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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Solskjaer pays tribute to Manchester United defenders as Lindelof set to return for trip to Wolves

Sides meet in the Premier League on Tuesday with United needing the points to keep up push for top-four finish

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident that Manchester United can avenge their FA Cup loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers when they meet in the Premier League on Tuesday at Molineux.

United's hopes of winning the cup for a record-equalling 13th time were ended in quarter-finals in March as goals from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota consigned them to a 2-1 defeat.

United need three points to boost their hopes of finishing in the top four, and Solskjaer said on Monday that it was important his side raised their game for the clash.

Asked what he had learnt from the FA Cup loss, the Norwegian said: “Quite a few things and of course we have to because if we turn up against a good team like they are and we’re not at our level, we’ll get the result we deserve.

“Last time we didn’t play well enough. We had the ball 70 per cent of the time but sometimes possession doesn’t mean you’re going to create chances and score goals.”

Solskjaer has backed his players to respond and beat Wolves for the first time this season, the sides having drawn 1-1 at Old Trafford in the earlier league game this season in September.

“The training sessions have had some high quality," he added. "If you come in working like they do every day then we'll be fine.

"Then we don’t have to use pride or personality to come back, but the character has to be that when you lose a game, you have to bounce back.

"We can’t be seen going down with no fight but that wasn’t the problem against Wolves last time. We couldn’t just find the quality.”

Solskjaer has won 15 of his first 20 games in charge since taking over initially in an interim role in December, before being given the job permanently on a three-year deal last week.

But they lost to Arsenal in the Premier League and Wolves in the FA Cup before the international break, then failed to convince against Watford despite ultimately coming off the pitch triumphant.

So how does Solskjaer maintain focus and consistency in the squad, particularly with speculation already rife on who they will be looking to acquire in the summer ahead of the 2019/20 campaign?

“With the same mindset as we had,” he said. “It’s now the last stretch. Seven games to go, it’s not a time to change. We’re not going to work too much on fitness as we haven’t got the time for it.

“It’s mindset, going into the game thinking we’re going in to win. Against Watford we didn’t get going until 15-20 minutes in but I’m not worried about that. There’s so many nice games to look forward to.”

Both of United's goals against Watford came on the break.

Of how he sees the tactic, the 46 year old said: “In football nowadays, teams are that well organised.

"We feel that when we have to defend we are well organised, say like in the PSG (away) game. Our intention is that we're not going to be broken down.

“Wolverhampton are a team that enjoy playing against big sides. It’s up to the team in possession to do things quick with quality through the lines. That's the difficult part in football, to be constructive and creative.

“I don’t think that's more of a challenge for us than anyone else, but that’s where we want to get to. We enjoy those games and putting pressure on teams. That’s a work in progress.”

Central defender Victor Lindelof is set to return to the United backline for the game with Wolves, and the improvement in the side's defence has been one of the major success stories of the Solskjaer reign.

They have gone from conceding an average of 1.7 goals per game to 0.8, and Solskjaer credits the attitude of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Lindelof for helping them shore up at the back.

“When they are at the top of their game, they are all high quality," he said. "I have to say the attitude of all those five have been brilliant.

You could see from Phil’s (fitness) programme that he was really fit and he played really well (v Watford), Chris has come back in and done really well. Victor will hopefully be ready again now (v Wolves). I will probably bring him.

"But we’re looking at all positions all the time and if there is any dip in the form or attitude in players, but I have to say the attitude of all those five have been brilliant.”

United do not play again after Tuesday night until April 10 when they host Barcelona in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarter-final.

Solskjaer and his squad visited Dubai in January for a warm weather training camp, but there will be no overseas trip this time despite the opening in the calendar.

“Spring in Manchester is fantastic, so no, we’re staying here,” said Solskjaer.

Updated: April 3, 2019 04:52 AM

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