Man Utd ‘On Right Track’ As They Hunt Champions League Spot, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 26, 2018.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his Manchester United side are “getting closer” to the standards demanded at Old Trafford as they focus on reaching the Champions League.

United conceded a late goal against Southampton on Monday to draw 2-2, ending a run of four straight Premier League wins.

The result left Solskjaer’s men in fifth place in the table but they are assured of a top-four finish if they win their remaining games against Crystal Palace, West Ham and fellow Champions League hopefuls Leicester.

The Norwegian boss said his message to his players ahead of Thursday’s trip to Crystal Palace was to keep on doing what they had been doing and “trust yourselves”.

“You’re at a club where it always boils down to the last couple of weeks, or two or three games in the season anyway,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

“We’ve done fantastic since we restarted. We started with the draw against Tottenham of course but then had a great run. That little bit of a setback is a test for mentalities.”

Asked if this was the best Manchester United team since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Solskjaer said: “I don’t think that’s my job to say… but of course we’ve played some good football, some enjoyable football.

“Now it is about consistency. We know we’re privileged to play for this great club and represent this great club and there’s a certain expectation on how we should play football and we’re getting closer and closer to that type of team.”

Solskjaer said his team, unbeaten in 18 matches in all competitions, had made major strides during the 2019/20 campaign.

“We’ve come a long way in this season,” he said. “I think we’ve hurried this process up by quite a distance with what we’ve done since we started this season.”

Solskjaer steered clear of the debate about Financial Fair Play and the lifting of Manchester City’s European ban this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho branded the CAS decision “a disgrace” and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Monday was not “a good day for football”.

The ruling could have an immediate impact on United, with fifth place no longer enough for Champions League qualification, but Solskjaer would not be drawn into the debate.

“With Financial Fair Play, it was brought in to keep football and football clubs financially sustainable and I think that’s important and they also give us rules to adhere to.

“That’s what we’re focusing on and let other people discuss what’s right and wrong and what’s happened.”

 

AFP

I Never Lost Faith In De Gea – Solskjaer

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Bournemouth at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on July 4, 2020. Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Bournemouth at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on July 4, 2020. Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has never considered dropping David de Gea “for a one second” as the Spanish goalkeeper prepares to make his 400th appearance for Manchester United.

Signed as a wiry 20-year-old from Atletico Madrid in 2011, the ‘keeper overcame initial struggles to establish himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Old Trafford giants’ history.

De Gea was a fax machine error away from joining Real Madrid in 2015 but the goalkeeper is now committed to United until at least 2023 and will make his 400th outing for the club against Southampton on Monday.

The 29-year-old has won United’s player of the year award for four of the six seasons since Alex Ferguson retired but questions over his position continue, with Dean Henderson impressing on loan at Sheffield United.

Yet Solskjaer has retained belief in a goalkeeper he recently called the best in the world, even during a shaky spell last season.

Asked if he had considered dropping him or taking him out of the firing line, the United boss said: “It did not cross my mind for one second. Not at all.

“To be a Man United goalkeeper, you have to have a strong mentality. David has a strong mentality and he has been here for so long.

“He is now going to come up to 400 games and you don’t do that by being afraid of the limelight or being afraid of Old Trafford.”

De Gea usurped Peter Schmeichel’s tally of 398 United appearances in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Aston Villa, with Alex Stepney now the only goalkeeper to have played for the club more.

It will take a while to match his figure of 539 but Solskjaer is convinced the Spaniard has plenty of years in him yet.

“He has come out and said he wants to play many, many more, maybe 10 more years,” said the United boss.

Solskjaer said De Gea, who won the Premier League in 2013, was driven by a desire to win the top trophies with United, who have slipped from their position of dominance in English football since Ferguson left the club.

“I don’t think he’ll be happy until he wins the bigger trophies because staying at Man United in this time and not having won more, I think that’s something that he will feel is a black dot in his career.”

United host Southampton on Monday, with the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Leicester into third place in the Premier League.

 

AFP

Manchester United Now A ‘Different Team’ – Solskjaer

File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 26, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United are a “different team” from the sluggish side that started the season after extending an unbeaten run to 17 games with a 3-0 win at Aston Villa.

