Solskjaer untroubled by departures elsewhere

By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims to be unmoved by the start of sacking season as the under-fire Manchester United manager prepares for predecessor Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford return.

Premier League draws with promoted Sheffield United and Aston Villa leaves United in the midst of their worst start to a top-flight campaign in 31 years.

The pressure on Solskjaer could well ratchet up on Wednesday when Mourinho returns to Old Trafford with Tottenham, where he has benefited from the start of sacking season.

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Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, Arsenal’s Unai Emery and Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores have all left in the last fortnight – managerial changes that Solskjaer says have not alarmed him.

“No, it doesn’t make me more concerned,” the United boss said, having rejected a report that he fears the sack if he loses to Tottenham and then Manchester City this weekend.

“I’m just focusing on my job and that’s doing as well as I can and look forward to the next game, but also look long-term, plan things with the board.”

Solskjaer’s side started the midweek fixtures ninth in the Premier League on 18 points after 14 games, but there have been no “knee-jerk” conversations with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward or the owners.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unruffled by departures elsewhere (Martin Rickett/PA)
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unruffled by departures elsewhere (Martin Rickett/PA)

Mourinho was sacked last December with United sixth after collecting 26 points from 17 matches, having won the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield before things fell apart towards the end of his tenure.

“Very good reception,” Solskjaer said of the expected Old Trafford welcome for his predecessor. “Of course that’s just a testament to this club and the supporters of this club.

“Of course they remember the two-and-a-half years he was here, he won trophies. I’m 100 per cent sure our fans will welcome him, and the staff and the club, everyone.

Solskjaer says Jose Mourinho will get a warm welcome at Old Trafford (John Walton/PA)
Solskjaer says Jose Mourinho will get a warm welcome at Old Trafford (John Walton/PA)

“I can’t remember the league position we were in (when I replaced Mourinho) but I’ve had now 50 games since then and the club it isn’t where it should have been and isn’t where we want to be and we know we have to improve.

“We are working hard to do that right and when you change manager halfway through the season it isn’t where it is supposed to be.”

While Mourinho can expect a warm greeting, few United players are expected to be so welcoming considering the way things unravelled – a key reason behind his exit last December.

A large number of supporters had also turned on the Portuguese by that point, while fans’ faith is quickly being lost in Solskjaer if social media is anything to go by.

“For me, I can just go on the evidence of the game days and supporters I’ve met,” the United boss said.

“There’s not many I’ve met and say that you’ve got to do something different. They can see what we’re trying to do.

“They know there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes – putting a culture in the team, what we’re trying to do here.

“We just need results, that’s the evidence for us. The six games we’ve drawn this year, I feel we should’ve won.”

Pushed on the lack of patience in modern football, Solskjaer said: “I’m not going to tell anyone how to run their clubs but I think everyone knows continuity is one of the keys of success.

“For me, with Man United, we have a plan in place and hopefully we can get the results to speed it up.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go at the speed you want to but it’s still going in the right direction.”

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