A delighted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a message for the Manchester United critics out there and reserved special praise for Bruno Fernandes as they sealed a top 4 finish on the final day, as they finished third in the Premier League and have qualified for the Champions League.
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Solskjaer and United were unbeaten in their final 14 Premier League games of the season as their attacking unit fired, they looked largely solid defensively and they return to the Champions League after a season out of the competition.
Speaking to reporter via Zoom after the game, Solskjaer was asked about pundits predicting his team to finish outside of the top 4 and if he has finally proven he is the right man for the job.
“It didn’t seem like you were expecting that because all of the predictions were about sixth or seventh,” Solskjaer said. “That’s alright. It is a massive challenge and I’m not the one to answer that. I believe in what I do and I believe in what have been doing and we will all have different ideas or management in how we go about things. I do it my way and that is the only way I can do that. I have a fantastic staff, the players have bought into this, the personalities out there have taken on board what we have been doing. I’m not going to say I’m not the man because, of course, I’m in the job. I believe in what I’m doing.”
Has it been particularly sweet to silence the criticism after pundits believed that Man United would finish outside of the top four?
“I’ve always been made that way. If I’m getting criticized that makes me stronger and believe more in what I’m doing,” Solskjaer smiled. “Please don’t praise me too much because you can be complacent… That’s just the way I’m made. I didn’t know until a few days ago because I was just reading through them, me and some of the staff were just discussing. I think third with this team, this squad and where we have been with the rebuild, it is a massive achievement from everyone.”
Bruno Fernandes has been a massive reason why Man United are back in the Champions League as his January arrival from Sporting Lisbon has reignited the entire side and Solskjaer admitted his impact has been incredible.
“We have to admit he has come in and had a massive influence. He’s made a massive impact, been fantastic scoring goals, creating goals but also his enthusiasm and mentality around the place has helped,” Solskjaer said. “Maybe today you could see a tired Bruno and that’s natural because he’s played too much, you can see his passion, he’s moaning a little bit here and there, but we will have to take that away from him sometimes. He stepped up, calm as you like, and slotted away the penalty kick.”
ProSoccerTalk also asked Solskjaer if the defensive improvements this season will be key to kicking on in the Champions League and Premier League next season.
“Any teams foundation is built from the back and that is our 21st clean sheet and David [de Gea] has a record today with 114 clean sheets for the club,” Solskjaer smiled. “We have to be able to have a stability from the back to play, and we can release the talent. Marcus, Anthony, Mason, all the players up front. they have not had the pressure of having to score three, four or five goals because we’ve kept it tight lately.”
Solskjaer and Man United are on the charge and are enjoying proving the doubters wrong with this top 4 finish. Somewhere, Sir Alex Ferguson is nodding to himself and likes what he sees from this young team.