Solskjaer knows only a Man United Premier League title will silence opponents

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a fan of stats and he can tell you his Manchester United players are running further, creating more and giving up fewer chances than at any time during his two years at Old Trafford. But in reality, he only needs a few numbers to show his team’s progress.

On New Years Day 2020, United were fifth in the table, 24 points behind leaders Liverpool. On day one of 2021, with a win over Aston Villa, they will be co-top with Liverpool, they might not win the title this season but they have at least given themselves a chance.

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Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford and David De Gea have all been put in front of television cameras after the narrow 1-0 win over Wolves and have all played down the prospect of a challenge in the New Year. But the truth, whether they like to admit it or not, is that the positive results of their next two league games against Aston Villa on Friday and Liverpool at Anfield on January 17 will put United at the heart of the race. Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge the last time fans spoke about the title again in January.

Solskjaer, a six-title winner as a player under Ferguson, knows better than anyone that a sniff of challenge is not enough at a club of United’s size and ambition. Instead, he will have to win before all the skeptics are silenced.

He also knows that it doesn’t take much to get the boat moving at Old Trafford and if there is some optimism around the club as the New Year approaches, he can fade very quickly. United ended 2019 on a nine-game unbeaten streak before winning just two of their next seven to leave Solskjaer facing more questions about his job. Even just as late as December 8 and that disastrous Champions League exit at the hands of RB Leipzig, the Norwegian has been questioned in press conferences about his future.

Solskjaer, however, remained adamant he is the right man while, behind the scenes, club leaders have insisted that the approach to hiring and firing managers since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 is over and that the 47-year-old will receive more. time and more money.

He’s not the type to publicly criticize owners or senior management, but sources told ESPN he’s made it clear that the team needs at least one more striker and center-back before they can still. equal Liverpool and Manchester City.

Many fans still feel that the club are more interested in investing in the squad when they try to get back into the lucrative Champions League rather than taking the final step to victory. No matter how much progress is made this season, fans will still expect funds to be available for new players next summer, even during the financial uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a New Year’s message to supporters ahead of Villa’s visit, Executive Vice President Ed Woodward pledged more investment in the team and those words will need to be supported if Solskjaer is to turn this team into a constant challenger for the more. great trophies at home and in Europe.

“The team have done well under difficult circumstances and at the time of writing we have gained more points per game since the project restarted last June than any other club in the Premier League,” said Woodward. “We also have four more wins and nine more goals than at this time last season. There are many positive stats like these showing the progress under Ole last year. But they only tell the story. part of the story.

“Equally important is the work we see behind the scenes to build a winning culture in line with the traditions of attacking club football played by young, hard-working teams merging local talent with top-notch rookies.

The stats, the atmosphere and the Premier League table all show progress is being made at Man United, but the goal must be to turn it into something more tangible. As Woodward noted: “As always our priority is to win trophies and, with the team entering the new year competing on four fronts, we are optimistic about the way forward in 2021.”

A first trophy – perhaps a first title – are realistic goals in 2021 and Solskjaer needn’t be reminded that the only stat that really matters to a United manager is their silver count.