Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward lauded the "progress" made by the side under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

Speaking as the club's latest quarterly financial results were announced, Woodward said United have made progress, both on-field and commercially over the past 12 months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Woodward highlighted the work of Solskjaer, whose side are second in the Premier League, 14 points adrift of runaway leaders and neighbours Manchester United.

United registered their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season – the club's joint-most ever in a campaign, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17 - following Wednesday's disappointing 0-0 stalemate at Crystal Palace.

The Premier League giants have also drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions for the first time since October 2015 under Louis van Gaal.

"The progress made by Ole and the players this season is clear and our thriving Academy and Women's team are also adding to the optimism we feel about the future on and off the pitch," Woodward said.

United – without a Premier League title since 2012-13 – are also into the FA Cup quarter-finals and the Europa League last 16 this season, while they reached the EFL Cup semi-finals.

The Red Devils exited the Champions League in the group stage after a bright start in a tough group including last season's runners-up Paris Saint-Germain and 2019-20 semi-finalists RB Leipzig, but eased past Real Sociedad last week in the Europa League last 32.

Domestically, United are the fifth top-flight team to remain unbeaten in their first 14 away top-flight matches in a season (W8 D6), after Leeds United in 1973-74, Liverpool in 1987-88 and Arsenal in both 2001-02 and 2003-04.

United's unbeaten away run in the league extends back 21 matches until the 2-0 loss to eventual champions Liverpool in January 2020.

Solskjaer took over as United manager on a caretaker basis in December 2018 following Jose Mourinho's dismissal, winning the job permanently in March 2019 on a three-year deal.

The Norwegian has less than 18 months remaining on that contract but revealed last month has not yet opened discussions with the club about an extension.

Meanwhile on United's commercial progress, Woodward added: "While the disruption to our operations remains significant, we are pleased by the tremendous resilience the club has demonstrated through the pandemic, underpinned by the dedication of our people and the strength of our commercial business.

"We have been reminded of the importance of football as a source of community, entertainment and pride to fans around the world, even as we have sorely missed them at Old Trafford."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is weighing up whether to block Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes from travelling with Portugal during the international break due to COVID-19 quarantine.

Portugal are scheduled to play three World Cup qualifiers this month – at home to Azerbaijan (March 24), away to Serbia (March 27) and on the road against Luxembourg (March 30).

Linking up with Portugal would mean Fernandes would be subject to a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel upon his return to the United Kingdom amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It would also leave Solskjaer without the services of Fernandes against Brighton and Hove Albion (April 3) and Tottenham (April 10).

Asked about the situation following Wednesday's goalless draw away to Crystal Palace, United manager Solskjaer told reporters: "We have not sat down and made a proper call on that one but it doesn't make sense if you lose your player for 10 days' isolation.

"We are the ones paying the players, from what I understand, that [being allowed to ban players travelling] is the rule. 

"FIFA have given the rule that they don't have to be released, so it is going to be a hard call to make to let them play in red-list countries.

"I want Bruno ready for Brighton and hopefully we will be through in Europe and against Tottenham after that break, of course I do."

United were held to their third successive scoreless draw across all competitions after firing another blank against Palace midweek.

Solskjaer's faltering United produced another toothless display at Selhurst Park, where the Red Devils slipped 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City ahead of Sunday's derby.

United registered their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season – the club's joint-most ever in a campaign, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17.

The Premier League giants have also drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions for the first time since October 2015 under Louis van Gaal.

"Of course we're not happy when you don't create chances enough to win a game," Solskjaer said. "Of course, it's been a week with no goals, and sometimes three games sounds a lot without scoring.

"It was not considered either but a week in a season like this sometimes is... yeah, you just don't hit the form that you normally had, that you have had for many, many months, so it's a bit of a worry. Of course it is.

"But, I know that the boys are given everything. And that's the thing with we play every three days, and I know they given everything they've got so attitude and approach I'm very happy with the quality. We need to get back to what we know we can do."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he is worried by Manchester United's goal drought following their 0-0 Premier League draw away to Crystal Palace.

United were held to their third successive scoreless draw across all competitions after firing another blank against Palace on Wednesday.

Solskjaer's faltering United produced another toothless display at Selhurst Park, where the Red Devils slipped 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City ahead of Sunday's derby.

United registered their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season – the club's joint-most ever in a campaign, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17.

