Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urged his critics to keep targeting him because he is fuelled by the flak that has come his way since Manchester United’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.
A Mohamed Salah hat-trick inspired Jurgen Klopp’s men to their biggest ever winning margin at Old Trafford on October 24, with United losing by at least five goals without scoring at home for the first time since 1955.
It was a humiliating day for United, and Solskjaer looked as though he was going to pay the price, but Alex Ferguson reportedly played a major role in buying the Norwegian time to turn things around following a four-game winless run in the league.
United followed that defeat up with a comprehensive win at Tottenham on Saturday, Solskjaer’s decisions to switch to a back three and deploy a strike partnership of Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo paying dividends – they kept a clean sheet and the two forwards each scored a goal.
That defeat ended up costing Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo his job as it eased the heat slightly on Solskjaer, but with a Champions League trip to Atalanta to be followed by the Manchester derby, he is only another disappointing result away from being under intense pressure again.
But he says the criticism that comes with such pressure is what keeps him on his toes.
“Criticism can make you doubt yourself or you can stand up for yourself,” he told reporters ahead of the clash with Atalanta.
“I’ve always enjoyed criticism, keep it coming. Journalists, pundits – we’ve all got different jobs and it’s their job to give their opinion. I am not here to fight with them, I don’t need a spat with them.”
Despite the excellent response against Tottenham, Solskjaer is not getting carried away about United’s situation.
“The next one is the one that matters and we’ve been looking, working together for consistency and when we get that we’ll get consistent results. One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
“We will keep focusing on what we did well. [The schedule] is relentless. It is a chance tomorrow to prove we can go again.”
“All focus is on this game and then we look forward to the next one after that,” says Ole.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 1, 2021
Bruno Fernandes, sat alongside Solskjaer, was asked about the slightly different role he was asked to play on Saturday, as he featured behind two strikers rather than a lone frontman who was flanked by two wingers.
The Portugal international had a fine performance individually, playing three key passes – including a wonderful assist for Ronaldo’s stunning volley – and also had a major role in Cavani’s well-worked goal as he robbed Oliver Skipp in the build-up.
But as long as he is able to supply the frontline, he is not bothered who Solskjaer picks in attack.
“I think, honestly, we have such good quality, not just them [Cavani and Ronaldo],” he said. “They scored so take a big part of the result, but honestly I think the quality we have makes it easy to play behind any striker and serve them. All of them can score goals. They’re all different but can all score goals many times and from any place on the pitch.
“We have many talents in this team – Edi, Cristiano, Anthony [Martial], Marcus [Rashford], Jadon [Sancho] – it doesn’t matter who plays. I know I’m there to try to serve them and make them happy.”
United – who had to come back from 2-0 down to beat Atalanta in their last Champions League outing – are aiming to avoid losing four consecutive away games in Europe’s elite competition or its predecessor the European Cup.
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