Antonio Valencia insists Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can overcome recent hiccups and build a formidable Manchester United.

United drew 3-3 at Sheffield United on Sunday, the result leaving them ninth in the Premier League after 13 matches.

Mauricio Pochettino's sudden availability has increased the level of scrutiny on manager Solskjaer, a popular appointment when he took the job on a full-time basis in March.

Valencia was club captain at the time and continues to believe the under-pressure Norwegian will prove a success, pointing to his association with the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

"He knows what a United player should be: he must have character, personality, the heart of a winner," Valencia, now with LDU Quito, told The Athletic.

"United need to get this feeling back. When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived, he came with Ferguson traits; tactically, the mentality, the players felt more free and he gave us more confidence. When the decision was made to keep him permanently, it was absolutely what the players wanted.

"He has been there less than a year. He is putting together a team to compete. I have no doubts he will do that.

"He is a very good coach, he knows what he wants, he is a disciple of Ferguson's school, he is bringing these lessons to a new generation of players."

United's form has been hurt by Paul Pogba's prolonged absence due to an ankle injury.

Transfer rumours linking Pogba to Real Madrid have resurfaced amid another frustrating campaign at Old Trafford, his fourth since returning from Juventus.

Valencia said: "He is a star... but he can be a bigger star. Paul needs the definitive love of a manager. There are players who have a lot of talent but need to feel important and to have the manager by their side.

"I think Solskjaer restored that to him."

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be "selfish" and push to sign experienced players in the January transfer window, according to club legend Gary Neville.

The Red Devils sit ninth in the Premier League table following a thrilling 3-3 draw away at Sheffield United, leaving them nine points adrift of the top four.

Solskjaer has delivered just four wins from 13 league matches this term and pointed to a lack of experience for his side's latest setback at Bramall Lane.

The Norwegian has put faith in a number of young players across his 11 months in charge, but Neville has urged his former team-mate to recruit more experienced heads if he is to save his job.

"Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to go and spend the club's money in January, for himself," Neville said during Sky Sports' Monday Night Football show. "He has to go and spend the club's money on two or three experienced players, he must demand it.

"He's not going to be there to see the fruits of the labour that he's putting in, the foundations he's laying, because there's a lot of good young players out on that pitch, that I actually enjoy watching."

Neville, who won eight Premier League titles in his career, added: "Ole's going to have to be selfish, he's going to have that ruthless streak that a [Jose] Mourinho has, or [Antonio] Conte has, and spend the club's money to protect himself.

"Put two or three experienced players in amongst that group and they could come alive."

Manchester United battled back from two goals down to lead 3-2 on Sunday, only for Oli McBurnie to score a late equaliser for the hosts, which Neville claimed further proves his point about a lack of leaders in the team.

"I've come to conclude two things. One, they haven't got senior players setting the standard of them, letting them know the expectation of what is required in a football team. 

"They haven't got the leaders and the people around them. When I first broke into the team, I had people who set the standard.

"There is one more big thing - they don't know how to approach a Premier League away game, they don't understand that it's different playing at Old Trafford than it is away from home and they haven't got the experience or maturity."

Mauricio Pochettino was sacked by Tottenham last week and has been strongly linked as a contender to replace Solskjaer, but Neville is unsure whether it is time to make a change.

"Personally, two and a half years ago when Louis van Gaal got sacked by Manchester United, I said Mauricio Pochettino should have been appointed before Jose Mourinho, so I can't sit here now and say he won't be the right person for the football club.

"But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed eight months ago, the club have taken a different track."

Liverpool maintained their stunning start to the season – and eight-point lead at the summit – with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Jose Mourinho wasted little time in making his mark at Tottenham after he was brought in to replace Mauricio Pochettino, guiding the north London club to a 3-2 win over sorry rivals West Ham.

Manchester City, meanwhile, bounced back from their damaging 3-1 defeat to Liverpool before the international break with an entertaining 2-1 victory against Chelsea – a result which saw them leapfrog Frank Lampard's side into third.

The game of the weekend came on Sunday when Sheffield United and Manchester United played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane, with the visitors coming from two goals down to lead 3-2 before Oli McBurnie's late equaliser.