The Premier League giants have also drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions for the first time since October 2015 under Louis van Gaal.

United manager Solskjaer conceded he is concerned post-match, with his team only a point clear of third-placed Leicester City through 27 matches.

"Of course it's a concern," Solskjaer told Match of the Day. "When you have three clean sheets in a row, that will help you win games but we haven't produced the quality.

"We just have to find a spark again, the quality again and try and win the games."

He added: "It's not good as you know if you want to move up the table, you need to win. You have to earn the right, you have to win tackles, you have to fight, you have to play passes better. We kept giving the ball away.

"The tempo was missing, once in a while it happens. It wasn't one of our best nights that's for sure.

"[Palace manager] Roy Hodgson always sets his teams up to be really hard to play against and it just showed again tonight.

"A couple of times when we had the tempo in the right positions, we created decent opportunities but I don't think we deserved anything more than one point."

United goalkeeper Dean Henderson started in the absence of star David de Gea, who was sidelined due to personal reasons.

Henderson impressed midweek, the England international staking his claim for a regular starting berth with a superb save to deny Patrick van Aanholt late in the second half.

"That's a Man Utd goalkeeper, sometimes you have to keep concentrating," Solskjaer told Sky Sports. "He's growing in that position. I thank him for one point and not zero."

Asked when De Gea will return, Solskjaer replied: "That's a private matter. It'll take the time it takes."

Manchester United have concerns over David de Gea and Anthony Martial ahead of Sunday's derby with Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Neither De Gea nor Martial travelled to London for Wednesday's game with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Dean Henderson was named as starting goalkeeper, with Lee Grant among the substitutes, with De Gea absent due to personal reasons.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer selected an attack of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani, with Martial having sustained a knock during training.

It is unclear whether either player will be available to face City at the Etihad Stadium.

"David, that's personal reasons," United manager Solskjaer told MUTV about the absences.

"Anthony got a knock in training on Monday, on his knee, so [he is] not ready for this. Hopefully, [he will be] ready for the weekend but we're not sure yet."

Henderson has only started twice in the league this season and there are reports he could ask to leave Old Trafford if he is not assured of more playing time next season, the former Sheffield United loanee having mostly been limited to European and domestic cup appearances.

"Let's hope he performs as well as he has done all season," said Solskjaer. "He's got his chance now. He's been waiting patiently, he's been working really hard and of course he's ready to grab his opportunity."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned Manchester United fans they might have to do without blockbuster signings as the club counts the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

United were heavily linked with Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho before the start of the season and are now one of a host of reported admirers for his team-mate Erling Haaland.

Both players would likely fetch transfer fees in excess of £100million, but United boss Solskjaer is unsure whether clubs will be so keen to engage in bidding wars as they adapt to a new financial climate.

"We have to be realistic, we have to be responsible in the way we do our business both on and off the pitch," he told reporters.

"There's improvements on the training ground, the stadium. We just have to look at the whole picture.

"Where can we spend the money? And how much is there? It's just the real world now. It has changed.

"Of course, all clubs in the world are going through the same situation so it's no different for other clubs than for us.

"I think there's just going to be less and less transfers happening in the world of football until this changes."

United brought in experienced striker Edinson Cavani on a free transfer this season.

The 34-year-old has six goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season, only eight of which have been starts.

Cavani is pushing to return from a muscular injury in time to face Crystal Palace on Wednesday, and Solskjaer has not ruled out bolstering his forward line, even if it means looking at more creative signings along the lines of the Uruguay international as opposed to chasing the likes of Haaland.

"I always say that Mason [Greenwood], Anthony [Martial], Edinson... when we can really get them really firing that means we're a very good team," he added,

"But we're always looking at better players, of course we are."

United travel to Palace looking to cut a 15-point gap to Manchester City before facing the Premier League leaders in Sunday's derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester United are hopeful Edinson Cavani can return against Crystal Palace as they look to kickstart their season.

Cavani has missed United's past four games with a muscular problem.

United were held scoreless in two of the matches he missed, drawing 0-0 with both Real Sociedad and Chelsea last week.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men still sit second in the Premier League ahead of their trip to face Palace on Wednesday, though rivals Manchester City are now 12 points clear.

"We have had a training session this morning," Solskjaer, whose side are on a 20-match unbeaten away run in the top flight, told reporters on Tuesday. 

