May 15, 2021

Man Utd

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Man United are making ‘step-by-step progress’ towards title bid

4 min read

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United can see light at the end of the tunnel after eight years of turbulence at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

United are set to clinch second place Manchester City in the Premier League and have reached their fifth semi-final under Solskjaer in the Europa League.

Although the United boss accepts that is still not good enough for a club of United’s stature, he can see clear signs that the post-Ferguson slump is coming to an end. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shakes the hand of Juan Mata after Manchester United secured their passage to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shakes the hand of Juan Mata after Manchester United secured their passage to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League

Solskjaer believes United are making steady progress back towards being able to challenge for the Premier League title as they did regularly under Sir Alex Ferguson

Solskjaer believes United are making steady progress back towards being able to challenge for the Premier League title as they did regularly under Sir Alex Ferguson

United made light work of Granada to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League

United made light work of Granada to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League 

‘We are not in the era of Sir Alex and we’ve had a transformation period since he left,’ said Solskjaer.

‘That always would happen because there was nobody better, will never be. He was the boss. He was the one who was always difficult to replace.

‘But it’s progress, step by step, and if we do that well enough, that is when you get trophies and league titles which, of course, is our ambition. Everyone knows what I am talking about.

‘You’ve got to make progress, step by step, that’s the reality. If we can manage second place and keep winning and get second – if Man City win all games and we win ours – you want to finish strongly.

‘Third last year, second this, close to a trophy. It’s progress. It’s not the end game – the end game is winning the league.’ 

United trail champions-elect Manchester City by 11 points in the Premier League standings

United trail champions-elect Manchester City by 11 points in the Premier League standings

Solskjaer won six Premier Leagues as a United player and is keen to do likewise as the manager

Solskjaer won six Premier Leagues as a United player and is keen to do likewise as the manager

United beat Tottenham 3-1 in their last Premier League outing and take on Burnley next

United beat Tottenham 3-1 in their last Premier League outing and take on Burnley next

Man United fixtures 

Premier League unless stated 

Sunday Burnley (H)

April 25 Leeds United (A)

April 29 Roma (H)

UEFA Europa League semi-final 

May 1 TBC Liverpool (H)

May 6 Roma (A)

UEFA Europa League semi-final 

May 8 TBC Aston Villa (A)

May 11 TBC Leicester City (H)

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United have beaten three of the final four in the Champions League this season – City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain – which gives Solskjaer further encouragement that his team is close to competing at the highest level again.

‘The reality is we are in the Europa League and they are in the Champions League,’ said the Norwegian who saw United book a semi-final against Roma by beating Granada on Thursday night.

‘But when you sit and watch the games and you know how well you’ve done against these teams, you know we are not a million miles away.

‘It is about consistency. It is sometimes little details, fine margins that go against you. We would love to have been going through the group stage. I felt we had done enough at one point but we just couldn’t get it over line.

‘Now it’s about improving again and taking inspiration from good performances against them and learning from the bad performances and results we have had.’

United can move eight points behind City with six games remaining if they beat Burnley at home on Sunday while Pep Guardiola’s side meet Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend, but Solskjaer accepts that the gap is too wide to close now.

‘Of course we’ll never give up,’ he added. ‘Man United will never, ever give up. This club has had too many setbacks and too many great comebacks to have it in our DNA.

‘Is it realistic? No, probably not. When you have a team that is so consistent as Man City have been, you don’t expect them to lose three games of the last six. As long as we do our job, we want to finish the season strong and go one game at a time.’

United will make a late check on Marcus Rashford who missed the Granada game through injury, but hope to have Eric Bailly available again following a positive Covid test.

Striker Marcus Rashford may return to the United team for Sunday's meeting with Burnley

Striker Marcus Rashford may return to the United team for Sunday’s meeting with Burnley

Defender Eric Bailly (left) is likely to be available again after a positive Covid-19 test

Defender Eric Bailly (left) is likely to be available again after a positive Covid-19 test

The Ivorian’s future at Old Trafford is in doubt as talks continue over a new contract, but Solskjaer does not foresee any problems.

‘Eric has been isolating back home in Ivory Coast but he is back here now,’ said the United manager.

‘I hope he’ll be available for the weekend. Hopefully he will train on Friday and see how he feels.

‘Eric has played well when he’s played. I know there has been speculation. We are talking to him about his contract and I don’t see any issues with him.’

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