Premier League

Solskjaer eager for football to go on after Pellistri’s positive Covid-19 test

Facundo Pellistri has tested positive for coronavirus ahead of Manchester United’s FA Cup clash against Watford but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes football should continue through this “frightening” period.

There has been an alarming uptick in Covid-19 cases across the country but the UK government has given the green light for elite sport to continue behind closed doors with regular testing.

United have kept tight-lipped on their brushes with coronavirus since the pandemic began but Pellistri’s agency made his positive test public in a social media post.

Solskjaer confirmed the news that ends the 19-year-old’s hopes of making his debut in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round clash against Championship outfit Watford.

“Well, I think we have done well to follow the protocols as we have,” he said. “We’ve had the odd case and Facundo Pellistri got a positive.

“He reported that on his Twitter site. We don’t normally comment on who they are but Facundo is well and hopefully he’ll be back with us soon.

“He’s been with the reserves and (under-)23s and he wasn’t in our group over Christmas. But apart from that, we have a full and fit squad.”

While Saturday’s match is not in doubt, Southampton’s tie against Shrewsbury had to be called off due to Covid-19 cases at the League One club and positive cases have caused havoc for other fixtures.

Asked if he feels safe with the current guidelines and comfortable to continue playing, Solskjaer said: “First of all, of course you’re worried about what’s happening in the society and in and around the country. It’s a big thing.

“I personally feel safe within our bubble. I think we’ve taken all the steps that we’ve had to, following the protocols, guidelines.

“The club has been good, the players have been following as well as they can.

Old Trafford has not hosted fans since the Manchester derby on March 8, 2020
Old Trafford has not hosted fans since the Manchester derby on March 8, 2020 (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

“Of course what’s happening outside and at different clubs and in the society is frightening and we have a responsibility and a duty to try to do our best to stay clear and keep within the bubbles and the guidelines.

“I hope that we can continue playing because I think it’s a positive impact for everyone in the lockdown now to watch.

“Even I feel it. At home when you don’t have a game yourself, you’re looking forward to watching a game on telly and the mental wellbeing of football has been a big positive, I think.”

Solskjaer will rotate his squad against Watford on Saturday as United continue to battle through a frantic fixture schedule, with Odion Ighalo among those involved against his former club.


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A post shared by Odion Jude Ighalo (@ighalojude)

The 31-year-old lifelong United fan made an impressive initial impact after his surprise loan switch from Shanghai Shenhua last February.

Ighalo’s loan deal was extended over the summer until January 30, 2021 but the Nigeria international has been restricted to just four appearances in all competitions this term.

“It’s special for him against Watford,” Solskjaer said. “He will be involved. He’s in the squad, he’s been training really well.

“It’s been difficult for him to be out of the squad as many times (as he has), of course, because he did really well up until the summer.

Odion Ighalo played for Watford before moving to China
Odion Ighalo played for Watford before moving to China (Adam Davy/PA)

“This season he’s not had as many opportunities but he’s never let himself down as a professional and a human being. Hopefully I don’t need to put him on, that we need goals, but hopefully he can join in.”

Donny Van De Beek, Dean Henderson and Axel Tuanzebe are among those pushing to be involved against Watford, but Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero will be not feature.

In fact, the Argentina internationals appear to have played their last games for United ahead of their contracts expiring at the end of the season.

Sergio Romero was left out of Manchester United's Premier League and Champions League squads
Sergio Romero was left out of Manchester United’s Premier League and Champions League squads (Richard Sellers/PA)

“Both of them have contracts until the summer and they’re not going to be extended,” Solskjaer said. “We’re looking for them to find clubs.

“Marcos has been given time to go home, so he’s still in Argentina. Sergio has been back home as well to see his family but he’s back in England now.

“But they’re professionals, they’re working hard and they’re ready if they’re called in for us. I’m sure they’re ready.”

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