Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hits back at claims he is holding Man Utd back and leaps to Cristiano Ronaldo's defence

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) have both been criticised - REUTERS
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) have both been criticised - REUTERS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit back at claims he will never be good enough to win the Premier League title or Champions League as Manchester United manager and backed himself to arrest the club’s dismal form.

Solskjaer admitted he was feeling the pressure after two wins from the past seven matches turned up the heat on the embattled Norwegian ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.

But he dismissed Jamie Carragher’s claims he would never be at the level of rivals Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel as an attempt to destabilise United ahead of their showdown with the Telegraph Sport columnist’s former club Liverpool on Sunday.

And Solskjaer said he was expecting an immediate reaction to Saturday’s “eye-opening” 4-2 defeat at Leicester against Atalanta in the Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

“I prefer not to watch them,” Solskjaer said in response to Carragher and Gary Neville’s critique on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football show. “It doesn’t affect me - of course you see some of the comments once in a while.

“I didn’t know what they were saying now but of course we’ve got Liverpool on Sunday as well so Jamie is always looking at these little things. I’ve got my values, I’ve got my way of managing and I believe in myself and as long as the club believes in me I’m pretty sure that Jamie Carragher’s opinion is not going to change that.

“We’ve progressed over the years. Sixth when I was here for half a season then third, second - you can see the progress, improvement and development and this season we still want to improve.

“Yeah, we’ve signed players that have raised expectations. Other teams have signed players and improved as well so we’re in the same boat as all the top teams.

“There’s pressure all the time. There’s pressure on me, of course, but we’ve been through this before and come through it stronger as individuals and as a team. I’m just looking forward to the response [to Leicester]. I’m in dialogue with the club all the time and that’s an open and honest discussion all the time.”

Despite sections of the United fan base losing patience with Solskjaer, the manager maintains the full support of the club’s decision-makers, who have backed him privately and told him they “still have complete faith in him moving forward”.

But the coming weeks are likely to provide an acid test of Solskjaer’s credentials after a worrying sequence of performances and results that left the Norwegian admitting at the weekend that “something has to give”. After Liverpool, United face Tottenham and Manchester City in the league while forthcoming away matches to Atalanta and Villarreal in the Champions League have increased the need for a win on Wednesday.

Solskjaer defended Cristiano Ronaldo against criticism for not pressing and waved away complaints about the quality of coaching at the club by insisting he had an “absolutely amazing” backroom staff.

But Solskjaer and Marcus Rashford revealed that the management team and squad had held a meeting in the wake of the Leicester debacle and acknowledged that urgent improvement was required.

Solskjaer and Marcus Rashford speak to the press ahead of United's Champions League match - GETTY IMAGES
Solskjaer and Marcus Rashford speak to the press ahead of United's Champions League match - GETTY IMAGES

“When you ask about moods it’s not the gimmicky, jovial, happy camp,” Solskjaer said. “We’re focused and determined and, as Marcus said, you look at yourself as to how you can help the team. I’ve seen a reaction from the players and probably conceding four goals is a big eye-opener for us that we need to improve on different levels on loads of details.

“There’s been loads of stuff that hasn’t been good enough lately and we’ve put a few things right and hopefully we can see the result of that in the performance.”

On Ronaldo, Solskjaer added: “We’ve got 11 players on the pitch with different roles and responsibilities. Cristiano is an absolute top player and we know what he can do for us and he’s doing everything he can do to help the team.”

Rashford, who made his first appearance of the season as a substitute against Leicester after three months out following shoulder surgery, said United had to collectively defend better.

“I think for us as players we have to go back to basics, look at ourselves and see what we can do better,” the England striker said. “We’ve had the conversation as a team as we would do whether we win a game or lose a game.

“Especially in the Premier League, you have to defend well and I don’t talk about just the back four, as a team you have to defend as one and against Leicster we were just too open, it’s as simple as that. It was too easy for them to play through us and we’re going to do our best not to let that happen again.”

Solskjaer also sought to clarify remarks he made last week in which he told Rashford to “prioritise his football” by insisting he was not suggesting his off-field campaigning had affected his performances.

“I never intended [that] to be the focus of what I was saying,” he said. “I was saying about Marcus... now it must be nice for the boy to focus on going into training and not feeling his ankle, shoulder or back. Now he can go and enjoy his football.”

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