The Norwegian believes positive progress is being made at Old Trafford, but admits second place is “not an achievement”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not share the same opinion as Jose Mourinho when it comes to runner-up finishes with Manchester United, with the club’s current coach pointing out that second place is “not an achievement”.
The Norwegian’s predecessor once claimed that ending the 2017-18 campaign as the closest challengers to champions Manchester City – despite being 19 points off the pace – was one of his finest moments as a manager.
Solskjaer appears set to emulate that feat three years on, with United once again the best of the rest behind title-winning neighbours, but ambition at Old Trafford means the current regime will take no pride from missing out on the ultimate prize.
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What has been said?
Solskjaer, who claimed six top-flight crowns in his playing days, has told reporters ahead of a Premier League clash with Fulham on Tuesday: “The competition now is a lot harder than when I was a player. Three, four, maybe five teams that can challenge for the top two positions.
“For the last few years they have been taken by the same two teams and for us to go into them and divide them it’s good, it’s a good performance but we can’t say it’s an achievement, it’s not an achievement.
“We’ve taken steps as a team but we’re not where we want to be, we know we have some deficiencies as a group, there’s parts of the game that we need to improve on, but I’ve felt we’ve made strides in most places and I’ve been very pleased with the players and I’ve got to say I’ve been impressed by them, but we want to take the next step as well.”
What did Mourinho say?
Back in January 2019, shortly after he had been relieved of his duties in Manchester and replaced by Solskjaer, a Portuguese coach well versed in the art of trophy collecting told beIN Sports: “If I tell you, for example, that I can see that one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Manchester United in the Premier League.
“You say ‘this guy is crazy. He won 25 titles and he’s saying that second position was one of his best achievements in football’.
“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. And sometimes we, on this side of the cameras, we analyse things with a different perspective.”
The bigger picture
Victory over Fulham will see United wrap up second place for 2020-21 with one game remaining.
They are already assured of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification for next season, which was the ultimate target before a ball was kicked.
Attention at Old Trafford is now set to shift from domestic matters to continental ones, with major silverware still up for grabs.
United have brought their semi-final hoodoo to a close this term, but now need to see off Villarreal in the Europa League final on May 26 in order to bring a four-year wait for tangible success to a close.
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