14 Mar Man United’s win over West Ham kicks off pivotal week that may show Solskjaer’s claims of membership’s progress
MANCHESTER, England — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will probably be speaking rather a lot about “progress” between now and the top of the season: how a lot Manchester United have made, whether or not it is sufficient and the way they take the following step ahead. It will likely be a better dialog if this week goes nicely, and United began a vital seven days with a slender 1-Zero win over West Ham United at Outdated Trafford on Sunday.
Hopes of ending the season as Manchester Metropolis’s nearest challengers strengthened, Solskjaer’s team now transfer on to competitions they’ll nonetheless really win — first to AC Milan within the Europa League after which to Leicester Metropolis within the FA Cup. End second within the Premier League and win a trophy and Solskjaer will save himself a summer time of debate about whether or not United are on the best monitor. Bow out of each the Europa League and the FA Cup earlier than the worldwide break and the identical outdated questions in regards to the route of the membership will resurface.
The primary leg of what’s a vital run of three video games has been safely negotiated, and with 9 league video games to go, United are 9 factors away from West Ham in fifth. The chance of being dragged right into a battle for the highest 4 is subsiding and the main target now will be on bettering final season’s third-place end and successful a trophy.
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“This week was at all times going to be huge,” stated Solskjaer afterwards. “We wish to enhance on final season and get to a remaining and transfer up the desk. This week was at all times going to be about how we recovered after an enormous disappointment after a late equaliser [against Milan on Thursday]. You by no means understand how that may have an effect on you however the perspective was spot on.
“We’re beginning to construct some momentum within the league and open the hole additional to West Ham. It is a giant week for us.”
Victory over West Ham was not significantly fairly nevertheless it has given United some momentum initially of a pivotal week. Solskjaer has ambitions better than the Europa League and the FA Cup, however after 4 straight semifinal defeats, stress is rising on the Norwegian supervisor to win one thing.
Progress in Europe just isn’t assured after a 1-1 draw with Milan at Outdated Trafford and so they might want to rating a minimum of as soon as within the San Siro on Thursday in the event that they wish to attain the quarterfinals of the Europa League. At Leicester on Sunday there’s a place within the semifinals of the FA Cup up for grabs, and United’s prospects for the ultimate stretch of this season will look rather a lot brighter if they’re nonetheless within the hunt for trophies when the gamers return from worldwide obligation within the first week of April. Within the Premier League, United have extra factors and have scored extra targets than on the identical stage final yr, however this season wants silverware so as to add some shine.
In his programme notes forward of West Ham’s go to, Solskjaer wrote about being “tougher and tougher to beat.” The numbers again him up with United dropping simply one among their previous 23 league video games and recording 4 consecutive Premier League clear sheets for the primary time since Solskjaer took over. Harry Maguire was significantly good in opposition to West Ham.
The trick now’s to go from not dropping to successful extra usually, as a result of they aren’t the identical factor. Solely Manchester Metropolis have misplaced fewer league video games than United this season, however the Purple Devils have drawn 9 occasions and they’ll want these further 18 factors in the event that they wish to bridge the hole with Pep Guardiola’s champions-elect.
Turning into extra medical in entrance of purpose can be begin.
West Ham did not handle a shot on goal however have been solely overwhelmed right here due to Craig Dawson’s personal purpose within the second half — the 15th purpose they’ve conceded from set items this season. Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes will all really feel they might have been on the scoresheet. Solskjaer will hope they’re saving the killer intuition for the cups.
“We have had 4 clear sheets now within the league straight up and that is at all times a basis,” he stated. “We wish to rating targets. I really feel we’re getting again to the place we are able to, it was solely per week in the past we beat Metropolis 2-0. We do not wanna be grasping, nobody can rating 4 or 5 targets in each sport within the Premier League, you have to earn it. The inspiration with the clear sheet, perspective, want, that is there, and we at all times again our gamers to create sufficient to attain targets.”
Forward of a pivotal week, Solskjaer says United are stepping into the best route. Observe up victory over West Ham with wins over Milan and Leicester to remain on course to elevate a primary trophy of his reign and supporters will not simply need to take his phrase for it.