United became the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin as Mason Greenwood continued his rise to stardom with another thunderous finish after Bruno Fernandes’s controversial penalty opened the scoring.

Fernandes then teed up Paul Pogba to score his first goal for over a year as United closed to within a point of the top four.

Pogba missed the majority of the season prior to the coronavirus shutdown due to injury, but his return to fitness and the January signing of Fernandes, alongside the emergence of Greenwood, have transformed United’s fortunes.

“He’s a fantastic person, fantastic player, one of the best midfielders in the world,” said Solskjaer on Pogba.

“He’s getting better and better because he’s been out for so long, which is natural.

“You can see he is enjoying himself. The team is a different team to the one he left when he was injured. The focus, the attitude, everything is miles better in that dressing room.”

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak could turn Pogba’s United career around.

Prior to the pandemic, the French World Cup winner seemed set to leave the club for the second time in his career.

But with interest from Real Madrid now unlikely to materialise this summer given the economic impact of the crisis, Solskjaer is hoping to extend Pogba’s contract beyond 2022.

Pogba, meanwhile, wants United to show their form of the last few weeks over the long haul to challenge newly-crowned champions Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title next season.

“We are talking in training that we have to carry on, that’s what Manchester is, it is a big club and the performances the last few weeks are the standard of Manchester,” Pogba told Sky Sports.

“We didn’t win the Premier League, that’s the standard, we didn’t win anything yet so there is a lot of work to do.”

Villa’s winless run stretches to 10 games as Dean Smith’s men remain rooted in the bottom three, four points adrift of safety with just four games to go.

But Smith was furious his gameplan was undone when Fernandes won a penalty despite initiating the contact with Villa right-back Ezri Konsa as he spun just inside the area.

“It unravelled with the first goal,” said Smith. “I can understand (referee) Jon (Moss) getting it wrong but I don’t know what VAR are looking at – it’s a disgraceful decision.

“They have a screen they can go and look at it but they don’t seem to be bothered.”

Fernandes took responsibility from the spot to score his eighth goal for the club.

Greenwood scored powerfully off both feet against Bournemouth at the weekend and showed again why Solskjaer rates him among the best finishers he has ever seen by smashing home his 16th goal of the season on his supposedly weaker right foot just before the break.

United have now scored 14 goals in winning their last four league games and turned on the style after the break.

Pogba was given time to control and measure his shot from Fernandes’s cut-back to arrow the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal since April 2019.

Fernandes then teed up Martial to crash a shot off the underside of the bar and Pepe Reina denied Marcus Rashford from Pogba’s sumptuous pass in stoppage time as United had to settle for three.

“We should have won by five clear goals in all of them!” Solskjaer added when informed of his side setting a new record.

Solskjaer Realistic On Transfers But Keen To Keep Pogba

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on January 19, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not seek huge funds for transfers this summer due to the economic realities of the coronavirus crisis, but is keen for the club to tie down Paul Pogba to a long-term contract.

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has warned it will not be “business as usual” in the transfer market and said during football’s shutdown from COVID-19 that “speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport”.

The form of Solskjaer’s men since returning to action last month has also suggested United do not need to spend tens of millions in the upcoming window.

The emergence of teenager Mason Greenwood – who has scored three times in his last two games – has helped quieten speculation over a move for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

“There’s got to be realism,” Solskjaer said. “I think the whole world has changed, both financially and the perception that we’ve got on values.

“So every time I put the case in front of Ed, I think it’s a sensible one and it’s a realistic one.

“I think I’ve proven to the club that I’ve always got the club in the front of my mind and the best for the club. I’ll always think long term and try to be making good deals. I’m always quite careful with money, my own personal money as well.”

Pogba’s return to fitness has been a key factor to a run of four wins and a draw from five games since the restart.

The French World Cup winner looked destined to leave Old Trafford for the second time in his career prior to the pandemic.

However, interest from Real Madrid is now unlikely to materialise this summer and Pogba has formed a formidable partnership with Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

Pogba’s contract expires next summer, although United have the option to extend that deal by a further year.

Midfielders Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic have recently penned new deals with the club and Solskjaer is hopeful Pogba will follow suit.

“Of course we want to keep the best players around the club. We want to build a squad for the future.

