London (AFP) – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made the bizarre claim that Manchester United’s inconsistent home form can be blamed on the red stadium wrap at Old Trafford.
In contrast to their sparkling away form, United’s four Premier League defeats this season have all come at home.
They also lost at Old Trafford against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and Manchester City in the League Cup semi-finals.
Speaking ahead of Granada’s visit to Manchester for the Europa League quarter-final second leg, United boss Solskjaer said a key reason for the poor home form is the red covering placed over seats while supporters are absent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Solskjaer believes his players struggling to pick each other out for passes because United’s red shirts made them blend into the stadium background.
He expects an improvement now because United replaced the stadium wrap with black banners at the start of April, which read ‘United Against Racism’ as part of the club’s See Red anti-racism campaign.
“You’ll see a change now. If you see the banners round the club, it’s not red anymore. We’ve looked into this,” Solskjaer told reporters on Wednesday.
“There shouldn’t be any reason, really, but some of the players have mentioned that you know that split-second decision that you have to make, look over your shoulder if your team-mate’s there or not and the red shirt is on a red background just with the red seats.
“So we’ve of course tried to change that along with an anti-racism campaign so of course that was important that it wasn’t red anymore.
“Then again, there shouldn’t be any reason. But then again, if you’ve got a 4-0 advantage like we did against Sociedad you don’t really have to win that game. Nil-nil was a good result.
“Then the first game against Milan that’s still a draw, we conceded in the last minute. I still think we played some good football at home.”
– Rashford doubt –
Solskjaer’s claims come 25 years since former United manager Alex Ferguson famously ordered his players to change from their grey kit to a blue-and-white strip midway through a 3-1 loss at Southampton.
United have yet to win at home in the Europa League this term.
However, they hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg against Granada and are firm favourites to advance as they chase the first silverware of Solskjaer’s reign.
England forward Marcus Rashford is a doubt for the tier after missing training on Wednesday.
Rashford scored in the first leg in Spain before coming off in the second half, then played 72 minutes of Sunday’s 3-1 Premier League win at Tottenham.
“Daniel James is fit, despite missing the win at Tottenham through injury, but Marcus Rashford had to sit out training on Wednesday and is, therefore, doubtful for the tie,” United said in a statement.
United captain Harry Maguire, Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay and England left-back Luke Shaw are all suspended.
“It’s never a positive thing to not have every player available, but we’ve got players ready to deputise and come into the team of course,” Solskjaer said.
“It was a booking amnesty after this quarter-final so we hoped to get them through, but there were some easy yellow cards that the ref handed out. We’re ready to deal with that.”
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