EPL

Solskjaer feels Man United are 'getting better and better' after climbing into top spot

By Sports Desk January 12, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United are "getting better and better" after edging past Burnley 1-0 on Tuesday to move top of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba made the breakthrough at Turf Moor 19 minutes from time to move United three points clear of Liverpool ahead of Sunday's showdown between the bitter rivals.

It is the first time the Red Devils have occupied top spot this deep into the season since December 2012 in Sir Alex Ferguson's final campaign in charge.

United head to Anfield as the division's only unbeaten side on their travels this term, winning seven out of eight, while going further back they are 15 without defeat away from home in the league.

And after seeing his side win for a ninth time in 11 unbeaten matches overall in the top flight, Solskjaer wants his side to take on the reigning champions with no fear.

"We are getting better and better. We're almost halfway through the season but nobody will remember the league table on January 12," he told BBC Sport.

"We feel very confident going into games. Away from home we have really done well. We have to believe in ourselves and we do. 

"We've done a great job - it's good times for us. It's going to be a test against the champions, who have been fantastic, That's a great test for us."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Solskjaer added: "They've had an unbelievable three seasons so we're ready for it. 

"But we're ready and we're excited, we're hungry for it and it's a test of character and quality again. We're in a good position going into it."

Despite their impressive away form, the clean sheet against Burnley was United's first on their travels this season in the league, conceding 11 in their previous seven outings.

The visitors dominated a game in which their opponents failed to register a single attempt on target, though it looked as though it may be a frustrating day until Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross.

A couple of controversial VAR calls went against United in the first half, including Harry Maguire's header being disallowed for a perceived challenge on Erik Pieters.

That made the eventual victory all the more pleasing for Solskjaer, even if the scoreline was tighter than he would have liked.

"Frustrations were there for everyone to see - it affected our performance," he said. "We can't let that happen. Harry's goal was a perfectly good one. Half-time helped us. We came out second half really well and deserved the win.

"I'd rather win 4-0 - it's so much more comfortable. At 1-0 you have to see out one or two big moments. They pegged us back, you expect that. But we put our body on the line, of course the mentality is getting better. I'm very pleased with the spirit."

Pogba's last seven Premier League goals have all come away from home, this latest strike taking his tally for the season to four in all competitions.

"I've always said Paul is a big player for us," Solskjaer said. "He's a good character in the dressing room, someone the lads look to, a world champion. 

"We're seeing the best of Paul at the moment - he's been injured and he's had COVID so it's natural to need to get back to fitness after that."

Related items

  • Mane: Lewandowski 'one of the best' strikers in the world Mane: Lewandowski 'one of the best' strikers in the world

    Sadio Mane insists Robert Lewandowski is "one of the best" strikers in the world, but does not want to be involved in discussions over his future at Bayern Munich.

    Lewandowski has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, with the striker after a new challenge following eight seasons at Sabenerstrasse, and 12 in total in the Bundesliga.

    Mane arrives this off-season at Bayern in similar circumstances, seeking a departure from Liverpool with a year left on his deal after six seasons at the club, helping them win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, while also winning the African Cup of Nations with Senegal in 2021.

    Speaking in an interview with BILD, Mane did not want to get caught up in any unnecessary drama with that in mind.

    "Clearly, Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world," Mane said. "But I'm not the right person to talk about his future or to say what the club should do now."

    The 30-year-old revealed he was following Bayern Munich during the past season, expressing lament over their Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal despite dominating play, likening it to Liverpool's own exit in the 2019-20 season.

    Mane also insisted with his help, this upcoming season in Europe will be improved for the reigning Bundesliga champions.

    "Of course I saw the games. Bayern tried everything, but they couldn't perform at their best" he said.

    "I know that feeling all too well, that's how we felt at Liverpool against Atletico Madrid. But I assure you, next season will be different. I'm here now and we'll give everything.

    "We have to be convinced that we can do anything. And when I look at the quality of this team, I think it's one of the best in Europe."