“Scott and Nemanja, they’re in a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced. We also need players in that mid-range group, so hopefully we can do something.

“I know that since Paul’s come back now he’s looking better and better. He’s just enjoying his football and let’s see where it takes us.”

 

 

-AFP

Angel Gomes Set To Leave Man Utd As Contract Runs Out

Manchester United midfielder Angel Gomes appears to be on his way out of the club. Oli SCARFF / AFP.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is bracing himself for the loss of teenage midfielder Angel Gomes, whose Manchester United contract expires on Tuesday.

The highly rated 19-year-old came through the academy at Old Trafford and made his debut aged 16 in May 2017, becoming the youngest player since Duncan Edwards in the 1950s to feature for the first team.

But Gomes has only made 10 first-team appearances and contract talks hit a roadblock, with Solskjaer now expecting the United midfielder to leave when his contract runs out.

READ ALSO: EU Trade Chief Hogan Drops Out Of WTO Race

Asked at a press conference on Monday if Gomes would be staying at the club, the United boss said: “I’ve got no news, nothing, so it doesn’t look like it.”

Gomes was part of England’s Under-17 World Cup triumph in 2017 and earlier this month Solskjaer said he was hoping that the teenager would sign a new deal.

Pushed to clarify if Gomes was leaving, Solskjaer added: “To be honest, I’ve not heard from them last night or this morning, so it seems like that they haven’t managed to agree (a deal), so the answer is probably short and ‘yes’ then.”

AFP

Solskjaer Congratulates Liverpool On Premier League Title

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on January 19, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Friday congratulated bitter rivals Liverpool on their long-awaited Premier League triumph but said watching other sides lifting the trophy “hurt”.

Liverpool were crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years without kicking a ball on Thursday when Chelsea beat Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool’s 19th title triumph, which sparked wild celebrations around their Anfield home ground, left them one behind United’s record haul.

“First of all, any team that wins the championship and a Premier League deserves it and they deserve credit,” United boss Solskjaer, who won six league titles as a player at Old Trafford, told reporters.

“It’s a hard league to win, so well done to Jurgen (Klopp) and his players.

“For me, every time you see anyone else lift the trophy it hurts. I reckon that’s the feeling everyone associated with Man United — all players, staff, and supporters. Of course, we want to get back to winning ways and that’s our challenge.”

Solskjaer is hoping FA Cup glory can be a springboard for further success, with United heading to Norwich on Saturday in the quarter-finals.

United are fifth in the Premier League, still in the race for a Champions League spot, and are well-placed to reach the last eight of the Europa League.

“I think first of all the FA Cup is a fantastic tournament, and a fantastic final to play a part in, a fantastic trophy to lift,” said Solskjaer.

“For our team, it’s a new team, and to get hands-on a first trophy and win a first title would be fantastic and hopefully a catalyst for more things to come.”

Solskjaer plans to rotate his squad at Carrow Road, where Jesse Lingard will feature, having yet to play a minute since the restart.

“Jesse has come back after the lockdown with a smile on his face, loads of energy,” he said.

“Unfortunately, last week he fell ill for a couple of days but we’ve done all the tests and he’s fine, so he’ll be involved against Norwich now and hopefully he can kick on.”

 

 

-AFP

Solskjaer Hails Under-Fire De Gea As ‘World’s Best’ Goalkeeper

 

Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea throws the ball out during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 14, 2019.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted goalkeeper David de Gea is still “the best in the world”, during a passionate defence of the Manchester United star after he was heavily criticised for his performance against Tottenham Hotspur.

United face Sheffield United on Wednesday as Solskjaer’s side line up at Old Trafford for the first time since winning the Manchester derby on March 8.

The Reds marked their opening match since the coronavirus lockdown with a 1-1 draw away to Spurs in the Premier League on Friday but De Gea was heavily criticised by former United skipper Roy Keane for letting Steven Bergwijn’s shot slip through his fingers.

United manager Solskjaer, a former Old Trafford team-mate of Keane, defended his goalkeeper, however, during a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“David is the best goalkeeper in the world,” he said.

“He’s conceded two goals in the last seven games he’s played for us. There’s two games against City, Chelsea, of course Tottenham, Everton. Two goals in seven games, we’ve gone on a run not conceding goals.

