Solskjær says Man United ‘suffered’ to end City’s streak
Manager pays tribute to his players and in particular Luke Shaw who scored the second
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the end of the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire
Ole Gunnar Solskjær praised Manchester United’s relentless workrate as his side halted Manchester City’s record run of consecutive wins at 21 and their 28-game unbeaten sequence with a 2-0 victory in the derby at the Etihad Stadium.
United are second with 54 points, 11 behind City with only 10 games remaining but Solskjær was delighted with his team’s performance with Luke Shaw, who scored the second goal, and Anthony Martial the visitors’ standout performers in an impressive all-round display.
“We suffered a lot, the players worked their nuts off,” Solskjær said. “The experience of having gone through that [can] help us of course [in future]. They’re 11 points ahead with 10 games to go. They are so far ahead you can’t really think about anything but making sure we win our games and be better than last year.”
“We need to be a better and focus on ourselves,” he added. “We’re a better Man United than we were 12, 13, 16 months ago. None of these boys can look beyond Thursday [against Milan in the Europa League], all we can think about is Thursday, one game at a time and see where we are at.
“It’s a marathon – it’s been a relentless season, a relentless year for everyone and a challenging year for everyone and the footballers as well. But we’re lucky enough that we can play football and we enjoy playing. We can’t prioritise one game in front of the other, we just have to count the numbers – who is fit, who’s not fit for Thursday – and go again.”
Martial won a penalty after only 37 seconds by drawing Gabriel Jesus into a foul, with Bruno Fernandes converting, while Shaw created and finished United’s second after the interval by breaking strongly from inside United’s half.
Both the left-back and centre-forward had been injury doubts. “Anthony Martial was man of the match and he was an even bigger doubt than Luke,” said Solskjær. “That was the Anthony we know: strong, positive and taking players on. I’m delighted for him.
“Shaw was absolutely incredible – he had to wait until after the warmup to be cleared to play, so Alex [Telles] was ready. Luke’s performance was top, he’s aggressive, hard to play against one against one. When he goes forward on those runs he’s unstoppable. He’s improved so much and is improving all the time and I’m delighted for him.”
Solskjær added: “We have improved massively – we are more robust and resilient and there’s more personality in the team: that’s what I like. We want to improve [more], I want the players to improve, we want to learn from this experience. We need to improve on so many things to get our consistency better.”
City’s loss was their first since a 2-0 reverse at Tottenham on November 21st, with their previous draw being a 1-1 with West Brom on December 15th.
The manager, Pep Guardiola, was asked if City can now maintain their 11-point lead. “In football, everything can happen. We can win the next game and lose the next games,” he said. “That’s why when people say ‘Pep always says the same’ after so many victories in a row it is because I know everything can happen. We have done incredibly [well]. Today the news is that we lost so congratulations to Manchester United for the victory but we are trying to win the Premier League and we need six or seven victories from 10 games.
“Our opponents have to win all their games and we have to lose four or five. Tomorrow [Monday] I will not speak with the team, the day after tomorrow I will not speak with the team, and the day of the game [against Southampton on Wednesday] I will tell the team how incredible they are because the way they played until the end – considering United are fantastic, no defeats away [in the league] for a year shows how strong they are. Having that margin now, it is in our hands.”
Guardiola was asked if he had considered introducing Sergio Agüero, the record scorer for City and in Manchester derbies in the Premier League era. “Maybe he could have played,” Guardiola said. “Maybe it was the wrong decision. You don’t know, I don’t know. I thought about it [bringing him on].”
Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, limped off in the second half. “He maybe went over on his ankle – he might need a scan but we need to speak to the doctor,” Solskjær said. – Guardian