Here, we look at the best milestones and stats from another action-packed weekend of Premier League action.

RELENTLESS REDS MARCH ON AGAINST PALACE

Liverpool became only the fourth side in English top-flight history to have as many as 37 points from their opening 13 league games to a season after their slender win at Selhurst Park.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring shortly after half-time, which was perhaps unsurprising given his superb record against the Eagles. His deflected strike means he has now scored eight Premier League goals against Palace – more than against any other opponent.

It had looked like Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool would drop points for just the second time this season when Wilfried Zaha levelled with eight minutes remaining. That was the Ivorian's first goal in 14 Premier League games, ending a run of 1245 minutes without scoring.

Roberto Firmino had the final say, though, prodding home after a corner had caused chaos in the Palace penalty area. Since the start of last season, Liverpool have scored 38 goals from set-pieces in the Premier League (including penalties) – eight more than any other club.

The win takes the Reds' unbeaten run in the Premier League to 30 matches. Only Arsenal (49 games in October 2004) and Chelsea (40 in October 2005) have ever had longer runs without defeat in the history of the competition.

MOURINHO BACK WITH A BANG

Mourinho made a triumphant return to management as Tottenham saw off West Ham at the London Stadium.

Having lost his first ever competitive game as manager, with Benfica in September 2000, Mourinho has gone unbeaten in his first game in charge at each of his eight clubs since then.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid boss was indebted to star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who scored other side of Lucas Moura's close-range effort.

Kane has now scored eight goals in his last nine Premier League games against the Hammers, while Son's strike means he is Spurs' leading scorer in all competitions in 2019 with 19 – one more than Kane.

GUARDIOLA SETS UNWANTED RECORD IN CITY WIN

City claimed a valuable Premier League victory over Chelsea on Saturday, despite recording the lowest share of possession any Pep Guardiola side has managed in a top-flight game.

City's possession figure of just 46.74 per cent is the lowest any team coached by Guardiola has registered in 381 top-flight matches.

N'Golo Kante gave Chelsea a 21st-minute lead but, remarkably, Lampard's side did not manage another shot on target for the remainder of the match.

City stormed back after that early setback to claim all three points thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his 11 starts across all competitions this season, scoring four and creating six more.

BRAMALL LANE DRAMA LEAVES SOLSKJAER WITH MIXED EMOTIONS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave his Manchester United players credit after they scored three goals in seven minutes to overturn a two-goal deficit against Sheffield United but condemned their display for the first hour at Bramall Lane.

Goals from John Fleck and Lys Mousset put the Blades in front and United have not kept a clean sheet on the road in the Premier League in their last 12 matches - their worst top-flight run since going 15 away games without a shutout between September 1985 and April 1986.

Fortunately for Solskjaer, his young charges rallied and Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood struck in quick succession to make it 2-2. The last time two teenagers scored in a Premier League game for United was in October 2005, when Wayne Rooney and Giuseppe Rossi netted against Sunderland.

Marcus Rashford's goal in the 79th minute put United on course for a win that did not transpire, but the England forward continued his good record against newly-promoted opponents - he has been involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League appearances against newcomers (four goals, four assists).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his young players lack the know-how to win in certain situations after watching Manchester United come from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Sheffield United.

Goals from 19-year-old Brandon Williams, 18-year-old Mason Greenwood and 22-year-old Marcus Rashford turned the game on its head at Bramall Lane as United briefly led, but that did not stop Solskjaer from condemning his side's first-half performance.

Defeat against the Blades would have heaped pressure on manager Solskjaer, who has delivered just two wins from United's last eight Premier League matches, and the former striker sensed a lack of confidence among his players.

"In football, you've got to earn the right to win the game and we didn't have any right to win the game after 70 minutes," Solskjaer told reporters.

"The boys are young and it's not a lack of desire; it's maybe that confidence in themselves. Andreas [Pereira] and Fred in midfield have never played together before, but the way we came out after [Sheffield United] scored the second was excellent.