"Edinson trained, he's joined in, that's good, let's hope there's no reaction after the session and hopefully he will travel with the squad.

"Of course, it was a light session and we are looking okay. 

"There are a couple of doubts from the Chelsea game plus the wear and tear of the season. So we have to give them as much time as possible."

He added to MUTV: "It looks good. Edi has got the desire and hunger and, of course, he wants to join in, even if it's from the bench. 

"Hopefully he will say [on Wednesday] that there has been no reaction."

Paul Pogba has been out for a month but there is no immediate prospect of his return, even though the midfielder is making progress.

Solskjaer also hopes Phil Jones will be able to play at some point this season as he battles a knee injury.

The United boss added: "Paul is still not ready for us.

"He is feeling better but he's not been training with the team yet, so he's definitely not travelling down to London.

"With Phil, obviously we hope [he will play again this season]. 

"He's working really hard, he's had a couple of setbacks and it's just that kind of injury you have to be patient with and give him time. I know all about these [knee] injuries.

"I'm not sure [when Jones will be back], how long is a piece of rope? That's how I felt as well, when I came back. We'll give him absolutely every chance this season, if not the start of next."

Palace have won two of their past three league meetings with United, as many as they had in their previous 27. 

United, though, have curiously fared much better in away games with Palace. They have never lost in 11 Premier League away games (eight wins) against the side from London.

That is the most one team has played at another without ever losing in the Premier League.

All of Solskjaer's focus has been on the upcoming clash, rather than the penalty United were denied for a handball claim against Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea.

"That is water under the bridge," he added.

"You move onto the next one. We all know it’s a high-pressure situation and you have to accept the situations.

"We move on. All my focus after the game has been on Palace.

"I think the refs have a difficult enough job without extra pressure, so we should leave them to make as many good decisions as they can."

Luke Shaw and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not face action from the Football Assocation for their comments about referee Stuart Attwell after Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Sunday. 

United felt hard done by in the first half at Stamford Bridge when the video assistant referee (VAR) brought to Attwell's attention a possible handball by Callum Hudson-Odoi in his own penalty area. 

The incident occurred just before a tussle with Mason Greenwood, who subsequently also appeared to touch the ball with his arm. 

Attwell was advised to review Hudson-Odoi's action on the pitchside monitor, yet no penalty was given despite replays appearing to show the Chelsea wing-back's hand in an unnatural position when coming into contact with the ball.

Shaw claimed in a post-match interview with Sky Sports that Attwell had told United captain Harry Maguire giving them a penalty would "cause a lot of talk after". 

United later clarified that Shaw misheard Maguire's conversation with the official. 

While Solskjaer refused to explicitly repeat Shaw's accusations, he was aware of what was said and made no attempt to shut them down, before also insisting it was "100 per cent" a penalty. 

He then went on to accuse Chelsea of influencing referees via content published to their website ahead of the match, with Maguire's recent VAR brushes the focus of the article in question. 

Yet despite the comments made by Shaw and Solskjaer, neither is set to face any disciplinary action, with the FA not considering them to be in breach of the rules and regulations. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not hide his frustration at Manchester United's forwards after Sunday's 0-0 draw at Chelsea saw the club's disappointing run against the Premier League's other so-called "big six" sides continued.

The match was overshadowed by the controversial decision of referee Stuart Attwell not to award United a first-half penalty when Callum Hudson-Odoi handled in the area – the official sticking to his decision despite looking at the incident on the pitchside monitor.

While Solskjaer and Luke Shaw vented their anger at the situation in post-match interviews, the manager's news conference eventually turned to the other major talking point; United's inability to score against the league's better teams.

"We're not scoring enough goals, that's for sure," Solskjaer told reporters.

He is not wrong – the draw at Stamford Bridge was the fourth successive 0-0 draw United have played out against other "big six" opposition, while they have not scored in any of their past six meetings with teams of this calibre.

"We've come away with another good clean sheet, but as I said before this game, the next step for this team is to win these games, get the goal we need to get three points," he added.

"Of course, we should have got a penalty and I'd back Bruno [Fernandes] any day of the week, but we didn't have the right quality at the end in the four or five good breakaways in the second half."

While United did have 11 shots on Sunday, their xG (expected goals) rating was a poor 0.4 – Chelsea's was 1.16. While this suggests Thomas Tuchel's men were more wasteful, it also highlights the visitors struggled to craft quality chances.

