Solskjaer in spotlight United take on Cardiff

Solskjaer in spotlight United take on Cardiff

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge of Manchester United for the first time this weekend while their on-fire rivals Liverpool aim to become the Premier League's Christmas number one.

Former United striker Solskjaer, named caretaker manager at Old Trafford this week following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, is gunning to make a statement on Saturday at Cardiff City, where he flopped as coach in 2014.

At the top of the table, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have a chance to open up a four-point lead over Manchester City at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday, with Pep Guardiola's team not in action against Crystal Palace until the following day.

Third-placed Tottenham, five points behind second-placed City, face a tricky trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton while Chelsea host Leicester and Arsenal, smarting after Southampton ended their 22-game unbeaten run and League Cup defeat to bitter rivals Spurs midweek, welcome Burnley to the Emirates.

Manchester United's rotating cast of players have failed dismally to live up to the club's tradition of swashbuckling football in a dire season that led to Mourinho's dismissal.

All eyes will be on caretaker manager Solskjaer as he begins his attempt to turn around the club's fortunes at Cardiff.

Among the issues facing the Norwegian are bringing Paul Pogba back into the fold, liberating stifled attacking players and tightening up a leaky defence.

Solskjaer, who managed Cardiff from January to September 2014, has a special place in the hearts of United fans and has talked about the "very talented squad".

Disgruntled supporters will not be expecting miracles but they will want to see an immediate change in style.

Manchester City started the season as hot favourites to defend their Premier League crown but Liverpool have turned the campaign into a genuine title race.

If Klopp's unbeaten leaders beat Wolves on Friday it would be their seventh league win on the bounce and guarantee them to be top of the table on Christmas Day.

Each of the past four sides to be in front on December 25 have gone on to win the title, though Liverpool themselves were the last side to fail to do so, in 2013/14.

Midfielder James Milner said the players are keeping their feet on the ground despite their sparkling start to the season.

"A big strength of this group is how we've improved over the last few years but also how we stay in the present and focus on each game," he said.

Fixtures (8.30 IST unless stated)

Friday: Wolves v Liverpool (01.30 am, Saturday)

Saturday: Arsenal v Burnley (6.00 pm); Bournemouth v Brighton, Chelsea v Leicester, Huddersfield v Southampton, Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Newcastle v Fulham, West Ham v Watford (8;30 pm); Cardiff v Manchester United (11.00 pm)

Sunday: Everton v Tottenham (9.30 pm)