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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Orlando Pirates 0-4 Man United: Solskjaer brace

As one Manchester United striker prepares to leave Old Trafford, another signalled his intent to remain a major Red Devils force.

Unlike departing hero Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to go back to a European encounter with Panathinaikos in September 2003 for his last senior United goal.

• Solskjaer delighted with scoring return

Since then, the 33-year-old Norwegian has seen his career wrecked by a series of knee injuries and, more latterly, a hamstring problem and a broken cheekbone, which even Sir Alex Ferguson felt might force him into premature retirement.

So long has Solskjaer been sidelined, he never once had the opportunity to fulfil Ferguson's desire to occupy the right-sided vacancy created by David Beckham's transfer to Real Madrid.

The implication of Solskjaer accepting a Bobby Charlton-type ambassadorial role when he was handed a new two-year contract last season was that his days as a player were drawing to a close.

Clearly though, such a conclusion has not yet crossed the mind of a player who will forever be remembered for his injury-time winner against Bayern Munich in United's famous Champions League final triumph of 1999.

In front of a noisy and enthusiastic crowd in Durban, Solskjaer rolled back the years with a two-goal salvo, reminding United fans exactly what they have been missing all these months and ensuring the Red Devils began their three-match South African tour on a winning note.

Ferguson may be a man under pressure as tries to forge a plausible challenge to Chelsea with a squad about to lose van Nistelrooy, with doubts remaining over Cristiano Ronaldo and no fresh faces from the end of last season.

But what pleasure it must have given the Scot to see Solskjaer firing home so clinically and Paul Scholes providing the bullets.

Just like Solskjaer, Scholes has been written off. His lengthy absence with a worrying eye problem last term was a major factor in United's inability to sustain a title challenge.

However, having returned for the final Premiership game against Charlton, Ferguson is convinced his midfield maestro can still be a massive influence on the biggest stage and the way he picked out Giuseppe Rossi with a sublime 60-yard crossfield pass suggests the Scot is not wrong.

Rossi, of whom so much is expected, flicked a pass on to Ryan Giggs, who in turn fed Solskjaer, providing his long-time team-mate a perfect opportunity to rasp home a half volley.

The veteran forward might have netted again long before Rossi's industry and Innocent Mdledle's hesitation provided him with a clear sight of goal for his second.

With a two-goal cushion at the break, United were able to play with much more comfort after half-time and substitute David Jones took his opportunity to catch the eye.

It was Jones' determination which set up Kieran Richardson for the Red Devils' third and the tenacious midfielder, who spent spells on loan at Preston and Heerenveen last term, then prompted a panic attack from Lehlo Seema, who belted a routine clearance into his own goal via the face of stunned goalkeeper Francis Chansa.

  • Solskjaer delighted with scoring return

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased to be among the goals as Manchester United made a winning start to their pre-season programme.

    The injury-plagued striker scored twice as United ran out 4-0 winners against Orlando Pirates in the first match of their South Africa tour.

    Solskjaer, who has seen little action in three years, told MUTV: 'The main thing is not who scores the goals but getting match-fitness - but a goal or two helps. It's been a while since I got one for the first team.

    'With those lads being away after the World Cup it is important for those of us who didn't go to have a good pre-season.

    'I have missed the past two pre-seasons so I have been looking forward to this for a long time.

    'The main thing now is getting match-fitness and getting ready for August 19. I'm just enjoying every game and every training session.'

    United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was happy for Solskjaer after seeing him overcome his injury problems.

    Ferguson told MUTV: 'I was really pleased for him. We hoped he would get through pre-season training first of all. He was fantastic in every session and he was involved.

    'I thought 45 minutes was fine for him. There is no point pushing him. We travelled a long way to get here and it was right to use all the squad. We can take something from the game in a positive way. The pace of the game was fantastic. I thought they made it really quick and it was a competitive game for us.'