Solskjaer savours defying critics with third spot
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