Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his start as Manchester United manager: 'Of course we'll get tougher tests'

Manchester United's caretaker manager not taking anything for granted despite winning start to life at Old Trafford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes his Manchester United side to 15th place Newcastle United on Wednesday hoping to stretch his 100 per cent winning record to four games.

Rafa Benitez’s side have won one of their last seven matches and have triumphed in only two of their past 10 home league games.

Only Huddersfield Town have picked up fewer points at home, but United lost 1-0 on their last visit to St James’ Park in February following a wretched performance against an out of sorts team.

It was one of many in 2018, but while the opponents could have been stronger since Solskjaer took charge, his team have looked unrecognisable from only a month ago.

United are scoring more and playing entertaining, attacking football. The mood has lifted, the fans are enjoying coming to games again, even though their side are 19 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League table.

“I want Man United to look like this while I’m here,” said Solskjaer of the changes he has made since replacing Jose Mourinho in a caretaker role until the end of the season.

“Of course we’ll get tougher tests. For example on Wednesday against Newcastle we’re away. I never enjoyed going up there – though there was one game, a 6-2 win which I enjoyed, but that was it.

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"It’s going to be a tough one and we need to keep clean sheets. We've not done that so far and we know there are loads of things to work on, but this is the way we want to see ourselves attacking.”

Solskjaer has defensive problems, more so after Eric Bailly was sent off after a reckless late tackle on Sunday in the 4-1 win against Bournemouth. Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Scott McTominay are all out through injury.

Solskjaer says he may have to improvise with Matteo Darmian a potential option in the centre.

Mourinho wanted to bring in a central defender and United have conceded 32 goals in 20 matches in the league. Liverpool have conceded eight, Manchester City 16. Solskjaer’s side have scored 12 goals in three matches but have yet to keep a clean sheet.

“We’ve conceded three goals from three set-pieces,” said Solskjaer after the Bournemouth game. “We have to concentrate. Three-nil, game won, settle down.

"If you have a lack of concentration for one second that's enough. We saw from the side that Bournemouth were going to do that little run, but it’s difficult to shout instructions here. It was easier back home because they would hear me there.”

Alexis Sanchez has been training well and will be in contention after being out for a month.

“He’s a player who will benefit from the interchanging, the rotation, the movement. Of course the more chances you create, the more chances you get the ball into the final third, he’ll be an asset for us," Solskjaer said of the Chilean.

"He certainly looked it yesterday in training where he scored a few nice goals so that was encouraging.”

Solskjaer is enjoying his time back at United immensely. Asked if he felt at home at this level, he said: “I don’t know if I’m at home at this level but I’m at home at this club.

"I’ve spent 15 years here and seeing all these when you walk through the corridors - here is me. I’m comfortable in the environment. It’s up to you to rate me if I’m up to the level, but I’m definitely enjoying my time at home.”

Sir Alex Ferguson is one of those he speaks to when he walks through those corridors.

“I had him for 15 years so he’s influenced me more in those years than he’s done in the last week, but I keep him informed and he did pay us a visit at the training ground the day before the Bournemouth game.

"I think he enjoyed his time and we had a nice few chats, also with the staff. He encouraged us. He knows the staff I’ve got are Man United through and through and that we are going to do whatever we can until the last second that we are here to do the best we can.”

Updated: January 1, 2019 08:55 AM

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