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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Football

Solskjaer happy to switch to one-off European ties

LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 12Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he would be happy to switch to one-off European fixtures given the complications of two-legged ties during the coronavirus pandemic.

After being knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, Manchester United kick off their Europa League return against Real Sociedad next Thursday.

Old Trafford will host the return leg of the round-of-32 clash but the first fixture will be played in the Italian city of Turin rather than San Sebastian due to Spanish restrictions on travellers entering the country from England.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool will all play the first leg of their Champions League last-16 ties at neutral grounds, while both matches between Arsenal and Benfica in the Europa League have been moved.

“With Europe, of course that’s what we hope, that it’s going to be sustainable,” United manager Solskjaer said on Friday.

“Different governments, the travel in Europe at the moment is difficult as you all know and it’s not a decision that we made.

“But when one game is at a neutral venue it’s a disadvantage, of course, for the team that doesn’t have the home game.

“But that’s out of our hands, it’s nothing that we can say ‘OK, we’ll just meet in Turin and play one game’. I wouldn’t mind that at all, one game less.”

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Following the shutdown of football last March due to Covid-19, UEFA completed the Champions League in Lisbon over single-legged ties from the quarter-finals onwards.

Germany hosted the conclusion of the Europa League using the same format, with Manchester United bowing out in the semi-finals to eventual winners Sevilla in Cologne.

“That’s what we did last season,” Solskjaer said. “We met somewhere neutral and made it a tournament.

“Of course home and away if we are going to keep that going.

“We do have a little advantage. It’s a disadvantage for Sociedad, of course, to have their home game in Turin.”

Solskjaer’s immediate focus is Premier League matters as second-placed United travel to Sam Allardyce’s embattled West Brom on Sunday.

Paul Pogba will miss the trip to the Hawthorns and the coming weeks with a thigh injury but Eric Bailly has returned to training following Tuesday’s 1-0 extra-time FA Cup win against West Ham.

“We’ve had a rare opportunity to do a little bit of training and actually some recovery because you’ve got Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then not a game until Sunday, so that’s been a rarity for us really,” Solskjaer said.

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