Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United produced their best defensive performance of the season at Manchester City.
United had started with their back five of Dean Henderson, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw in just two previous games – against Liverpool and City in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in January.
Henderson kept his ninth clean sheet in 14 United starts and played an instrumental role in Shaw’s first Premier League goal since August 2018 that put United 2-0 up on 50 minutes.
Lindelof remains the preferred partner for United captain Harry Maguire and the Swede’s knack for performing against the elite continued at The Etihad Stadium. Aaron Wan-Bissaka once again neutered Raheem Sterling, who has now gone 23 appearances without scoring against United.
United have recorded 11 clean sheets in their last 18 games and when asked if they enjoyed their best defensive display this term at City, Solskjaer replied: “Yeah. It’s hard to say a back five because the front six as well, Fred and Scott [McTominay], and the front four. Different roles, different responsibilities and everyone had to do their job to the edge.
“When you have to work as hard defensively it takes a little of the edge away from the attacking but I still thought we looked a threat on the break. To a tee, every single one of them defensively [did their jobs].”
Solskjaer could recall Eric Bailly and Alex Telles to the United defence for the Europa League round-of-16 first leg against AC Milan on Thursday.
Bailly and Telles lined up in both legs of the round-of-32 ties against Real Sociedad and United host West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.
“It’s a marathon, it’s been a relentless year for everyone,” Solskjaer added. “A challenging year for everyone, for footballers as well. But we’re lucky enough we can play football.
“Now a game on Thursday, Milan. We can’t prioritise one game in front of the other. Who’s fit, who’s not fit for Thursday and go again. I feel we are a better team now than we were 12, 15, 18 months ago.
“We’ve improved massively. We’re more robust, more resilient, and there’s more personality in the team, that’s what I like.”
Marcus Rashford could sit out the Milan game with an ankle injury he sustained in the second-half at City. Rashford was replaced by Mason Greenwood in the 73rd minute and the 23-year-old is the only player who has appeared in all 43 of United’s games so far this term.
“I don’t know, [it was] something with his ankle when he sprinted back about 60-70 yards to save a goal,” Solskjaer said of the injury. “It shows the attitude of the boy and the pace, how he sacrificed himself.
“I think he maybe went over on his ankle, we might need a scan but need to speak to the doctor.”