Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is back in the spotlight ahead of Saturday’s derby against Manchester City but says he’s not pressing the panic button after their midweek Champions League exit.
Four successive Premier League victories have hoisted United into the top six after a woeful start to the campaign, but a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig on Tuesday rekindled speculation about the Norwegian’s future at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer remains upbeat, however, and said his players have shown an ability to bounce back from setbacks before. Victory over City would be the perfect response to the critics.
“Any player that plays football should be disappointed when you lose a game. They want to bounce back and win the next one,” Solskjaer told reporters. “We’ve handled setbacks well, during games and before the next game.
“It’s important not to press the panic button because you can’t win every game. Some games will hurt more than others and have more consequences than others. We’re facing the reality of no Champions League and we move on.”
United have won the last two league derbies against City and Solskjaer said the positive approach that served them well in those victories was the blueprint they would follow.
“We want to get on the front foot straight away, goals impact games and when you get the first goal it’s easier,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“That’s something we want to get to in this game, we’ve done well against City in the last few games against them early on.”
Despite their Champions League exit from a group containing last season’s runners-up Paris St Germain and semi-finalists Leipzig, Solskjaer insists United have made progress.
“It’s been a step,” Solskjaer said. “We played against two top teams, one reached the final and one in semi-final last year, we’ve learnt any small mistake will get punished.
“We were very close to going through in a very good group, that shows me a team moving forward from drawing to Colchester and barely beating Rochdale.
“We still have a little bit of a way to go to of course compete and go and win the Champions League because that’s our aim to win trophies and be contenders.”
Solskjaer said forward Anthony Martial would “definitely” be involved against City while Edinson Cavani, injured last week against West Ham United, was also in contention.
City’s Guardiola expects tough test against wounded rivals United
Manchester City expect to face the “best version” of a wounded Manchester United side reeling from their Champions League exit when the teams meet this weekend in the Premier League derby, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
United crashed out of Europe’s elite club competition after a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig on Tuesday, the day before City cruised past Olympique Marseille 3-0 to cement their place atop Group C as they look forward to the last-16 draw on Monday.
Asked by reporters how City would prepare for Saturday’s meeting with their inconsistent local rivals at Old Trafford, Guardiola said: “Thinking we’re going to face the best version of them, especially talk a lot about what we have to do.
“It’s not a knockout game, it’s three more points. Important of course, because of the quality of the opponent but there are a lot of fixtures to come and we try to win our games.”
City are seventh with 18 points from 10 games, a point and a place below United who are five points off the pace. Both teams have a game in hand over the top five.
Guardiola said he empathised with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is facing increased scrutiny as a result of their latest defeat and poor home form. United have lost three of their five Premier League games at Old Trafford this term.
“It’s important to know the value of Solskjaer, there’s no doubt about this. I don’t have to give him support because he’s strong enough and knows how this job works… when we win we’re a genius, when we lose we have to be sacked,” Guardiola added.
“It happens at United and all around the world, it’s a reality.”
Guardiola also said City’s Spain defender Eric Garcia could be out for up to three weeks with a knock, while Argentina striker Sergio Aguero will not start on Saturday as he manages a knee injury after playing and scoring against Marseille.