Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant he will be able to get the best out of his Manchester United squad this season despite an erratic start to 2021-22.
Solskjaer’s time in charge at United has generally been seen in a positive light among supporters, with first-team recruitment improving and many players considered deadwood under previous managers finally offloaded.
Additionally, the Norwegian secured back-to-back Champions League qualifications in his two full seasons at the helm — Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal only managed one each, while David Moyes was sacked before the conclusion to 2013-14, with United ultimately finishing seventh.
But arguably for the first time since becoming United manager, Solskjaer is now under pressure to challenge for the biggest titles following the recent arrival of big-name recruits Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Performances so far in 2021-22 have fallen short of expectations, however, with United winning just five of their 10 matches across all competitions — only two were by more than a single goal, and those were against a Leeds United side that is notoriously open and Newcastle United, who have not won any of their first seven league games.
United’s latest disappointing result was the 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, which made it nine home league matches without a clean sheet, one shy of equalling a club record.
Everton were the more threatening team in that match, their 1.22 expected goals (xG) an improvement on United’s 0.88 xG while the Toffees also had a goal disallowed, but Solskjaer retains belief in his team and staff.
Asked if he should be getting better results from the squad at his disposal, a prickly Solskjaer said: “That’s the same question you asked on Wednesday night… Of course, I’m very confident we’ll get the best out of this squad.
“A lot has happened this month. We’ve had Raphael, Cristiano and Jadon with us since August — well, Cristiano only September.
“We’ve loads to work on, we need to improve. We know that, I know that, but I do believe in this group of players and the coaching staff I’ve got. Yes, is the short answer.”
A gruelling sequence of matches awaits after the international break, with United set to face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in a six-game spell.
While Solskjaer’s record against Liverpool is not great, with him yet to beat the Reds in the league, he has at least had some joy in meetings with City, against whom he has won more games (four) than lost (three) across all competitions.
But some consider this upcoming sequence to be a make-or-break run for Solskjaer, and he stresses that past results against those opponents need to be disregarded.
“I believe in these players, in the coaching staff. I believe we have something going,” he continued. “But the proof is in the pudding, so we need results and you have to turn up.
“We can’t say we did well against City and Tottenham last year, we need to do it during the 90 minutes, that’s the challenge.
“Every game in the Premier League and Champions League is a big game against a good team, and every game at Man Utd is a potential banana skin because we’re expected to win every one.”