Weekend Wanderings: Trouble at Old Trafford

Christmas is nearly upon us and many teams will be hoping for an early gift this weekend.

The pressures of the festive season are already taking their toll with a certain someone at Old Trafford suffering the sack earlier this week.

Here are the games to keep an eye on as teams look to give themselves a boost ahead of Christmas Day.

1. Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get things up and running against his old club?

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If you’d said at the start of the season that former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be managing the club before Christmas you would probably have been carted off to have your head examined. Yet here we are.

After Jose Mourinho’s run as manager came to a hasty end the club moved to appoint the Norwegian as caretaker until the end of the season.

Arriving from Norwegian side Molde, Solskjaer does have managerial experience, but the last time he coached in the Premier League it ended in relegation with Cardiff City.

Coincidentally his first game as United boss will be against the Bluebirds at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Obviously, the players at Solskjaer’s disposal are a different breed to those he managed in Wales, but there’s no escaping the fact that a relatively inexperienced boss is now in one of the hottest of all the hot seats.

This weekend may give us an indication as to whether we are likely to see him at this level of management again. If there are more slip-ups you must wonder who United turn to next.

2. Have Aberdeen quietly played themselves in to title contention?

Strange things are happening in the Scottish Premiership. While Celtic are top – with a game in hand – the top spot keeps changing from club to club.

Celtic, Kilmarnock and Rangers have all occupied first place at some point in the last fortnight and there was a time when Hearts were riding high looking like the team to beat.

However, quietly lurking in the background and winning ugly have been Aberdeen, a team we are so often used to seeing in runner-up position.

It has been a weird season for Derek McInnes’ side and a game against fifth-placed Hearts is the next challenge this Saturday.

The Dons find themselves in fourth, just three points behind leaders Celtic. Between them lies both Rangers and Kilmarnock. We might be set for a four-way tussle, maybe even five if Hearts get back to some sort of consistent form.

Keep your eyes peeled.

3. Are Ayr United on the way in to Scottish football folklore?

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It’s not just in the top tier of Scotland where we are getting shocks – just look at what’s happening in the Scottish Championship.

Last year’s League One champions Ayr United are currently sitting top of the pile in the Championship and are poised for back-to-back promotions.

Aided by the firepower of key striker Lawrence Shankland, Ayr are a point clear of second-place Ross County and this Saturday they face a trip to Dunfermline.

Lachlan Cameron, club chairman, couldn’t contain his excitement when he admitted that winning promotion would be a “once in a generation opportunity.”

4. Have Leeds United found their stride?

Everyone loves the Championship thanks to its unpredictable nature and this season is no different.

Norwich and Derby have had their entertaining moments, but it’s Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds that are setting pulses racing.

Five straight league wins have seen Leeds take top spot in the division, but this Sunday they face an outfit who also look to be heading in the right direction.

Aston Villa are developing under Dean Smith and are slowly climbing that table.

They are sure to be more than a match for Leeds United and will represent a good test.

Both sides are set to be in the running for promotion by the end of the campaign but a win for Leeds here might just give them a welcome boost as they chase the title and an automatic return to the top flight.

5. Can Juventus be stopped in Serie A?

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The more we ask this question the more Juventus respond with “we’re not planning to stop anytime soon.”

The reigning league champions are top of Serie A again having remarkably won all but one of their games this campaign, with the outlier being a draw.

They’ve conceded just eight goals but something in our mind just wonders if this is the moment they slip.

On Saturday, the league leaders host Roma who aren’t exactly a force to be reckoned with right now, sitting in seventh.

But on their day, they still have something about them that could easily spring a surprise.

Cristiano Ronaldo and co will have their work cut out.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992

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