Man Utd: Solskjaer wants to draw on ‘1999 spirit’ in trophy hunt
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been pleased with many aspects of Manchester United’s performance in the FA Cup fourth round victory over Liverpool on Sunday evening. The Red Devils came from behind to down their bitter rivals, with a world-class free-kick courtesy of talisman Bruno Fernandes eventually snatching all three points in a thrilling 3-2 win.
Solskjaer hailed his side’s efforts as ‘a statement to ourselves’ after the final whistle at Old Trafford, and what a statement it was.
Grit, determination, tenacity and quality were all on display throughout the match, combining into a winning formula that saw United get revenge over Liverpool after they were held to a goalless draw at Anfield earlier in the month.
The Red Devils, currently leading the way at the top of the Premier League, will face a tough challenge from noisy neighbours Manchester City during the second half of the season, with both sides looking set to battle it out for this year’s domestic crown.
However, on Sunday, Solskjaer’s side showed many of the qualities they will need in order to end their eight-year wait for a top-flight title.
It almost goes without saying that Fernandes, the club’s best player and main outlet for both goals and assists, will have to stay on top form after his latest winning contribution.
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It is difficult to imagine the Portuguese midfielder, who has the mentality of a born winner, straying from his brilliant best any time soon.
He has demonstrated time and again that he is good enough to feature in a title-winning team, and will do his best to make sure that his dreams of glory at Old Trafford become a reality at the end of the season.
Two others that could be pivotal to United’s title hopes stood out during Sunday’s encounter, with the most impressive of these being England star Marcus Rashford.
The forward was eager to test Rhys Williams and Trent Alexander-Arnold from the first whistle, bombing forward on countless occasions to drive at the Liverpool defence and create space for his team-mates to move into.
His quality was also undeniable, as seen by his contributions for United’s first two goals.
The 23-year-old lofted a beautifully-hit pass to Mason Greenwood for his side’s opener before finding the net himself moments into the second half.
Rashford is the sort of player that a side needs to take games by the scruff of the neck, which he has done at times already this season, a prime example being his hat-trick performance against RB Leipzig in October’s Champions League group stage match.
Another who has the potential to help United claim valuable points in the title race is Luke Shaw, who covered near enough every blade of grass on the left flank.
Aside from a minor mix-up with Victor Lindelof that helped Mo Salah burst through to score Liverpool’s first goal, Shaw was almost faultless, proving a real handful for the Reds to deal with as he charged forward in possession of the ball.
There will be games ahead for United where they will struggle to create chances and things will be going against them.
A full-back like Shaw, who can provide additional options going forward, could be the difference between three points, one or none in the most crucial of tests between now and the end of the season.
It remains to be seen whether United will do enough to win the Premier League title this year, but whatever happens will undoubtedly be shaped by the performances of their key players.
And with City breathing down their necks, the pressure is well and truly on.
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