This is by no means a new phenomenon in games of such magnitude either – United's overall xG in the matches in question is just 4.9, by no means a huge figure, yet they're still underperforming significantly in this area given their actual record of none scored.

"We haven't had the quality, fine margins or luck," Solskjaer said when asked to explain United's issues in these games.

"Today, it was mostly about the lack of quality in the last third. We had some moments when we were close, had some great counter opportunities, [but the] last pass or cross wasn't good enough.

"[We had] some near moments of course, Fred and Mason [Greenwood] had a few decent attempts, but we didn't have enough. That's the next step for us, and we will improve.

"Last season we had some great results but in a different manner. At the moment we try to develop this style and develop ourselves to win these games. Everything was really good defensively."

And that is perhaps the salient point – United have improved defensively in these games, with the solitary goal conceded in this run being a penalty against Arsenal.

But there's a chance this altered approach is impacting United's effectiveness going forward, with Solskjaer's men potentially preferring to play out a draw instead of going for it and risking defeat.

After all, United's shot count of 66 in the past six clashes with "big six" opposition is less than the 74 they've faced. While they may not be constantly sitting back, they're also not as threatening as the opponents.

The key to understanding this shift may lie with the game directly before the aforementioned run – it was the remarkable 6-1 defeat to Tottenham.

Only Solskjaer knows if that battering – which was obviously not helped by a sending off – has been playing on the minds of himself and his players, but it's also a thought former United captain Roy Keane has had.

"Maybe they are scarred from the Spurs game. I don't know the scoop, we're just guessing," Keane said. "But maybe their mindset is [impacted] going into these games. We've seen poor games.

"Sometimes you have a 0-0 and it's a fantastic game, the keepers are fantastic, missed penalties or whatever. But some of these games we've watched and covered have been really boring, considering there's some really good attacking players in the team."

For better or worse, United don't have to wait long for another opportunity to put this run right – the Manchester derby is less than a week away.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left fuming at referee Stuart Attwell's failure to award Manchester United a penalty in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

In a game that saw the two sides largely cancel each other out, United were controversially denied an early opportunity to take the lead.

A Marcus Rashford free-kick was parried back into the danger zone by Edouard Mendy, with Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson-Odoi subsequently drawn towards it.

The Chelsea man's hand was raised and came into contact with the ball, with the VAR urging Attwell to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.

However, he stuck to his initial decision of not awarding a penalty and it left Solskjaer bemused.

When asked by Sky Sports if he felt United should have had a penalty, Solskjaer said: "Yep, 100 per cent."

Then asked if he could understand Attwell's decision, he added: "No, not at all, especially when they stop it [the game in order to review the incident] and he walks across to watch it.

"For me, you can see it's a handball but you think it's our player who does it and they [the Chelsea bench] are shouting it's handball for our player and then look at the video and it's taken two points away from us."

United left-back Luke Shaw claimed in another post-match interview with Sky Sports that Attwell had told captain Harry Maguire awarding the penalty "would cause a lot of talk about it after".​

Although clearly aware of the accusation, Solskjaer did not explicitly repeat it, saying: "I can't say, because that's not going to be good for him [Attwell]. Of course it is [concerning]."

Shaw's exact words were then put to Solskjaer and again he expressed dismay, then going on to vent his anger at pre-match comments published on Chelsea's website that highlighted Maguire's recent brushes with VAR, suggesting such content can influence referees.

He added: "Exactly. Well, I didn't say it [Shaw's comments], so I don't want to cause controversy, but it's not right, is it?

"It's all this outside influence, even the VAR talk before the game here, that's cheeky, when they put that on the website – that's influencing referees.

"Go back and look at the website. You can read it, what they are saying about controversy and Harry Maguire – it's putting pressure on the referees for penalties against us."

Manchester United lost further ground at the top of the Premier League table as they drew 0-0 at Chelsea on Sunday, Thomas Tuchel's men benefiting from a contentious call relating to a potential penalty against them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side came into the weekend 10 points adrift of pacesetters Manchester City, but this draw coupled with the leaders' 2-1 win at West Ham on Saturday saw the gap increase to 12 as Pep Guardiola closes in on another Premier League title.

While a win for United at Stamford Bridge would not have changed a great deal, they will likely feel hard done by, as Callum Hudson-Odoi escaped unpunished when handling the ball in his own area during the first period.

