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Sunday 19 January 2020

Ole plans for the roaring Twenties at United

Old Trafford boss aiming to bring back good times to club with ailing Arsenal first opponents in 2020

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have been delivering goals for Manchester United
Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have been delivering goals for Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping a new decade will bring better fortunes for Manchester United after a difficult spell in the club's illustrious history.

The rise of derby rivals Manchester City in particular has added significantly to the Old Trafford club's difficulties in retaining their pre-eminence both at home and in Europe over the last 10 years as they have wrestled with the challenge of finding a suitable long-term successor for all-conquering manager Alex Ferguson.

The last of United's Premier League titles came at the end of the 2012-13 season and while two League Cup successes, an FA Cup win and a triumphant Europa League campaign have kept the trophy tally ticking over, current boss Solskjaer will be glad to see the back of the 2010s.

He said: "I'm going to make 2020 a good year for myself. I think we're on the right track.

"We are in a transition period. We've seen other clubs do it and come out strong after a couple of years and we will consign this decade, definitely. That's just in the nature of this club."

If Solskjaer is eagerly anticipating the new year, the old one at least finished in positive fashion with impressive wins over Newcastle and Burnley which cemented the club in fifth place in the table, four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth, although a staggering 24 behind runaway leaders Liverpool.

They head for Arsenal on New Year's Day brimming with confidence as a result, although still a work in progress as they attempt to find a style which best utilises the weapons at their disposal, particularly against teams which attempt to sit in and frustrate.

Solskjaer said: "It's hard to compare, but we have to learn that way of playing football.

"I've said we're not a Manchester City, we can't play, out-play and out-football teams like they do yet, but hopefully in a few years we can. It's not going to be overnight."

United scored six goals in their two festive fixtures with Anthony Martial claiming three of them, Marcus Rashford two and teenager Mason Greenwood the other, their form in front of goal belatedly mitigating the summer sale of big-name striker Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan.

Solskjaer has hinted that another frontman may well be a focus during the January transfer window, but the emergence of 18-year-old Greenwood has come as a huge bonus.

He said: "We always believed Anthony and Marcus were going to score goals, but Mason has filled a big void.

"He's chipped in with goals, so I'm not worried about goals from centre-forwards. Mason's on eight now, Marcus, I don't know, 14 or 15? Anthony has quite a few.

"Romelu's a good striker and he'll always score goals, but it was time for him to move on. We didn't find the right one outside our club, but we had Mason."

While Solskjaer has guided United to fifth, Arsenal languish in 12th, 11 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea after their home defeat to Frank Lampard's side on Sunday.

Arsenal's poor form led to the dismissal of their Spanish manager Unai Emery and the arrival of his compatriot, former Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta.

Having left his role as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City, Arteta is talking big despite beginning with a draw at Bournemouth before Sunday's loss.

"We are the biggest football club in England, and we have to play a little bit with that arrogance, that belief," Arteta told Sky Sports, urging the club's fans to make the Emirates a fortress again.

"This stadium has to create fear again. I used to hate coming here as an opponent, and we need to use that power. The opponent must be uncomfortable playing here," he said.

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