Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended a dour display from Manchester United as they drew 0-0 at rivals Leeds.
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That result leaves them 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with five games to go, as Solskjaer all-but conceded the title after a tough week off the pitch for United.
With the collapse of the European Super League, which they were a key part of, plus executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announcing he will step down and fans protesting outside Old Trafford, United’s players hardly got going at Leeds.
Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports after the game, Solskjaer cut his players some slack for a turgid display, as he said before the game he guaranteed it would not be 0-0 at Leeds. Oops.
“There’s no guarantees in football that’s for sure. I thought we played well, dominated the second half, just didn’t have the ball to fall correctly for us in the moments we had,” Solskjaer said.
“When two teams meet you create problems, you solve problems, they give you things to think about and we made them adjust to us. We put a really big shift in. I have seen Leeds run over teams in the second half and it was the opposite.
“You don’t lose momentum, we are disappointed not to win but the boys have a lot of respect for Leeds. This is not going to be something we look back on as derailing our season.”
United captain Harry Maguire echoed Solskjaer’s views and said they are ready for a huge week in the Europa League and then Liverpool next weekend.
“It was tight. We had control of the game without punishing them. We knew how they would play, our attacking players love a one v one but today it wasn’t to be,” Maguire said. “We kept them to a minimum, we were solid. We just couldn’t find that edge.
“The intensity was there, both teams were trying to play the right way. Bruno Fernandes had the best chance of the game and on another day he puts it in the back of the net and we take the points. It’s a big week for us.”
Europa League the focus for Manchester United
United gave it a go late in the game but it was pretty half-hearted, and we know why. Their mind is now on the Europa League as they host Roma in the semifinal first leg on Thursday.
They are the favorites to win the competition but crashed out at this stage of the Europa League last season, and anything other than Europa League success this season will be deemed as a failure.
Solskjaer told BBC Sports that ‘little margins are the deciding factor’ and United need to make sure they swing in their favor against Roma and then against either Arsenal or Villarreal in the final, if they get there.
“We have to win every single game to put pressure on City. This is two points dropped that makes them very safe. But we push on. We have two semis coming up and Liverpool in the middle. It was a difficult week last week but it is the business end of the season. You work so that every game matters,” Solskjaer added.
United have all but secured a top four spot and they were never going to catch City to win the title, but especially not now.
All of their focus now turns to the Europa League. It has to and they have to win it in order to deem this campaign a success. The pressure is on Solskjaer.