Solskjaer chasing trophy after two years in charge at Manchester United

By Jovan Belev Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/24 20:23:39

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Photo: VCG

"We are desperate to get our hands on a trophy, these players are desperate to learn how to win," said Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of his side's midweek trip to Everton in the Carabao Cup.

They won 2-0 on the night, adding another meeting with Manchester City to the fixture schedule. They met their crosstown rivals in the semifinals of the same tournament last season.

That was one of three semifinals Solskjaer reached last season, his first full campaign in charge at the club where he won nine major trophies as a player.

Needless to say defeat to Pep Guardiola's side in the League Cup was followed by defeat to Mikel Arteta's Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup semifinal and then Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League.

This inability to make a final, let alone win one, has been among the question marks over Solskjaer in what is now two years in charge of Manchester Untied since replacing Jose Mourinho.

The semifinal is another chance for his players to get a step closer to a first trophy under the Norwegian.

"We want to improve and we're expected to win trophies," he said ahead of the Everton game, which his side could and should have won by more.

He knows the importance of that first trophy.

"I remember winning my first trophy. Even towards the end of my career, it was Patrice Evra's and Nemanja Vidic's first trophy in the 2006 Carling Cup. It does give something to a team.

"It's really important we try to get our hands on silverware. We haven't won in the last two or three years now and it's important.

"We want to improve every season and to improve on last year is to get to the final. Of course, when you get to the final, there's only one thing that matters - and that's to lift the trophy."

Under no illusion

The Everton game was another step toward that but the players are under no illusion as to what is expected by their manager, the club and the fans.

"We are expected to win trophies," captain Harry Maguire said after the 2-0 win at Goodison Park. "It's important to reach these big games but we have to start winning them and lift some trophies for this club.

"It was an excellent performance and we should have been out of sight, we had three or four great chances. We need to be more clinical."

The team had been just that in their previous game, a first English Premier League meeting with Leeds United in 16 years to mark Solskjaer's two-year anniversary of taking charge.

It finished 6-2, with United putting their previous patchy form at Old Trafford behind them.

"It could have been 12-4," Solskjaer said after the win. "It was that kind of game."

The Norwegian was asked whether his side could actually have reached double figures, finally fulfilling the words of the United chant that claims "We often score six, but seldom score 10."

"I'm very happy with the way we created chances - our skill, some fantastic moves," he said. 

"But yes, sometimes you look at it and think, 'Put the ball in the goal.' But I can't be greedy, Mason [Greenwood], Anthony [Martial] and Marcus [Rashford] didn't get on the scoresheet and they're our main strikers, so this is good."

Unbeaten run

Martial and Edinson Cavani got on the scoresheet at Goodison, Solskjaer will not mind who does when they face Leicester City on Saturday looking for a belated Christmas present - three points to get closer to champions Liverpool at the top of the table.

They go into Christmas five points behind Jurgen Klopp's side with a game in hand. United are unbeaten in seven games in the league, winning six of those, and their 28 goals is second only to Liverpool.

Could it be that the trophy that United so desperately need to win could be a record 21st English league title?

Solskjaer dismissed that on Sunday after smashing long-standing rivals Leeds. "We're one third into the season, we're not even at the halfway point, so the league position is not something we look at - we look at the improvement of the team. Now we are getting fitter and stronger. Our fans needed that one."

It has been a strange season for sure. It was only a couple of months back when Mourinho returned to Old Trafford with his Spurs side and won 6-1. They have also crashed out of the UEFA Champions League despite winning away at PSG and hammering RB Leipzig at home.

Consistency has been an issue. Two-goal hero in the Leeds win, Scott McTominay has said that the team have been working on that this season.

"We were far too inconsistent, approaching games not in the right frame of mind but this year, we have to be so focused in everything we do and the way we approach the game," he said after his man of the match performance.

"Obviously for us it's all about the next game, the next game is a cup final for us at this football club and the manager reiterated that to us last year."

That is fine when they win. Solskjaer always seems just one defeat away from the media writing his Old Trafford obituary, others see a glimmer of hope in his United side.

"Liverpool are still the strongest, but United could be the best of the rest," Solskjaer's former teammate Roy Keane said on Sky Sports after the Leeds game.

Another former teammate, Gary Neville pointed to what a strange season it has been for a United side "whose performances at times have been horrible," he said on his Sky Sports podcast.

"If you had said at the start of the season that they would be in a position to go two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand coming into Christmas you would've absolutely snapped anyone's hand off."

Neville is right, and Solskjaer should be grateful for United's present this Christmas.
Newspaper headline: Ole Trafford


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