Ole Gunnar Solskjaer warns ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ as he urges his Man United stars to prove they HAVE turned a corner after their rout at Tottenham ahead of Champions League trip to Atalanta
- Manchester United put their humiliation at the hands of Liverpool behind them
- A 3-0 win at Tottenham eased some of the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
- Solskjaer wants his players to prove against Atalanta they have turned a corner
As events at Tottenham took an inevitable turn on Monday, the man who dealt the fatal blow to Nuno Espirito Santo may have wondered just how close he came to a similar fate at Manchester United.
Only a week ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stood on the precipice with Antonio Conte being openly discussed as his successor at Old Trafford.
A convincing win at Spurs has given the United manager a little breathing space but Solskjaer knows just how delicate his situation remains.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants his Manchester United players to prove they have turned a corner
Victory away to Tottenham eased some of the pressure on Solskjaer after the Liverpool defeat
This evening, United face Atalanta in the Champions League. They go to the Gewiss Stadium top of an evenly-poised Group F, only three points ahead of Young Boys in fourth.
On Saturday, they play rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford knowing another heavy home defeat just two weeks after a humiliation at the hands of Liverpool would plunge Solskjaer and his players back into crisis.
No wonder Solskjaer is not getting carried away by beating Tottenham. ‘One swallow doesn’t make a summer,’ he said on Monday. ‘It’s important we keep focusing on what we did well in that game and improve on what we didn’t do as well. It’s relentless with games every three days and it’s a chance tomorrow to prove that we can go again.’
Solskjaer does not want to see his players get complacent ahead of a trip to face Atalanta next
Gary Neville has been a regular critic of this United team and warned at the weekend that the Spurs result ‘didn’t let anyone off the hook’ with Atalanta and City waiting around the corner.
Solskjaer is happy to let the likes of Neville take their best shot and seemed more concerned on Monday with offering his sympathies to Nuno.
‘Criticism can make you doubt yourself or you can stand up for yourself. I’ve always enjoyed criticism — keep that coming, it’s fine,’ he said. ‘Journalists, pundits, experts, we’ve all got different jobs and it’s their job to give their opinion. I’m not here to fight with them, I don’t need a spat with anyone.
‘It’s never nice to see good men lose their jobs. Nuno has been working hard. I don’t know what the situation is at Tottenham but, as a colleague, you are never happy when that happens. You try to get in touch with him and tell him your feelings.’
Solskjaer will not need reminding that United were two goals down to Atalanta inside half an hour at Old Trafford two weeks ago before rescuing themselves with a second-half fightback. Four days earlier, they lost 4-2 at Leicester and four days later 5-0 to Liverpool.
The Norwegian also feels it is down to player quality, rather than system, for their performance
A horrible pattern was emerging and forced Solskjaer to switch to a more compact, defensive formation at Tottenham with Edinson Cavani partnering Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. Both scored.
It will be interesting to see if he adopts a similar approach against the dangerous Italians after one of his three centre backs, Victor Lindelof, was left behind injured in Manchester on Monday. There may also be a temptation to rest players ahead of the derby.
‘We haven’t been thinking about that at all,’ Solskjaer insisted. ‘I think you just have to look at the next game. We’re in a decent position but you need a result away from home to go through, so all eyes are on this one.
‘We’ve got players to play many different systems: back three, four or five. We’ve got wide men, wingers, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1. We looked at the Tottenham game and felt that to get more control we played that system and it worked.’
United are not short of options. Paul Pogba, available after missing the trip to Spurs through suspension, has been benched recently along with Jadon Sancho. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were substitutes at Tottenham but Solskjaer has told them to seize their opportunity when it arrives.
‘That’s always going to happen at Man United,’ he said. ‘Players will go through difficult spells when they are not playing and that’s when their character is revealed.
‘We don’t have time for anyone to sulk or not give energy to the team. If you are not in the starting XI, you are there to support your team-mates. It can’t be everyone is thinking about themselves. It’s a team before any individual.’