Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said the culture is ‘really improving’ at the club, insisting that semi-final defeats this season and last have been an important experience for the players as the squad aims to challenge for major silverware.
United breezed into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night after a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad, with the hard work having already been done in the first leg a week earlier.
Solskjaer’s side reached the last four of the competition last season, having it also made it to the semis of the EFL Cup and FA Cup. They got to another EFL Cup semi this season, but United have so far been knocked out every time and haven’t made it to a final under the Norwegian.
“You remember the defeats more so than the wins. The semi-finals especially, you’re so close to the big stage,” he told BT Sport after the final whistle at Old Trafford.
“We’ve had three of them [last season], we’ve lost one [this season], so this group knows how it feels. We are a group that are very tight together. You come in, your work every day, you have a few setbacks and knocks. We want to go further but when you have failed before you want to do better.
“The culture is really improving and we’ve got some fantastic players and fantastic coaches.”
United sit second in the Premier League. But Manchester City are now clear favourites for the title and the best chance of silverware lies in the FA Cup and Europa League, while the top four battle between now and the end of the season is going to be an important one.
United face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, where a win would put nine points between them and the fifth place Blues. On the flipside, defeat would squeeze the standings and ensure that Chelsea are suddenly just three points behind.
Whatever happens, United will have to carry on without Paul Pogba. The Frenchman suffered a thigh injury against Everton at the start of this month and will still be out for another few weeks.
“Paul is still out for a few weeks,” Solskjaer said.
“Scott [McTominay], Donny [van de Beek], Edinson [Cavani] we hope can be available for the weekend. We will have to check on [Daniel James].”