WOLVERHAMPTON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes Manchester United back to the scene of his worst result as manager when he visits Wolves on Tuesday, but criticism from Louis van Gaal won’t ruffle the Norwegian.
Van Gaal made some critical comments in an interview last week in which he claimed only United’s results have improved, rather than the style of play, when Solskjaer’s team are compared with the group he inherited from Jose Mourinho.
It was an observation that seemed to be borne out as United laboured to an uninspiring 2-1 win over Watford on Saturday, Solskjaer’s 15th victory in 20 games in charge.
But it was also a result that keeps United firmly in contention for a top-four finish, a prospect that looked nearly impossible when Solskjaer took over as caretaker for the sacked Mourinho in December.
And, as he prepared to take United back to the scene of their FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Wolves, Solskjaer was happy to launch an impassioned defence of his team’s style of football.
“Louis is entitled to his opinion,” he said. “Some games we’ve pressed really high, won the ball up there and dominated.
“He is probably talking more about the PSG game, which was a game that we had to defend really well in the circumstances and counter attack.
“It’s about where you win the ball. You want to defend to win the ball to go forward. You have to win the ball to then attack.
“If you can attack quickly as we did today, then why not? As long as when you win the ball, your intention is to attack.
“The foundation in any team is to play well without the ball. If you can do that, then you’ve got a great chance.
“I’m very happy and grateful I have inherited a team that has had a great education.
“Most of the players here have had Mourinho, van Gaal, Moyes and Fergie. They know both sides of the game.
“Of course we will have to add one or two, but they know what I will demand and expect from them.”
Top four bid
Since Solskjaer took over the reigns at Old Trafford, no team – not even runaway leaders Manchester City or Liverpool – has amassed more league points than United, although a top-four finish is still far from certain.
United could finish as high as third or as low as sixth, with London clubs Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal competing with them for what appear to be two Champions League places.
“Of course we want to come third,” Solskjaer added. “We want to end the season on a high. We’ve been the best team since just before Christmas with the amount of points we have got.
“We have played most of the teams, but by the end of the league then we will have played everyone in my reign and that’s maybe a truer reflection of where we stand.”
While forward Alexis Sanchez remains unavailable through injury and lack of match fitness, Solskjaer at least has a near full strength squad from which to choose.
Defenders Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia are the only injury concerns for Solskjaer, although the pair have been unavailable for most of the calendar year.