Ole Gunnar Solksjaer feels Manchester United’s ‘nice lads’ suffer with referees

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·4-min read

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his players may need to be more streetwise after claiming the match delegate for last week’s defeat to Sheffield United admitted Manchester United were on the wrong end of two key decisions.

The Red Devils are second in the Premier League heading into Tuesday’s clash with injury-hit Southampton after Saturday’s goalless draw at Arsenal followed the shock loss to the rock-bottom Blades.

The 2-1 defeat ended United’s 13-match unbeaten league run, leaving Solskjaer frustrated by his players’ undercooked display and the decisions to allow Kean Bryan’s opener and then disallow Anthony Martial’s leveller.

Harry Maguire, centre right, appeals after being penalised for a foul which denied Anthony Martial, second left, a goal
Harry Maguire, centre right, was penalised for a foul which denied Anthony Martial, second left, a goal (Dave Thompson/PA)

Billy Sharp pushed David De Gea as Bryan scored and Harry Maguire was adjudged to have fouled goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale before Martial found the net – decisions the United boss says he has had confirmation were wrong.

“We want to keep on trying to dominate games,” Solskjaer said. “We feel we’ve dominated them.

“But of course we need a little bit of brightness, spark up the last third, take the chances.

“I don’t really like to bring these up but the momentum shifted for us with the Sheff United game. Of course it did.

“But I’ve got the delegate’s report through from the ref and the two decisions were wrong.

“They’ve admitted that their goal should have been disallowed and ours should have stood and that is a big, big momentum changer for us.”

The match delegate is a former player or manager who provides information into the overall reporting pot, which is different to the referee’s assessor or Professional Game Match Officials Limited making that admission.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, right, shakes hands with Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
There was frustration for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, right, against Sheffield United (Tim Keeton/PA)

Solskjaer says he has “no problem with human error” and understands “why the decisions were made” but believes his players may need to exert more pressure.

“Unfortunately they went against us and they were wrong,” the 1999 treble hero said. “That’s football for you but that’s maybe what VAR should have been in for.

“Maybe we should have made more of a fuss about it. We’re a bunch of nice lads.

“Maybe we should have really hung onto that or made them look at it before the game started again, so those are things that we have to learn from and use as energy and motivation.

“You’re not going to expect to get anything for free, that’s for sure.

“There has been a narrative for too long about decisions we’ve got for us and I can look at many, many decisions this season that we feel (were against us).

“Even the first league game, Victor (Lindelof), they agreed on that one. That wasn’t a penalty. But that doesn’t change where we are now. We just move on.”

Asked if players can make more of a fuss and force the VAR to have a look, Solskjaer said: “That’s the thing. The word here is ‘clear and obvious’.

“So when it’s a debate, it’s still not clear and obvious, so as long as we sit and debate ‘yeah but, yeah but’ it’s not really clear and obvious, even though I felt the Harry one was clear and obvious.

“It should have been a goal. The other one could be debatable. We just have to leave it to the referees to make the decisions.

“I don’t want my players to put too much… not too much but unfair pressure on the referee. We leave them to it. That’s their job, so I don’t really want to talk about that too much.”

United have no fresh issues heading into Tuesday’s match other than long-term absentee Phil Jones.

The 28-year-old has not played since January 2020 and was not registered for the first half of the season, but Solskjaer hopes to utilise him in the coming months after he recovers from knee surgery.

Phil Jones
Phil Jones has been a long-term absentee (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s disheartening,” Solskjaer said of the former England international’s injury issues.

“It’s the worst thing for a football player, when you have got injuries that take your passion away and take your chance to play football away.

“Phil has been a top centre-back and was in the World Cup squad two years back.

“He was brilliant when I came in so I wish him back into the squad as quick as I can.

“He’s working really hard to get back and not just for us, for himself. I have been through bad injuries myself and it might take your belief away and your enjoyment away.

“He’s had a couple of setbacks but hopefully we can get some good news.”