"I don't doubt [the players] wanting to win but sometimes young players don't know how to win challenges like this and we must have learned a lot today."

United's travel to Kazakhstan to face Astana in the Europa League on Thursday before their Premier League campaign resumes at home against Aston Villa on Sunday, and Solskjaer said he hoped the comeback at Bramall Lane would have a positive effect on the mentality of his squad.

Sitting in ninth place in the Premier League table after 13 games has left United open to criticism, but they have only lost two of their last 12 games in all competitions and Solskjaer pointed to an improvement in team spirit this season.

He said: "When you're 2-0 down and don't give up, you don't expect them to give up, but last year we did and this year we didn't, so it's a massive, massive difference in that respect.

"To do something about it and I think the way they've turned it around, it changes so much in young players' heads.

"You remember these boys are young, and when they get the belief after the first goal, Dan James - probably the first time he went past [Enda] Stevens - and put a great cross in, fantastic finish by Brandon [Williams] - suddenly you see we're on the front foot and the boys are trying things that lead the fear away.

"Now, [my thoughts are] positive, even though the big part of this game is very negative and you're disappointed with it, but that's football for you and to have the character to stick in there."

How do you sum up a match like that? "It's football," was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's attempt on Sky Sports. Notably, he added: "The difference between this year and last year's team is huge."

To put it simply, this was another Premier League away game in 2019-20 Manchester United did not win. To Wolves, Southampton, West Ham, Newcastle United and Bournemouth, now add the name of Sheffield United.

Five wins from six games in all competitions before Sunday was enough to suggest Solskjaer had his players turning a corner again. Then, in the week Mauricio Pochettino became available, they produced their worst 70 minutes in months, managed a breathtaking comeback, and still ended the game disappointed at a 3-3 draw. Such is life under Solskjaer: signs of progress and moments of excellence that only seem to make sure the next setback is still newsworthy.

They managed one shot – a league-low under Solskjaer – in perhaps the worst first half of football of his tenure. Solskjaer cackled before kick-off that Phil Jones, in his first league start of the season, might play in midfield and might play in defence.

That must have been the instruction he gave to the player personally, given the uncertain recklessness with which Jones bludgeoned his way in and out of position. His despairing grimace after he was shoved over by Lys Mousset for the fortunate but fully deserved opening John Fleck goal said it all, occurring as it did just two hours after Chris Smalling, deemed expendable by Solskjaer, was scoring and assisting in a 3-0 win for Roma.

The 3-4-3, the line-up, the instructions – everything seemed wrong. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James were so lifeless, so withdrawn from the action, they might as well have been having a kickabout at Hillsborough 12 miles away. Andreas Pereira found Sheffield United shirts with precision almost every time he had the ball. Brandon Williams, after a promising few weeks in the first team, was bullied and beaten with increasing ease down the left.

Sheffield United were everything the Red Devils were not: well-drilled, hard-working, swift and accurate with the ball, ferocious without it. They pulled the visitors out of position and surged into the gaps, while their opponents played at such an excruciatingly slow pace that 46-year-old Solskjaer could probably have joined in. After United took their first corner of the match short and played a handful of slow passes before Fred ballooned a cross out of play, Harry Maguire bellowed at his midfielder to "just put it in the f****** box!". The United Way.

The headlines were written, the #OleOut cries getting louder, the Pochettino dial turned up to 11. And then, in seven minutes, the youngsters into whose hands Solskjaer has put his job showed they will not let this manager go quietly into the night.

Williams struck a sweet half-volley, becoming the youngest United player in three years to score in the Premier League until Mason Greenwood took that stat for himself five minutes later. When Martial, James and Rashford finally combined, they tore the defence to shreds to make it 3-2.

It was breathless, barely believable. Pochettino was just the ex-Tottenham manager again as another stunning comeback with Solskjaer's name on it beckoned. But he must share the blame for their failure to see it out. With the hosts looking forlorn and suspect with every attack, Solskjaer blinked, taking off Martial for Axel Tuanzebe in the hope of holding on to what they had. They promptly dropped deep, failed to clear their box and let Ollie McBurnie equalise. The setback was the news again.