“The Everton one is a freak one, maybe. This one, he cannot save it. He makes great saves, he wins games for us.”

De Gea is set to start against the Blades, when Dean Henderson will be unable to face his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper has shone for Sheffield United this season and was being touted as a potential starter for England before Euro 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic.

The Norwegian boss said Henderson would one day be the number one for Manchester United and England, hailing his performances for the Blades.

“He’s learning all the time. He’s a passionate keeper that wants to be the best so he’s developing, he’s got good coaching there,” said Solskjaer.

“I think one day he’ll be England number one and Man United number one and it’s up to him to keep developing.”

Solskjaer expects Henderson’s Bramall Lane loan to be formally extended before Tuesday’s deadline, but was unable to offer an update on Angel Gomes’ future.

The 19-year-old has yet to agree a new deal with United.

“For me, I’ve not spoken to anyone last night or this morning,” Solskjaer said of the teenage midfielder, whose deal expires at the end of the month.

“So the paperwork and the admin, the meetings that are going on, I can’t really update on that.”

-AFP

Solskjaer Hopes Ighalo Will Stay With Man Utd

In this file photo taken on December 28, 2019 Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer salutes the travelling Manchester United fans at the end of the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley. Oli SCARFF / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 28, 2019 Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer salutes the travelling Manchester United fans at the end of the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Tuesday he hopes January signing, Odion Ighalo will stay at the club should the Premier League season restart next month.

Former Super Eagles forward, Ighalo, was signed from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua in January, but his short-term deal expires at the end of May.

Despite United’s interest in extending Ighalo’s stay, Shanghai are reportedly keen for him to return to China for the start of their season.

“The loan deal went to the end of May now, so obviously he’s supposed to be going back,” Solskjaer said.

“We’re in dialogue and hopefully (he can stay). They’ve been great towards us, his club, and allow him to play for his dream club.

“It’s been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish off what he started, maybe with a trophy or two.

“But at the moment nothing’s been agreed yet. Their league is going to start soon so we are just waiting to see.”

Ighalo scored four goals in three starts and made eight appearances in total for United

Meanwhile, Solskjaer said he is confident of having Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford fit if the league resumes next month.

Pogba has missed the majority of the campaign with an ongoing ankle injury, while Rashford seemed set to miss the rest of the season when he suffered a double stress fracture in his back in January.

United returned to training in small groups last week and preparations are expected to be ramped up further for a return to action when Premier League clubs vote on resuming contact training on Wednesday.

“Hopefully now we’ve proved we can do this safely and we can move to the next step. It’s been really enjoyable being on the training ground again,” said Solskjaer.

“They (Pogba and Rashford) are looking good, they’ve joined training now and they’ve done everything the other boys have been doing. No reaction so far, touch wood.

“When we get started, it looks like we can have a full squad to choose from.”

The return of both players could be a major boost to United’s hopes of ending the season on a high in three competitions.

Solskjaer’s men were three points off the top four in the Premier League when play was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The Red Devils are also still in the hunt for silverware in the FA Cup and Europa League, which UEFA hopes to complete in August.

 

 

 

 

Europa: Ighalo May Start Against Club Brugge, Says Solskjaer

A file photo of Odion Ighalo. Source: [email protected]

 

 

Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has hinted that former Super Eagles forward, Odion Ighalo, might make the first-11 squad in Thursday’s Europa League match against Club Brugge.

Ighalo, who teamed up with the Old Trafford side from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua on the January transfer deadline day, was a late substitute as the Red Devils powered home to a 2-0 win over Chelsea in their English Premier League tie on Monday.

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) top scorer almost made a scoring debut in the tie with Frank Lampard’s men but saw his shot parried by Chelsea goalkeeper, Willie Cabballero.

Ighalo is part of United’s team that travelled to Belgium to face Brugge in a round of 16 Europa League first leg encounter.

Addressing a pre-match press conference, Solskjaer praised the former Watford hitman whom he described as a man who “knows his craft”.

He said, “Well I’m not going to tell the team. But we’re going to have to rotate with all the games we’ve got coming up and he’s one of them that could start. We’ve not 100 per cent decided yet.”

