp. ‘This United team should be believing. This is the year anything’s possible. They’re not kids, are they? They’re full of experience. He should be telling this team: believe you can do it. City are by far and away the best team but they might have a blip still.’

United have an attack to match any in the Premier League and were excellent going forward on the 63rd anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.

United have an attack to match any in the league and were good going forward against Everton

United have an attack to match any in the league and were good going forward against Everton

Marcus Rashford provided a wonderful cross for Edinson Cavani to open the scoring and Bruno Fernandes delivered an even better shot to make it 2-0.

But they were woeful in defence and Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez struck twice in the space of four minutes after half-time. Scott McTominay headed United back in front but Calvert-Lewin equalised in the 95th minute. 

It came a from a free-kick conceded by United substitute Axel Tuanzebe, who revealed he has been subjected to racist abuse for the second time in recent weeks.

The spotlight is back on David de Gea after he was criticised for his role in two Everton goals

The spotlight is back on David de Gea after he was criticised for his role in two Everton goals

David de Gea was criticised for making a weak attempt to block Calvert-Lewin having pushed the ball straight to Doucoure for Everton’s first.

Dean Henderson is likely to be in goal for Tuesday night’s FA Cup tie against West Ham and, not for the first time, Solskjaer was asked about De Gea’s position, answering: ‘Every player has to earn his place. We’re a squad with competition and that applies to every single one in the team.’

Everton face Tottenham in the cup at Goodison Park on Wednesday and Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with another excellent result away from home. ‘Wow! What a game, unbelievable! Fantastic emotion,’ said the Italian, who got a bear hug from his jubilant assistant Duncan Ferguson after the dramatic late equaliser. 

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