Both sides had their chances after the interval but neither managed to apply the finishing touch, meaning for the first time in the five meetings between Tuchel and Solskjaer, the away manager could not leave with the spoils.

A fast and furious first half saw the two teams largely cancel each other out with their comparable high-pressing setups and solid defensive work, but United were controversially denied the chance to take an early lead.

Marcus Rashford's free-kick stung the hands of Edouard Mendy before dropping between Hudson-Odoi and Mason Greenwood, with the ball clearly hitting the hand of the Chelsea wing-back, yet referee Stuart Attwell refused to award a penalty even after going to the pitchside monitor.

Hudson-Odoi had a more positive impact just after the half-hour mark when Olivier Giroud nearly met his early cross, though chances at either end were a rarity otherwise.

Chelsea were straight on the front foot after the break, with David de Gea forced into a reflex save by Hakim Ziyech before Luke Shaw vitally blocked the rebound from Reece James – introduced at the interval for the injured Hudson-Odoi.

But United soon woke up again, with Greenwood shooting agonisingly wide of the top-left corner and Scott McTominay testing Mendy after a well-placed cut-back from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Timo Werner was denied a tap-in by Victor Lindelof and McTominay squandered a counter-attacking opportunity in the latter stages, with the game ultimately destined to end goalless.

Marcus Rashford was tasked with leading Manchester United's attack at Stamford Bridge, while Timo Werner dropped to the Chelsea bench.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer declared on Friday that he was unsure if Cavani, who has had a positive impact this season since arriving on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain, would overcome a knock which has kept him out since mid-February.

Paul Pogba was a confirmed absentee, however, and neither player featured as Solskjaer made five changes to his United team.

Rashford, who has been involved in seven goals in all competitions against Chelsea (five goals, two assists) – more than against any other side in his career – was instead given the central role that Anthony Martial had started in against Real Sociedad on Thursday.

That was one of five changes made by Solskjaer, who also brought back Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and David de Gea.

United are unbeaten in 19 Premier League away games (W13 D6), a run that began with a 2-0 win at Chelsea in February 2020. 

This is the Red Devils' longest unbeaten away run in their top-flight history, though their previous longest of 17 between December 1998-September 1999 ended with a 5-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, and Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea team have been in strong form.

After a frustrating draw with Southampton last week, Chelsea beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League thanks to Olivier Giroud's stunning winner.

Giroud is rewarded with a start up top, with Tuchel making three alterations.

One of the players to drop out is Werner, who ended his long goalscoring drought in Chelsea's last home game – a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United.

Hakim Ziyech is in to partner Mason Mount – who has scored two goals in his last three Premier League games, as many as in his previous 21 in the competition – behind Giroud, with N'Golo Kante replacing Jorginho in midfield and Ben Chilwell coming in at left wing-back.

Opposite Chilwell, Callum Hudson-Odoi retains his place, despite the youngster being subbed on and subbed off in the draw with Southampton.

The away team has won all four of the previous managerial matches between Tuchel and Solskjaer, with all of those games taking place between United and PSG in the Champions League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford after being blown away by the late-career rejuvenation of the Swedish great.

Manchester United and Milan were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, giving the second-tier competition a glamour tie.

A serious knee ligament injury sustained in April 2017, near the end of his first season with Manchester United, raised doubts about whether Ibrahimovic would play at the highest level again. He got fit enough to make a first-team return before heading off to LA Galaxy, seemingly to wind down his career in the United States.

Yet Ibrahimovic was not finished with European football and in December 2019 embarked on a second spell with Milan, which has surpassed the most generous of expectations.

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 40 games so far for the Rossoneri, including 16 in 20 appearances this season to help Milan mount a title challenge. In doing so, the 39-year-old has passed the 500-goal mark in his club career.

Milan's lead in the Scudetto race was reined in by Inter, who now lead the way in Serie A, but Ibrahimovic's impact has been seismic in Italy.

United loanee Diogo Dalot, who has played 19 games for Milan this season, may also be heading back to Manchester for the March 11 first leg as he is eligible for the tie.

"Zlatan, of course, I've been so impressed, I've got to say, by how his career has gone," United manager Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They're on the up and have done really well this season.

"I've been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he's learned a lot. He's played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!"

Ibrahimovic hit 28 goals in 46 games in his first season at United, adding one more strike in seven games in the following season as he fought his way back to full fitness.