According to the 46-year-old Norwegian, Ighalo is a goal scorer who has shown his skills during training.

“Well, for me, Odion is a different type of striker for us. He is a box striker, he’s a goal scorer. We’ve already seen in training that he really knows his craft.”

Comparing Fernandes To Ronaldo Unfair, Says Solskjaer

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday that it would be unfair to compare new signing Bruno Fernandes to Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 25-year-old followed the path first made famous by five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo in 2003 when he joined United from Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon on Thursday.

Solskjaer said that Fernandes would play a part in Saturday’s game against Wolves at Old Trafford, but warned against comparing him to his illustrious compatriot.

“Cristiano is unique so to compare the boy to him is not fair. Obviously we hope Bruno is going to come and have a fantastic career at Manchester United,” he said.

“He is another piece in the jigsaw and I am sure he is going to give us that X-factor that we have been missing at times this season.”

Fernandes said after signing that his “love of Manchester United” started while watching Ronaldo play for the club.

United were finally able to land Fernandes after chasing him for several months and Solskjaer says the Portugal international reminds him of former teammate Paul Scholes with his ability to make goalscoring runs from deep and provide assists.

Fernandes, who will wear Scholes’ old number 18 shirt, scored eight goals and set up six others for Sporting in the Portuguese Primeira Liga this season.

“Bruno is a goalscoring and assisting midfield player, a little bit like Paul Scholes,” Solskjaer added.

“He can strike a ball fantastically and he’s got wonderful technique. He will also get assists from set plays and with his range of passing.”

Scholes won 11 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and a host of other medals during two spells with United across the Alex Ferguson era.

“He’s a similar type to Scholes, fiery as well, with the same number on his shirt,” Solskjaer said.

“Bruno can do absolutely everything. He can play as one of three in midfield, as a number 10, he can play in off the wing, he can play in a diamond. But we will give him the time to find his best position.

“Of course we bring him in to play and we believe in him. But we are going to give him time to settle down in a new country and a new league with new teammates.”

Fernandes has arrived with United fifth in the Premier League, six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea who they play in their first game back after the winter break.

United are also through to the Europa League last 32 against Club Brugge and are still in the FA Cup.

Now the transfer window is shut, Solskjaer is ready to focus on the last three months as he tries to salvage a troubled season.

“I’m happy and confident that these players will keep improving. You cannot control results but of course, we are going to fight for a higher position in the league and trophies in the cups,” he said.

AFP

Solskjaer Pleads For Patience After Man United’s Loss To Burnley

Unfit United Players Risk Exclusion From Pre-Season Tour, Solskjaer Warns
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts after the final whistle in the English Premier League football match against Everton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north-west England on April 21, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pleaded for time to get Manchester United back on track after the beleaguered boss and his under-performing stars were booed off and labelled an “embarrassment” following Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat against Burnley.

Solskjaer’s side were rocked by Chris Wood’s first-half opener before Jay Rodriguez scored with a superb strike after the break at Old Trafford.

It was a woeful display from fifth-placed United, who are in such poor form that there will be fresh questions about Solskjaer’s job security in the coming days.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand, a Premier League and Champions League winner with the club, slammed the performance and called for owners Glazer family to take action to stop the rot.

“Fans are walking out after 84 minutes! It’s an embarrassment. People at the top need to look and see this and make changes,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.

“The downward spiral in this short space of time, it’s only seven years, has been remarkable.”

Solskjaer had no complaints about a result that laid bare everything wrong with a rudderless team lacking steel in defence, creativity in midfield and a cutting edge upfront.

“We have got to hold our hands up and say it wasn’t good enough. In the first half, we created some half openings but we were not sharp enough to take our chances,” Solskjaer said.

“The boys have given everything they have got but they are experiencing this period for the first time in their lives.

“When you are at Manchester United you are playing at the biggest and best club in the world. Some of them have played 10, 12, 15 games and it’s not easy for them.”

United trail six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea but, given how they have struggled so often this season, the only surprise is that the gap isn’t bigger.

United’s tally of 34 points is their lowest after 24 matches of a top-flight season since 1989-90 and the majority of Old Trafford was on its feet when chants of “stand up if you hate Glazers” echoed around the ground.