And so Ole remains at the wheel, grinding through the gears, veering into traffic, but his gaze steadfast on the road ahead. United are ninth, closer in points to the relegation zone than the top four, 20 adrift of leaders Liverpool… but fighting. Would they fight for Pochettino in the same way?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Sheffield United "wanted it more than us" during Sunday's pulsating 3-3 Premier League draw at Bramall Lane.

The Red Devils were largely awful against Chris Wilder's side and found themselves 2-0 down after 52 minutes courtesy of goals from John Fleck and Lys Mousset.

Three goals in seven minutes from Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford looked like securing an undeserved victory for Manchester United, but Oli McBurnie struck in the final minute to ensure a share of the spoils.

"It's not something you can put your finger on here and now, but they looked like they wanted it more than us," Solskjaer told Sky Sports. "They believed in what they did more than us, but sometimes it's little margins here and there.

"We maybe had one shot on target in the first half and that's not acceptable; not good enough.

"It's football. Sometimes it's beyond the tactics; it's beyond the passion and drive. The supporters in the first half and the energy of their team compared to ours was such a big difference. Then we get the goal and our energy comes back and the belief comes back in."

Despite failing to hold onto their lead and claim all three points, Solskjaer believes his side's comeback from two goals down shows they have improved since last season.

"The difference between this team and last year's team is huge," he said. "At 2-0 down, my mind is going back to Everton [they lost 4-0 in April]. Last year we'd have been beaten three, four or five. This is such a big stride forward for them, coming back from 2-0 down to 3-2 up and then of course towards the end, things like that happen.

"It's mixed emotions. You can't be happy because we've not performed for the majority of the game, but then the attitude and the way they turned things around shows what we're capable of."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed goalkeeper Dean Henderson to carve out a successful career at Old Trafford.

The 22-year-old played a starring role in Sheffield United's promotion to the Premier League last season and has featured in all 12 top-flight games for the Blades so far this campaign, conceding just nine goals.

He will miss Sunday's clash with United at Bramall Lane as he is not eligible to play against his parent club.

Henderson is yet to play a first-team game for the Red Devils but Solskjaer has no doubt he will enjoy a fruitful career with the 20-time English champions.

"Sheffield United and Chris Wilder have had a big impact on him because he's learning, he's growing as a human being and as a player," he told United's official website.

"He'll come back one day and will have a good career at United."

Solskjaer says he has been impressed with how comfortably Wilder's side have taken to life in the Premier League and reserved special praise for former United youth player Oliver Norwood, who has been an ever-present for the Blades this season.

"It's a fantastic achievement what they've done," he added.

"Chris is a fantastic manager. He's a little bit different than some of us and we had him here for a behind-closed-doors game in August or September, where he played the ones who hadn't played. I'm so happy for him to do well. 

"To see Ollie Norwood - I had him in the reserves - captaining a Premier League club is great. It's testament to us as a club as well that if you don't make it at Man United you can still have a great career and Oliver has done fantastic."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played down a January transfer spending spree at Old Trafford.

United have been heavily linked to Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Leicester City playmaker James Maddison and Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland.

Mario Mandzukic has also emerged as an option up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

But Solskjaer is not anticipating a big window in January, aside from a couple of possible loan deals.

"It is not about 'x' amount of money [we have to spend], it is about who do we think will be good for the club in the long-term, not just three or four months," Solskjaer said.

When asked if Solskjaer's targets could be available in January, the Norwegian replied: "Probably not because that is the thing - it is in January.

"Not many clubs want to sell players that they would otherwise want to keep in January. Maybe one or two could be a loan deal but that is not a big money thing, it is just to help the team.

"But we are getting players back and we are looking at what can be available for us."

Solskjaer was speaking ahead of United's Premier League trip to Sheffield United on Sunday.

With Paul Pogba sidelined and fitness concerns over Scott McTominay, Solskjaer challenged midfielder Fred to fill the void following his encouraging performances for United.

"First of all, the price tag, that is none of Fred's concern, and it shouldn't be because that is just how football has gone," Solskjaer said of the Brazilian, who arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk for a deal in the region of £52million in 2018. "The prices nowadays, you think, 'Hmm' but the market today is different to what it was. That shouldn't be on Fred, that should be on us.

