EPL

You never know! – Solskjaer and Man Utd ready for 'surprises' in run-in

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United will focus only on themselves while preparing for any "surprises" in the Premier League run-in.

United beat Newcastle United 3-1 on Sunday to stay second, ahead of Leicester City on goal difference but 10 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's City would appear clear favourites for the title having capitalised on United's slip-ups over the past month.

Prior to seeing off Newcastle with goals from Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes, Solskjaer's side had just one win in five league matches.

But victory at Old Trafford, where United have lost to Newcastle only once in the Premier League era, got the Red Devils back on track and maintained their outside interest in the championship.

"We can't control any other team; we've just got to control ourselves and be the best possible Man United every single game," Solskjaer told BT Sport.

"That's the demands, the season is going to be demanding. You never know - things happen. There are many surprises in football."

Allan Saint-Maximin equalised six minutes after Rashford's opener and Newcastle finished the first half having had more attempts (six) than United (five).

Indeed, David de Gea finished the match with more saves (five) than opposite number Karl Darlow (four), but Solskjaer was much happier with the second-half display.

"We had to up the tempo a little bit – especially in the last third – and I felt we managed to do that," the manager said.

"It's always difficult after an away game in Europe to get going. We've had enough games this season. It took until half-time really.

"Even though we dominated possession and had all the ball, we still couldn't create too many big opportunities.

"It was about moving the ball quicker, be a bit clever in our positioning, and I felt second half we found our positions better – and some good goals."

The decisive goal came from James, who improved his tally to five for the season in all competitions.

Those strikes have come from just 13 outings, while the Wales winger netted only four times in 46 games in 2019-20.

After reaping the rewards of James' first league start of 2021, Solskjaer added: "He's never disappeared. He's been working hard behind the scenes, always been available.

"He's always a player that you can use in a few different positions with his energy and pace. He's learning the game, so I'm very happy for him.

"We worked with him. We try to help everyone, but of course, Dan came from the Championship up to Man United, hit a few goals in the first games, it's bound to take some energy away from you, all the headlines and media attention.

"But he's knuckled down and he's really worked to get back to full fitness and, maybe more so, confidence to believe in himself.

"That's the main thing. As soon as you come away from that little doubt, now he knows he's a good player."

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