 ‘Mentally tired’ 

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was also subjected to abusive chants in a toxic atmosphere, while those few fans who remained in the stadium booed Solskjaer and his players at full-time.

But Solskjaer is still adamant he can turn the tide if he is given time to develop United youngsters like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams.

“I’m going to back them and help them get through this. The players are giving everything, they have done absolutely fantastic so far this season but they know it wasn’t good enough tonight,” Solskjaer said.

“The boys looked mentally tired towards the end, we didn’t find that creativity. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“When you are at Man United you are privileged because you are playing for the best club in the world. Sometimes you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.”

United must regroup to avoid more misery in the FA Cup fourth round against Watford or Tranmere on Sunday before they head to Manchester City looking to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the League Cup semi-finals next Wednesday.

If United are knocked out of both cup competitions, Solskjaer is likely to find the patience of supporters who idolised him during his playing days will dwindle even further.

The gap between United and runaway leaders Liverpool stood at 30 points after Sunday’s defeat at Anfield and there is no sign of Solskjaer bridging the divide any time soon.

Aware the pressure is mounting, Solskjaer is keen to make signings to bolster his injury-hit squad, with leading scorer Marcus Rashford and star midfielder Paul Pogba both sidelined.

“We are looking to improve, we have got our targets. This is our second defeat at home and first since August. I thought we had turned that corner,” he said.

“We have started a clear-out and now I am going to be answering these questions until the window closes. We are working on things.

“For me, the most important thing is we have to perform on the pitch. Tonight wasn’t good enough for a Manchester United team.”

AFP

Solskjaer Defends Team Performance Against Liverpool, Plays Down Neville’s Criticism

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north-west England on January 19, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has contradicted former team-mate, Gary Neville, by saying on Tuesday United are on the “right track”.

Outspoken TV pundit Neville had said in a podcast after United’s 2-0 defeat at leaders Liverpool on Sunday, which left the Red Devils 30 points behind their rivals in the Premier League, the club was in a mess.

The former United captain pinned much of the blame for the team’s current problems on the recruitment undertaken by chief executive Ed Woodward.

But with United still fifth in the league and competing in three cup competitions, Solskjaer believes it is not the right time to start a blame game.

“We’ve just lost to Liverpool, who you all say are fantastic and we have been in the game until the last kick of the ball,” he said at his press conference on the eve of United’s Premier League game with Burnley on Wednesday.

“For me, that is strides forward.

“The signs are there that we’re on the right track, definitely.

“For me, now is not the time to talk about recruitment.

“We are always looking to improve the squad, so now is not the time to start that discussion, Gary.”

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throws the ball back in from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on January 19, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

Fighting for the fourth place — the final Champions League spot — is not what is expected of a club of United’s stature, but the manager remains confident they are doing things to rectify that.

“We know we’re not where we want to be and should be, historically,” he admitted.

“It’s down to us to work better and from my experience, in the 12, 13 months I’ve been here, the players that I’ve brought in have been good, so I have no complaints whatsoever.”

Rashford’s ‘new injury’ 

On the pitch, United will give Marcus Rashford all the time he needs to recover from a double stress fracture to his back.

Rashford picked up the injury in the 1-0 win over Wolves in the FA Cup replay last Wednesday and will miss at least three months.

The England striker, who has scored 19 times for United this season, had been monitoring his back following the away match at Burnley on December 28, but Solskjaer says it was not a previous injury.

“Marcus will be out for a while, but he will get the time he needs to recover,” he said.

“He’s not had that injury before.

“He complained a little bit after the last time we played Burnley.

“We managed him as well as we could then.

“He had some days off for treatment, we took him off in some games and then suddenly this was a new injury.”

Solskjaer must now decide whether to make a late move in the transfer window for a striker to cover for Rashford’s absence.

If he cannot bring anyone in, the Norwegian will look to 18-year-old Mason Greenwood and veteran midfielder Juan Mata — who scored the goal that knocked Wolves out of the FA Cup — to try and plug the gap.

“Mason will get more chances now and Juan will have to step up again,” he said.

“We know we’re stretched with the injuries we’ve had but we’ll cope with that.”

AFP