Under-pressure Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has vowed to “fight back” as his side prepare for their first outing since a 5-0 drubbing by Liverpool.
Solskjaer has been under intense scrutiny following last Sunday’s heavy home defeat, which left United seventh in the Premier League having taken one point from their last four matches.
At his press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Tottenham, Solskjaer was asked if he had spoken to former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson since the Liverpool loss, and whether he believed he could survive the current predicament and go on to be successful as the club’s boss.
Solskjaer said: “Yes, on both accounts. We had a commercial day and Sir Alex came to do some commercial stuff. I met him and spoke to him, just for a brief moment.
“I’ve been through some very bad moments here as a player and when I’ve been a coach and a manager as well.
“I’ve had to deal with setbacks, there’s probably been two or three crises at least since I became the manager here. One thing I can say is that I’ll always give it a good shot and fight back.”
Solskjaer also described a report that Paul Pogba, who was sent off in the Liverpool match after coming off the bench at half-time, did not speak to him afterwards and had put contract talks on hold as “blatant lies”.
Pogba earlier this week tweeted an image of the report’s headline with the words “fake news” over the top of it, and the message “big lies to make big headlines” – that was then retweeted by United.
Solskjaer said: “I don’t tend to read social media, but when Paul came up to me, angry… We expect to be criticised because, hands up, the performance wasn’t good enough. You expect to hear it from right, left and centre.
“But we can’t accept when lies are being made up, and Paul came to me and told me what he had put out on his social media account.
“We’re better than that as a group. The culture is better, the environment is better. When it’s blatant lies, they have to stand up and say so. All the opinions and reports, fine, but don’t make lies about players or me.”
Solskjaer said it had been a “difficult week” but also that “we’ve had a good week on the training field” and said he was confident his players were in the right frame of mind heading into the Tottenham clash.
“We need a reaction and it’s my job to put the players in the right frame of mind,” he added.
“I’m responsible for the reaction, the result, the performance, and we’ve worked on the pitch. We’ve worked on everything that needs to be sorted for a footballer – and that’s not just one bit, it’s not just frame of mind, it’s game plan, tactics, technically. We’ve had a good week and I feel the boys are ready to give their best.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 27, 2021
“Sometimes when you come in for criticism like we’re doing, you get into the trenches with your team-mates, and that reaction I’ve seen this week. This club, with whatever we’ve been through before, it’s always about getting through with courage, togetherness, teamwork, self-belief and sticking together, and this group has done.”
Of the display against Liverpool, in which his side were 4-0 down at half-time, Solskjaer said: “Of course you have to hold your hands up – that performance is not acceptable. And you have to look at why it went as it did.
“I use the analogy that it felt like we were a boxer, being punch-drunk, getting knocked down in the first round. We had a chance, we conceded a goal, and we wanted to sort it out and we went a bit too open and frantic against a good team.
“You see Tyson Fury when he gets knocked down a couple of times, it’s remarkable how calm and composed he is on the floor, counts to six, seven, eight, and then he gets up and is ready to go again.
“Maybe we got up too early and tried to sort it. Minds have to be better, but of course we’ve had to look at different things as well, and of course you have to be up front and honest, the communication has to be direct.”
While Pogba is unavailable as he begins a suspension, Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial could make their return to action at Tottenham after three games out due to injury, with Solskjaer saying he has a fully fit squad.