His United goals came at a rate of one every 139.1 minutes, compared to his stunning Milan average strike rate of 109.9 minutes per goal.

He has also boosted his big chance conversion rate from 35.7 per cent at United to 45 per cent with Milan.

Solskjaer, whose side face Chelsea in the Premier League this Sunday, may have wished for a kinder European draw, particularly as it came on the Norwegian's 48th birthday.

"It's a nice birthday gift, isn't it? To watch that draw!" he said. "We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws.

"It's one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It's good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

"The tradition and history of AC Milan, it's a great club that we welcome and it's a great stadium that we go to there, and we're looking forward to it."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges Manchester United must sharpen up in defence if they are to achieve their ambitions of winning major trophies. 

United eased into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday after a goalless draw with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford secured a 4-0 aggregate victory. 

It was their 16th clean sheet in all competitions this season, the third-most of any Premier League team, behind only Chelsea (19) and Manchester City (24). 

However, conceding goals has been a problem throughout 2020-21. The Red Devils have shipped 46 across all competitions – more than twice as many as City (20) – with 32 of those coming in the league, more than any other side presently in the top five. 

Although 11 of those were conceded in United's first three league matches of the season – an aberration Solskjaer put down to a lack of pre-season preparations – their defensive frailties have cost them valuable points despite scoring 53 goals, the most in the top flight, and 85 in all competitions, as many as rivals City. 

Ahead of Sunday's clash with Chelsea, who are unbeaten under new head coach Thomas Tuchel, Solskjaer highlighted the need to become more resolute at the back in order to close the gap to Pep Guardiola's men, who are top by 10 points.

The United manager told reporters: "We're on a good path. We feel we have improved but we're nowhere near where we want to be, and that's higher up the table, winning trophies. So, the hunger in the group and the mentality in the group is good, and that's the main thing now: that we keep on improving. 

"We know we've scored quite a few goals; of course, we need to be a better team defensively. 

"Certainly, the amount of goals we've conceded, even though we had 11 in the first three games, those three games almost don't count in my head because we were so far away from a Man United team in the preparation, no pre-season. 

"Even then, we've conceded too many goals, so we need to improve on that, definitely. And win tighter games: we've had many games against, you know, City, Chelsea, nil-nil, Liverpool nil-nil, so get the goals in those games. 

"We just have to focus and tick one game off at a time. The [next] three games are massive. We've got Chelsea just behind us, City a way in front of us, and we can't let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can't give Chelsea too much hope of catching us, either. 

"It's still 38 games for every team, so if you get a run, either good or bad, it might impact you. Of course, as a group and a culture, bouncing back for us after a couple of setbacks we've had, it's an important period. 

"But our group mentality is really good, and we look forward to these games. We know Thomas has come in, it's changed a little bit at Chelsea, so it's going to be a great challenge for us. 

"You can see the results, the stats, the possession they've had. They keep teams away from their goal, keep the possession. He's done really well. 

"It's never easy coming into a season halfway through, so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully, we can stop that run. That's my job now." 

With captain Harry Maguire rested, Eric Bailly produced a strong performance against Sociedad alongside Victor Lindelof, making three clearances and winning all four of his contested duels. 

"Both of them played well, so Eric and Victor and Harry, three very good centre-backs that I can rely on, and Axel [Tuanzebe] as well. I've got four to choose from," said Solskjaer, who has a decision to make for his team against Chelsea. 

"Sometimes it's the opposition, sometimes it's the form, sometimes it's little things. I think the two of them will keep on playing and they might be playing together as well." 

Anthony Martial endured another goalless outing, producing only one shot on target. The 25-year-old has now failed to score in 14 of his past 15 appearances in all competitions and has not found the net in his six games since scoring twice in the 9-0 demolition of Southampton. 

"Anthony knows what we want and Anthony's working really hard to do well for the team. That's what's pleasing me," Solskjaer added. 

"I see him every day in training. He's not going to sit down and wait for things to happen; he knows he has to make things happen for himself. 

"We encourage him, coach him, and we know he's got this quality and class. Everyone goes through a little difficult patch at the moment, or at times, and Anthony, I think we saw tonight, he's working harder and that's the main thing."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects Manchester United supporters to see plenty more of Shola Shoretire in the future after the 17-year-old's history-making appearance against Real Sociedad on Thursday. 

