The Red Devils are looking to upset the title race when they host their city neighbours but need a dramatic improvement on their last performance
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called on his Manchester United players to give “absolutely everything” to restore their damaged pride when they come up against Manchester City on Wednesday.
Days after their 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Everton – their sixth defeat in eight games – United welcome their city rivals to Old Trafford looking to cause an upset in the Premier League title race.
A win for City will put them back on top of the league and a point above Liverpool with just three games to go, while United are hoping to stay in contention for a top-four finish this season.
Although the pressure is on Pep Guardiola’s team to get three vital points against their sixth-placed neighbours, Solskjaer says the game is a perfect opportunity for his side to show their mental resolve by improving on their recent decline.
“Of course there’ll be consequences [for the defeat to Everton],” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “We’re not going to see exactly the same team [against Manchester City].
“It’s about a reaction, a response. We can’t work on fitness – it’s mindsets. I know the players; they’re very good, talented players. Everton outran us, outworked us. We have to bring something different [against City]. We know the quality of their team but our fans need to know we’ve given absolutely everything – tactically, mentally, physically, as well as handling the ball.
“For me it’s the best game we could have. There’s no hiding place. The world’s watching. The whole of Manchester is watching. Liverpool is watching!
“Our players’ pride has been hurt badly – my pride, the club’s pride. The game is a great chance to put things right. We know we have a way to go to get where we want to be but it’s a step; we can show the standards we want to have.”
Solskjaer says he is looking for a completely different performance from his players after being let down in almost every aspect of their game at Goodison Park on Sunday.
“We spoke honestly at half-time and after the game,” the Norwegian added. “We know that performance is not acceptable if you want to get to the top where we think we belong. I can say only twice we’ve really let ourselves down this year in terms of performance – that game [against Everton] and the game against Wolves in the FA Cup.
“What disappointed me? More or less everything. We’d set the plan out. All four goals were avoidable but that’s not where it went wrong. It was the application. You know that going to Goodison Park is going to be tough. You’ve got to fight for every inch, second balls, long balls, every challenge and they wanted it more.”
But the 46-year-old has complete faith in his squad and is confident they will keep improving over time as they strive to reach the level of rivals City and Liverpool.
“I love the players; they’re good lads. They are willing to learn and if they’re not willing to learn or pick up the mantle when you’re left out, you can either leave it or work harder,” he added.
“I can see so many good things about this squad – things that we can improve on – and I have 100 per cent confidence that we can find the right players to come in and fit our mould of the personality and quality.
“You need stability, consistency, a long-term plan. Short-term results is always important because short-term gains make it easier to sell your long-term ideas. We want to find that identity within the group we have. You can’t compare but Jurgen [Klopp] and Pep have been very successful in building a team over the years and I think everyone knows that part of the success is having time to build that continuity.
“The work, the ambition, the drive in the coaching staff – both short and long term is unbelievable. We’re planning pre-season – we’re planning to get fitter – and in terms of the squad we’ll see where we feel players will be in two, three years’ time because you have to have that long-term planning.”
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