Solskjaer aims for 3rd

The Manchester United goal machine under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone quiet of late. During their run of four defeats in five games in all competitions, Marcus Rashford and Co have managed just four goals and failed to score in two.
The Manchester United goal machine under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone quiet of late. During their run of four defeats in five games in all competitions, Marcus Rashford and Co have managed just four goals and failed to score in two.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

United boss says 15 points needed and they have to beat Chelsea, even title-chasing City

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged his Manchester United players to get 15 points from the final six games to secure a top-three finish that will guarantee Champions League football.

By his calculation, that would mean beating either or both Manchester City, who are battling Liverpool to retain their Premier League title, and Chelsea in consecutive home games this month.

Urging his men to collect "as many points as possible" and reap the rewards, he said ahead of today's league game against West Ham: "We want top three. Top four is also an aim... but we should aim for 15 points.

"But now it's about West Ham and focusing on (that).

"If we get 15, we'll be (in the) top three because in those games, hopefully, we'll beat Chelsea."

It may seem a tough ask given that the Red Devils have lost four of their last five games in all competitions, the latest being the 1-0 home loss to Barcelona in the Champions League first leg on Wednesday.

A meeting with mid-table Hammers at Old Trafford represents the perfect opportunity to arrest an alarming slide in form.

Solskjaer pinned the reason for the slump on his team not being "ruthless or clinical enough" in front of goal and revealed it was something they were trying to rectify in training.

He added: "You're never happy when you don't win games, but it's been a period where we've played some good teams. We've been practising. As a striker, I know how important that little belief is so we've been putting balls in the goal.

"Sometimes, you just don't have that little feel, that confidence, so you have to do it in training and hope it comes out again."

But there is little he can do to freshen up his starting XI owing to a rash of injuries and suspensions.

Defenders Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are both banned and Solskjaer revealed that Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian could be in line to fill their full-back spots.

There are big doubts over midfielder Nemanja Matic and forward Alexis Sanchez.

The manager also spoke about the future of Ander Herrera, whose contract expires in the summer. He has been the subject of heavy speculation, with sources saying he has agreed a pre-contract agreement with French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The Spain midfielder, who will not play today after suffering a muscle injury in training, has managed just 134 minutes since picking up a hamstring problem on Feb 24.

Solskjaer hinted that the "future might have been worrying him", thus contributing to his injury woes, adding: "That comes at a time as you say there are contract talks.

"But that's ongoing, I can't really comment too much on how far they are down the line. You have to ask him. I don't know how they've been, the last few talks.

"He's always giving his all, doesn't matter if it's five weeks or five years on his contract."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2019, with the headline 'Solskjaer aims for 3rd'. Print Edition | Subscribe