  • Rony puts Palmeiras in box seat as Velez, Flamengo win in Copa Libertadores Rony puts Palmeiras in box seat as Velez, Flamengo win in Copa Libertadores

    Palmeiras are in control of their last-16 tie against Cerro Porteno in the Copa Libertadores after claiming a 3-0 win in Tuesday's first leg in Asuncion.

    A second-half brace from Rony before a late sealer from Murilo gave the two-time defending Libertadores champions a healthy buffer coming back to Sao Paulo for next Wednesday's second leg.

    Abel Ferreira's side just edged it on the basis of play over 90 minutes and took the lead right on the hour, with Rony meeting Gustavo Scarpa's inviting cross to the back post, to head home in transition.

    After a VAR confirmation and some wonderful individual work from Raphael Veiga to bring Gustavo Gomez's hoof under control to release Scarpa, Rony made it 2-0 in the 69th minute and effectively ended the contest.

    Murilo put the punctuation mark on the result, heading home from close range in the 87th, following Gomez's knock down from a corner.

    Palmeiras moved to 19 straight away games without a defeat in the Libertadores, looking to win the tournament three times in a row for the first time since Independiente claimed four consecutive titles between 1972 and 1975.

     

    Quintero returns but Velez triumph

    Velez Sarsfield claimed a shock first-leg win over River Plate, winning 1-0 at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani.

    Lucas Janson scored the lone goal from the penalty spot in the 15th minute, but Velez arguably should have won by more, with a scuffed effort from Manchester City signing Julian Alvarez in the 38th minute the only notable chance for River.

    Juan Fernando Quintero was introduced for River after half-time, making his return from an injury sustained in April, but Velez had the better chances of the second half.

    Velez captain Lucas Pratto had an chance to double the margin in the 52nd minute, with Franco Armani also denying substitute Abiel Osorio twice from close range. Janson then had a goal disallowed in the 75th minute, keeping River in the tie.

    Flamengo take first leg victory

    Last season's finalists Flamengo side took the first-leg victory despite a poor performance in Ibague, defeating Deportes Tolima 1-0.

    Andreas Pereira capped off what will be his final week at the club on loan from Manchester United, scoring the winning goal in the 17th minute.

    Lucas Silvestre's side did little to consolidate their margin with the ball, with a passive majority of possession taking over and facilitating chances on the other end.

  • 'It's like coming home' - Lukaku thrilled to be back at Inter 'It's like coming home' - Lukaku thrilled to be back at Inter

    Romelu Lukaku declared "it's like coming home" after he returned to Inter from Chelsea on Wednesday.

    Lukaku completed a season-long move back to San Siro on Wednesday less than a year after leaving the Nerazzurri to become Chelsea's record signing for a fee of £97.5million.

    The Belgium striker only scored eight goals in 26 Premier League appearances for the London club in the 2021-22 campaign.

    Lukaku found the back of the net 64 times in 95 games during his first spell with Inter, winning the Serie A title last year before signing for Chelsea for a second time.

    The 29-year-old, who has picked 90 as his new shirt number, had made no secret of his desire to play for Inter again and feels he is back where he belongs.

    He told the club's official website: "It's like coming home. My family and I were so happy here thanks to the people, the fans and my team-mates. From the first day I arrived here, everyone helped me settle in.

    "I'm very happy. I kept my home here when I went to England, so that means something. I'm pleased to be back and now I can't wait to get out there with my team-mates."

    Belgium's record goalscorer is determined to put a miserable season with Chelsea behind him.

    He added: "It's an amazing feeling. What we achieved here a year ago was fantastic. That goes for the team, the fans and also me personally.

    "Inter have given me so much and I hope to do even better than last time. It's now time to work hard as a squad and hopefully do even better than before."

    Lukaku also expressed his gratitude to Inter president Steven Zhang for getting the deal done.

    "We spoke about so many things and how it seemed impossible for me to come back here, but we managed it and I'm grateful to him for the way he kept pushing and believing it was possible," he said. "We managed to do it in the end and I'm delighted to be back."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.