Solskjaer glad for patience

United manager grateful he is given time to oversee upturn in form after slow start

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue drumming the need for consistency into his players' heads as they start the second half of their season against Sheffield United.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue drumming the need for consistency into his players' heads as they start the second half of their season against Sheffield United.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged his Manchester United players to keep up their good form when they welcome bottom side Sheffield United to Old Trafford today.

The hosts will lead the table with a victory, even if Manchester City temporarily go top should they beat West Bromwich Albion away a day earlier.

United are on a 17-game unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League and their rise as unlikely title challengers has coincided with a turnaround in their home form.

Solskjaer had been under pressure earlier this season after a 6-1 loss to Tottenham and their Champions League exit but the pressure has disappeared with the Red Devils enjoying their best league position after 19 games since 2012-13, Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

While the United manager did not want to go into detail about Frank Lampard's sacking at Chelsea, he expressed his appreciation for the patience shown by the Glazer family, who own the club.

"I'm grateful for the patience because we've had two or three really bad spells of form," he said at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

"We don't know what's going on behind the scenes at clubs."

On ensuring their title tilt does not fizzle out, Solskjaer added he would continue to drill home the fact that the league ends in May and not January.

"We're not getting carried away. The two teams (champions Liverpool and City) who have been top of the league last few seasons have been incredible, consistent.

"We know this is only the start of something, we want to be competitive and keep on improving. Keep working as we do.

"I've said a few times, home and away doesn't really matter now. You don't have that 12th man that we normally have and we want to have back."

Acknowledging that they had a "few difficult home games" in the beginning, the United boss noted that their form has come through with the coaching and the players' efforts.

Solskjaer added: "Now the form, the confidence is good and we're in a good moment, which we've got to enjoy."

The Norwegian also confirmed he had no new injuries to report, with Marcus Rashford shaking off the knock that forced him off during their FA Cup fourth-round win over the Reds last weekend.

Edinson Cavani looks set to lead the line, as he has for their past two games, against the Blades, whose tally of five points so far is the worst start in top-flight history.

Many pundits had criticised United for making a panic buy last summer but the 33-year-old has even usurped Anthony Martial as their first-choice striker and Solskjaer has been left astounded by the Uruguayan's professionalism.

"What he brings is, you know when a striker of that age runs almost 12km... he chases down the centre-back, every time their 'keeper has the ball, he tackles the centre-midfielders, he makes a mistake and then gets back in his own 18-yard box," he said.

"His reaction, his work rate, his habits, his humility... we can go on and on.

"His experience and attitude has been a lesson for every single one of us."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Solskjaer glad for patience'. Subscribe