Ole Gunnar Solskjær has shrugged off constant scrutiny of his position as Manchester United manager but admits he did consider how this might affect him before accepting the job.
Saturday week marks the second anniversary of Solskjær’s appointment as caretaker. During his tenure he has been periodically under pressure regarding his role, the latest occasion coming after Tuesday’s exit from the Champions League.
Solskjær was asked before Saturday’s derby against Manchester City how he deals with the spotlight. “That’s something I had to think about when I accepted the role,” he said. “Do I have what it takes to be in such a situation? Can you handle setbacks? Can you handle success? I think I can.
“I’ve got a fantastic staff around me who I use as sparring partners for discussions – even the conversation with the club [executive] goes on all the time. It’s a continuous open dialogue. When you come to work the next day you see the quality of the players you have and you want to work with them.”
Solskjær believes United have the “penetration and consistency” critics claim they lack and is pleased with the side’s direction.
“I feel we’re getting better and better and looking more like a Man United team that I want with fast attackers, with dynamism,” he said. “We’ve got good players and individual quality that can create magic out of nothing – that’s always been the way at Man United. But we can see more of the penetration and consistency everyone says we don’t have. We’ve won last four in the league which has become a good run and hopefully that continues.”
Despite the Champions League disappointment, Solskjaer pointed to this as part of United’s improvement under him. “It’s been a step up from last season when we played in the Europa League,” he said. “Those six [group] games have been great in testing levels because we played against two top teams, one who were finalists [Paris Saint-Germain] and one semi-finalist [Leipzig] last year.
“We’ve learnt any small mistake will get punished; we were very close to going through in a very good group. That shows me a team moving forward from barely beating Rochdale [last year on penalties in the Carabao Cup], and we struggled to beat Astana and Partizan [in the Europa League] convincingly. We still have a little bit of a way to go of course to compete and go and win the Champions League because that’s our aim: to win trophies, be contenders.”
Solskjær gave David de Gea his support after the goalkeeper appeared to shirk challenging Justin Kluivert as the winger scored Leipzig’s decisive third. “He’s a man that we really rely on and hopefully he’s not affected by criticism and I don’t think he will be,” he said.