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United in desperate need of festive cheer

Tis the season for giving, receiving, family, and goodwill to all ... Well perhaps someone should have told Ed Woodward and the other executives at Manchester United who this week made the “special one” the “sacked one” as José Mourinho was shown the door by the Red Devils.

But while some will see his sacking as an early Christmas present from the board to the bemoaning United fans, it is perhaps the Portuguese manager that will be having the last laugh, after all, he now gets the busy festive football period off and is a reported $28.8 million richer as a result of his dismissal!

Former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a club legend whose dramatic goal in added time clinched the Champions League and the treble in 1999, has been appointed until the end of the season.

His first test as boss comes tomorrow at Cardiff City — where he had a short-lived spell as manager in 2014 — and failed to keep them in the Premier League ... a glowing CV for one of the world's most supported clubs!

TODAY

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool

4pm

Liverpool travel to Wolverhampton as Premier League pacesetters after beating Man United last weekend to not only enjoy a victory over their rivals but also maintain their unbeaten league record.

Jürgen Klopp's men have won their six league matches to stay one point ahead of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

However, Wolves come into the match on the back of a three-match winning streak of their own, where they shocked Chelsea at Molineux with second-half goals from Raul Jiménez and Diogo Jota and built on the success with points against Newcastle and Bournemouth.

Liverpool have snatched the points on both of their last two trips to Molineux but Nuno Espirito Santo's side will certainly be no pushovers. Prediction 1-1

TOMORROW

Arsenal v Burnley

8.30am

Arsenal will be looking for a return to winning ways after Southampton ended their 22-match unbeaten streak.

However, a match at the Emirates, where Arsenal have proved hard to beat, having already overcome Spurs, Huddersfield, and Qarabag this month, will come as a welcome boost.

Burnley have struggled on the road and sit in the relegation zone after 17 games played. They have just 12 points to their name and four of those came on the road in a streak which also saw them suffer eight losses across all competitions.

Manager Sean Dyche will has struggled to find a cure for their goalscoring woes, Sam Vokes being Burnley's top goalscorer with just three to his name. Prediction 2-0

AFC Bournemouth v

Brighton & Hove Albion, 11am

Bournemouth are expected to be fighting it out for a place in the top half of the table this season, and a few weeks ago that is exactly what they were doing.

However, a poor run that has seen them win just one game in their last six, and lose the rest, has left them down in eleventh and their gap over those at the bottom continues to shrink in size.

Brighton are ahead of the relegation scrap like Bournemouth right now, and they are just two points behind their opponents tomorrow as well as two places in the league standings.

Brighton come into the encounter in slightly better form though, with two wins in their last six games, although they have lost their last two against Burnley and Chelsea.

The visiting side have not beaten Bournemouth since 2008. Prediction 1-1

Chelsea v Leicester City 11am

Chelsea head into the game on a two game winning run, with one of those coming against champions Manchester City. In contrast, the Foxes are down in twelfth after just one win from their last six games, having most recently lost away at Crystal Palace.

A trip to Stamford Bridge is an tough prospect for anyone, let alone a team who are low on confidence who have not beating Chelsea since three years ago.

Chelsea missed out on the top four last season but new manager Maurizio Sarri has got them on track to put that right this time round. Prediction 2-0.

Huddersfield Town v

Southampton

11am

Southampton have seen a thrilling win over Arsenal end their long spell without one and they now travel to similarly struggling Huddersfield hoping to build on the success, led by in-form Danny Ings up front — who keeps proving his form under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

It was the first win for Southampton since early October and while that will obviously be a boost to their confidence, the five consecutive losses on the road should keep them from getting carried away.

Huddersfield have a very poor streak of their own having lost to Brighton, Bournemouth, Arsenal, and Newcastle and dropped into the relegation zone in the process.

Huddersfield have earned just five points in nine home games and changing that will be a crucial task for David Wagner if they are to escape the drop.

Southampton sit just two points clear of Huddersfield in the relegation zone. Prediction 1-1

Manchester City v Crystal Palace

11am

Since losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the league, Manchester City have won three consecutive games in all competitions, including thrilling wins over Hoffenheim in Champions League, Everton in Premier League, and most recent Leicester in League Cup.

Crystal Palace beat Leicester 1-0 last time out to end a streak of two consecutive losses a give themselves a three point cushion to the relegation zone.

The teams played out a goalless draw in their last encounter and a repeat of that scoreline would be extremely welcome by Roy Hodgson's men. Prediction 2-1

Newcastle United v

Fulham

11am

Newcastle will be looking to build on their narrow victory away to Huddersfield, which saw their three-match winless streak ended and Rafael Benítez's men out of the immediate danger zone.

Newcastle have been beaten by West Ham and Wolves in front of their home fans and only held Everton to a 1-1 draw, but a match against the league's bottom side should give them added confidence. Fulham come into the match on the back of a home loss to West Ham but their away woes will be even more worrying.

Claudio Ranieri continues to struggle to find a cure with his men earning just one point in nine league trips so far.

However, despite their plight, they still sit just three points behind seventeenth placed Southampton, which gives them continued hope of avoiding the drop. Prediction 2-1

West Ham United v

Watford

11am

West Ham host Watford looking to build on their four-match winning streak, which saw them leapfrog their visiting side — who have struggled for similar consistency over the past couple of months.

West Ham have beaten Newcastle, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Fulham, and netted 11 goals along the way.

Manuel Pellegrini will want to build on their confidence once again and capitalise on Watford's struggles for points on the road.

However, Watford did beat Cardiff last week to finally end a six-match winless streak. Prediction 1-0

Cardiff City v Manchester United

1.30pm

Manchester United travel to Cardiff under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after two losses last week saw Mourinho sacked by the board.

They will be hoping to bounce back quickly and start reducing the 11-point deficit to the top four.

On paper, a trip to newly promoted Cardiff would seem the ideal prospect for Solskjaer but Neil Warnock's men have earned 12 of their 15-point total in their last five outings at Cardiff City Stadium.

Solskjaer failed keep Cardiff in the Premier League during a short spell in charge back in 2014 and so I would not expect a warm welcome back in South Wales for United's new boss. Prediction 1-2

SUNDAY

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur

1pm

If you were asked to select the Premier League's best team on the road, the unbeaten Liverpool and imperious Manchester City are probably the first clubs to come to mind.

But statistically, Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham are the league's top away side, with eight wins out of the ten games on their travels for a total of 24 points.

However, Monday's match against an improving Everton at Goodison Park represents a difficult encounter Spurs.

They have picked up more points at home than Tottenham and Manchester United and have not lost at Goodison in the league since a 3-1 loss to West Ham in September.

The encounter will also see two of the league's inform strikers go head-to-head.

Harry Kane will be aiming to continue his extraordinary record against Everton, aiming to score his fourth consecutive brace, while Brazilian striker Richarlison will be looking to score a fifth goal in as many games at Goodison Park. Prediction 1-2

Baby-faced assassin: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking for a first win against his former side Cardifft City (File Photograph by Rui Vieira/AP)

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Published December 21, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2018 at 8:14 pm)

United in desperate need of festive cheer

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