Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is embracing the pressure and underlined his determination to bring silverware back to Manchester United ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Villarreal.
Having succeeded Jose Mourinho – initially on a temporary basis – in December 2018, the Norwegian has overseen steady progress on the field and behind the scenes at Old Trafford.
United finished as Premier League runners-up last season and reached the Europa League final, only for their bid to win a first trophy under Solskjaer to end in a galling penalty shoot-out loss to Villarreal.
Four months on the clubs are going toe-to-toe in the Champions League group stage as United look to bounce back from three losses in four matches in all competitions.
Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa led scrutiny to ratchet up on Solskjaer, who also recently oversaw the Carabao Cup exit to West Ham and shock defeat at Young Boys in their Group F opener.
“If you end up with zero or one point after two games, you need to win the last four probably,” the Norwegian said of the Champions League pool after 10-man United’s last-gasp 2-1 loss in Switzerland earlier in the month.
“It’s still not a must-win game but it’s a very important game definitely.
“As I said after Young Boys, home games if you get three wins and you win one away game then you should be through, or you will be through.
“The focus is on three points. We’ve been looking at Villarreal again, looking at the final, what we can do better, what worked and what was good in that game and we’ll get a good response from the weekend, of course.”
Bookmakers have cut odds on Solskjaer being the next Premier League manager sacked in the wake of recent patchy performances, but the United boss seems comfortable under the spotlight.
The 48-year-old knows better than most just how important success is at Old Trafford, which explains why he did not flinch at former team-mate Gary Neville’s recent comments about the side.
Solskjaer was asked about the ex-United captain’s view about the playing style and also about the need to win a trophy in the next 18 months having signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.
“He’s always got loads to say, Gary!” he said. “I’m used to Gary. He’s always said a lot, when I was sat next to him as well in the dressing-room.
“That pressure is a privilege. To work in this environment, you have to embrace that pressure.
“If he says we need to win a trophy this season or the next, well, because of the backing, I have got to say, yes I have been backed.
“The progress and the process has worked well. I have to say the backing I’ve got seems to me that we’re sticking to that plan.
“But we’re in a results business. We’re here to win, we’re here to get up there and clearly we’ve improved, expectations have improved with the signings and better performances.
“I’m here to win. Don’t think twice about that. And Gary knows that.
“Of course, I speak to Gary as well and I know that here at this club we have an obligation to win and we have an obligation to win in a certain style of play and play the way we want.
“Sometimes that’s risky and you lose one or two. Lately we’ve lost one or two games, we changed the team for the Carabao Cup and the consequence is you’re out of the cup.
“But that’s the way we do things and we’ll get there. Hopefully we’ll get there around April or May challenging for the trophies that we’d like to see back at Old Trafford.”
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