Shoretire, who made his senior debut in United's Premier League win over Newcastle United at the weekend, was introduced for the final 14 minutes of the 0-0 draw with La Real to become the Red Devil's youngest ever player in European competition at the age of 17 years and 23 days. 

He was unable to make much of an impact as United booked their Europa League last-16 spot with a 4-0 aggregate victory over their LaLiga opponents, but Solskjaer believes the club have a hugely promising player on their hands. 

"Shola will be a good player for us," the United boss said at a media conference. "Sometimes you need to test them against good players and we know Real Sociedad are a good team and have good individuals, who press. Shola and Amad [Diallo] will need introductions to this level. 

"He is a young kid that we believe in; he has a great attitude. You can see the shape of him, psychically he'll be an athlete. Technically, he's very good and he makes good decisions.

"He's grounded, he works hard in training and he's a likeable boy who we hope we can see loads of in the future."

Mikel Oyarzabal missed an early penalty for La Real after Daniel James had fouled Andoni Gorosabel inside the area as United extended their unbeaten run in the Europa League at Old Trafford to 15 matches. 

Solskajer acknowledged the importance of that miss – the first failed penalty attempt at Old Trafford against the home side since Everton's Leighton Baines in October 2014 – to the result, which ensured United have progressed from all five of their last-32 ties in the Europa League. 

"We played against a very good team," he added. "They got an early penalty and thankfully they missed it. We didn't want to go into half-time one or two goals down. Of course, we are pleased to get through unscathed.

"I felt the first 10-15 mins were a bit slow, but we played some good stuff in the first half. In the second half we were not good with the ball, but we defended well. It just proves how good the performance last week was."

United are next in action on Sunday when they travel to Thomas Tuchel's in-form Chelsea in the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has encouraged Marcus Rashford to follow the example of Cristiano Ronaldo in order to make the most of his Manchester United career. 

February 25 marks five years since the forward's memorable debut for the Red Devils, when he scored twice in a 5-1 Europa League defeat of Midtjylland at Old Trafford. 

Having been drafted hastily into Louis van Gaal's first-team squad due to injuries and then thrust into the starting line-up when Anthony Martial was hurt in the warm-up, Rashford, then 18, struck twice in 12 minutes to help his side progress. 

Rashford has since developed into a key part of United and England's plans, with 85 goals and 38 assists in 253 games in all competitions at club level, plus 11 goals in 40 appearances for the national team. 

His strike in the 3-1 win over Newcastle United last Sunday drew him level with David Beckham for United goals, just 33 behind Ronaldo. 

Manager Solskjaer hopes Rashford takes inspiration from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who leads the goalscoring charts in Serie A this season after turning 36 three weeks ago. 

Speaking ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg against Real Sociedad, Solskjaer said: "He's had an incredible impact on and off the pitch. He's matured, grown into a real proper young man.

"He knows what it takes to be a Manchester United player on and off the pitch, he's taken responsibility on it and off it. I do remember [his debut]: a young little lad coming on, two nice goals, celebration with his team-mates in the stand and I think he's living proof of what we want to do at the club. 

"When you sign for Man United, whether you're five, six, 10, 14, you have a chance to make dreams come true and long may it continue, he's got 10-15 years left in him. 

"You have to be meticulous to last for a long career. We've had the best possible example of that in world football with Cristiano. The way he has looked after himself, the way he came into the club and we all took notice the way he developed throughout his career and the way he looked after himself is major. 

"I'm sure Marcus as well is looking after himself. That's the only way to be at the top: you can't get distracted and if you play until you're 35 you can do whatever you want after that." 

Rashford scored in United's commanding first-leg victory in Turin, a result that puts them in a strong position to progress to the last 16. 

With Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek sidelined and a Premier League game at Chelsea to come on Sunday, Solskjaer could well hand opportunities to youngsters such as Shola Shoretire and Amad Diallo, although Hannibal Mejbri will miss out through injury.

"Amad and Shola will be involved, they're in the squad and I'm not going to tell you if they're starting or not," he said.

"I believe in the youth, I believe if young players, if they get a chance, they can really develop, improve, impress, even surprise you and that's just part of this club and it's part of me.

"I've always loved working with young players and hungry players with a good attitude. If you've got a good attitude, you've got a good chance; if you don't, then there's less of a chance."

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