Sol­sk­jaer savours de­fy­ing crit­ics with third spot

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By John Percy

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer is tar­get­ing a brighter fu­ture with Manch­ester United af­ter se­cur­ing a place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League and de­fy­ing his crit­ics.

Sol­sk­jaer en­dured se­ri­ous scru­tiny over his po­si­tion ear­lier this sea­son and could not re­sist a re­sponse yes­ter­day by claim­ing

United had been writ­ten off for a top-four fin­ish.

Sol­sk­jaer’s team ex­tended their un­beaten run to 14 league games with vic­tory over Le­ices­ter City. United had been 14 points be­hind Le­ices­ter in Fe­bru­ary, but their late run of form en­abled them to fin­ish in third place.

“It didn’t seem like you were ex­pect­ing that, all the pre­dic­tions were sixth or sev­enth. That’s all right,” he said.

“We’ve come so far as a team and this is a mas­sive achieve­ment by the play­ers and staff.

“We’ve achieved a Cham­pi­ons League spot, we’ve come from way, way be­hind teams and gone past them. We’re build­ing a group and a per­for­mance cul­ture here that we can be proud of. The en­vi­ron­ment there is so much bet­ter than it was be­fore.

“Please don’t praise me too much be­cause you can be­come com­pla­cent. That’s just the way I’m made. I be­lieve in what I do, and what I have been do­ing; we all have dif­fer­ent ideas about man­age­ment and how we do things.

“With the Cham­pi­ons League it will be dif­fer­ent, though we can’t take our eye off the league.

“Next sea­son will be even more test­ing for us. You have to get used to play­ing 45 to 50 games for this club ev­ery sea­son.”

Bruno Fer­nan­des, the £47 mil­lion sign­ing from Sport­ing Lis­bon, has played a ma­jor part in United’s resur­gence and scored his 10th goal for the club.

The Por­tuguese in­ter­na­tional is still to lose a league game for the Old Traf­ford club fol­low­ing his ar­rival in Jan­uary.

Sol­sk­jaer said: “He has come in and been a mas­sive in­flu­ence, he has been fan­tas­tic. He has been scor­ing goals, cre­at­ing goals and his en­thu­si­asm and men­tal­ity around the place has helped. You can see his pas­sion.”

Le­ices­ter fin­ished fifth af­ter this de­feat and, de­spite an ex­cel­lent sea­son un­der Bren­dan Rodgers, there will be dis­ap­point­ment with per­for­mances over the sec­ond half of the cam­paign.

Jamie Vardy won his first Golden Boot, with 23 goals, but Le­ices­ter have strug­gled for con­sis­tency since De­cem­ber.

Their frus­trat­ing fin­ish was also com­pounded by in­juries to James Mad­di­son, Ben Chilwell, Ri­cardo Pereira and Chris­tian Fuchs in the fi­nal weeks of the run-in.

Rodgers will have to set­tle for a place in the Europa League, but did still ful­fil the pre-sea­son tar­get of fin­ish­ing in the top six.

He said: “I’m dis­ap­pointed in terms of the re­sult but with per­spec­tive over the course of the sea­son, I’m very proud of the team.

“It’s the sec­ond-high­est fin­ish in our his­tory, so I can be proud of that. It’s that next step for this

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