Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is “pretty, pretty sure” his Manchester United players will be looking to prove a point when they visit Tottenham on Sunday.
United lost the reverse fixture 6-1 at Old Trafford, their joint-heaviest Premier League defeat and worst since another home humbling in the 2011 Manchester derby.
Spurs looked like title contenders while United were marooned in the bottom half of the table, their hapless display – in which Anthony Martial was sent off – described by former captain Gary Neville as “spineless” and “absolutely pathetic”.
But United have recovered to sit second in the table, albeit 14 points behind Manchester City, while Tottenham are sixth.
Jose Mourinho’s men are desperate for points but will face motivated opponents at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Solskjaer suggested.
“I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain,” Solskjaer said. “Their pride has been hurt, their professional pride. The manner we lost is not ourselves and our team-worthy. We know that.
“We gave ourselves a difficult game by having 10 men, pre-season was short and we were not up to the standard required, but we were so poor.
“I’m pretty, pretty sure we’ll see some players wanting to prove we’re better than that.”
United took the lead in that match through a second-minute Bruno Fernandes penalty, but that was one of just five shots while Spurs attempted 22.
Solskjaer felt his side’s early-season fitness issues were a key contributing factor in that October defeat.
“The biggest thing that we’ve improved on is our fitness levels,” he said. “We were way short of what [Tottenham] were at.
“It was our third game, was it? And we didn’t look anything like [ready].”
While that is no longer an issue, there are concerns about the status of Marcus Rashford, who played through a persistent ankle problem at Granada on Thursday and scored a vital goal.
Across Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues, no player has made more appearances in all competitions this season than Rashford (47 – tied with Fernandes).
Indeed, the three most-used players all represent United, with captain Harry Maguire third (46 appearances). Aaron Wan-Bissaka is in a tie for fourth (44).
With 3,466 minutes in the tank despite an injury issue that kept him out of the recent international break, Solskjaer was asked if England should be worried about Rashford ahead of the European Championship.
“I don’t think you need to be concerned about his fitness, no – of course, barring any injury,” Solskjaer said.
“His fitness is really good, he’s an athletic boy, a fit boy, a strong boy. When he goes into headers and challenges, he can look after himself.
“But at one point, of course, you hope to get to a position where he doesn’t have to play every game, every minute.
“At the moment, we have to take him off because he’s a little bit sore. Hopefully that will improve as the season goes on.”
Rashford has been relied on so heavily in part due to Edinson Cavani’s limited involvement.
Widely linked with a move to Boca Juniors, Cavani has started only 14 games this term, playing 1,474 minutes, although his tally of seven goals is a match for Martial and outperforms Mason Greenwood (six).
“I’ve kept in touch with Edi, of course,” Solksjaer said. “We keep an open dialogue. He’s still unsure what he wants to do next season, which I find fine.
“It’s not been an easy year either for him or the rest of the world, so he still wants time to make his mind up.
“I’m very sure that we’ll get a good version of Edinson for the rest of the season. Hopefully we can keep him fit the next six, seven weeks.”
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