Ole Gunnar Solskjær has defended his record as Manchester United manager but accepted there is pressure on him following the club’s recent run of poor form.
United have won only two of their past seven matches, losing four of them, including the 4-2 defeat at Leicester on Saturday. This has led to heightened scrutiny of Solskjær, and the Norwegian was asked if he feels safe in his job.
“There is pressure all the time. There is pressure on me, of course, but we’ve been through this before and come through it stronger as a team and as individuals,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the response [on the pitch]. I’m in dialogue with the club all the time so there is an open and honest discussion.
“We’ve progressed over the years since I was [first here for] half a season. Sixth, third, second. You can see the progress, development and improvement. This season we still want to improve. We’ve signed players that have raised expectations. Other teams have signed players and improved as well, so we’re in the same boat as all the top teams.”
While the United hierarchy remain firm in their backing of Solskjær, home defeats in Wednesday’s Champions League group game to Atalanta and Liverpool in the Premier League match on Sunday might cause a shift in the position. Solskjær was asked about the view of Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool defender who said on Monday that the manager should be sacked if the club wants to be successful.
“Of course we’ve got Liverpool on Sunday as well, so Jamie is always looking at these little things,” Solskjær said. “I’ve got my values. I’ve got my way of managing and I believe in myself, and as long as the club believes in me I’m pretty sure that Jamie Carragher’s opinion is not going to change that.
“When you ask about moods it’s not a gimmicky, jovial happy camp. We’re focused and determined. Conceding four goals is a big eye-opener for us … we need to improve on different levels with loads of details.”
Solskjær defended the role of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been accused of not pressing enough from his centre-forward role. “We’ve got 11 players on the pitch with different roles and responsibilities,” he said. “We put a team out there that we think is going to win that game, we didn’t win against Leicester so there’s always going to be criticism. Cristiano is an absolute top player and we know what he can do for us.”
He also defended his coaching staff – the assistant manager, Mike Phelan, and first-team coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna – following criticism that United lack cohesion. “The coaching staff we have are absolutely amazing; the attention to detail, the sessions they put on, the preparation that we have,” he said.
“I don’t think I can ask for better staff. They’re good Man United people and with one intention in mind and that’s to improve the team and help the players. We go through difficult times together.”
Marcus Rashford scored at Leicester on his return from injury. He is clear United have to tighten up as a unit. “Against Leicester we were just too open,” said the forward. “It’s as simple as that – they’re a good footballing team, as are a lot of them out there, and it was too easy for them to play through us. The game against Atalanta is the first opportunity to show that’s what we’re focused on.
“For us as players we want silverware, and the staff as well. Everyone here wants to win trophies. But there’s steps that you have to take to get there and you don’t just win trophies overnight. We have been on this journey for a while now and come close a lot of times, and we have to find the difference between coming close and getting our hands on trophies.”
United have three points in Group F, the same total as Young Boys and one fewer than the leaders, Atalanta. “In the Champions League group stage you have six games – if you win all three home games and get a result away from home most likely you go through,” said Solskjær. “And that’s what we’re aiming for – a win against a very good Atalanta side would be massive for us and a big boost.”
The Atalanta coach, Gian Piero Gasperini, has played down the notion of a crisis at United and expects a reaction from the hosts on Wednesday. “They’re going to want to pull out a really good reaction in front of their fans,” Gasperini said.
“It’s true to say that perhaps they have had a couple of setbacks of late, but by the same token I saw the game against Leicester and in the first half in particular they played really well. We are playing a top team and I don’t think they’re in crisis or difficulty from that point of view. I don’t think that’s the case at all.”