"Fred came in, he did well to start with. Then he hit a difficult period. Then when I came in, he found it hard, then he had a very good period. And now he is having a very good period again. He is showing what we saw in him."

Romelu Lukaku has pinpointed his positional change under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the moment he knew his Manchester United career was over.

The imposing centre-forward, a big-money acquisition from Everton in 2017, was shunted out to the wing in the final months of his lean second season at Old Trafford.

Concerns over his form and fitness prompted Solskjaer to deploy Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial through the middle, a move that ultimately convinced Lukaku to depart for Inter in August.

"It was after the game against West Ham at home [on April 13] - Solskjaer decided to put me on the right wing, very wide," Lukaku told Corriere dello Sport.

"The experience in Manchester made me mentally stronger because not everything went as I had expected. I didn't win what I was hoping for, my performance was not entirely positive and I didn't even feel 100 per cent wanted. Not so much from the technical staff or from my team-mates, but from the people around.

"So after the match against Chelsea, on April 28, the coach called me for a meeting and I told him what I thought, or that I wanted to leave.

"He saw on my face that I didn't want to stay any longer and he replied that he didn't want to hold anyone against [their will]. He understood my point of view and assured me that he would do everything possible to satisfy me. He earned my respect and, until I left Manchester, there was no problem with him."

Lukaku holds former United team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic in even higher esteem.

The pair briefly competed for a starting spot under Jose Mourinho and could again come face-to-face if free agent Ibrahimovic completes a return to Italy, as has been speculated.

Lukaku said: "Zlatan is a warrior. We really resemble each other because we have faced difficult circumstances in our lives since we were children and when we talk we understand each other. He is one of the three smartest players I've met off the field.

"Not everyone knows it, but he helped me a lot when I arrived at United. He sat at the back of the team bus with me, we talked a lot and he gave me advice. If he hadn't been injured, playing with him would have been perfect.

"Even now he is very strong, he has the quality of a champion and above all he has what we call a 'dog mentality', the mentality of one who never gives up. I believe he will return to Serie A."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no issue over Paul Pogba playing basketball with NBA star Jimmy Butler – despite the fact Manchester United's club record signing remains sidelined through injury.

Pogba last featured for United when he completed 90 minutes in the 1-1 Premier League draw against Arsenal at the end of September.

Solskjaer had hoped to have the France midfielder back in contention after the November international break, despite his ankle injury requiring him to wear a cast that was recently removed.

He remains optimistic United fans will see Pogba back in action before the end of the year, but the 26-year-old caused some consternation by posting footage on Instagram this week that showed him on court with the Miami Heat's four-time All-Star Butler.

"Didn't I say last press conference, we don't play basketball; we play football," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to Sheffield United, where he will also be without Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, leaving his midfield stocks particularly depleted.

"I don't see many basketball players tackling ankles and twisting and turning with studs. He's not ready to train.

"He had another test and a scan at the start of the international break. He's not healed yet but he is stepping up his recovery.

"He's out of a cast, he was in a cast for about six or seven weeks. You do lose loads of muscle.

"He's just gradually now just stepping up walking on the treadmill, biking with a free ankle. It'll still be a few weeks, yeah. We hope to see him in 2019."

A group of United players including Pogba's fellow injury absentees Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe undertook a more conventional trip during the international break, enjoying some warm-weather training in Dubai.

Solskjaer denied reports the players had decided to do this off their own backs, joking about how United had footed the bill for their Middle Eastern jaunt.

"We had to pay for it, the club had to pay for it. I decided that they should go. If only [it was their idea], they would have had to pay for it themselves," he added.

"I felt it was time for them to go there, get some sun on their backs, bring a couple of the coaches, do some training there, bring their partners and kids. Nothing formal.

"In Manchester it's been quite rainy and floody, so I thought it was good for them to go there."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no issue over Paul Pogba playing basketball with NBA star Jimmy Butler – despite the fact Manchester United's club record signing remains sidelined through injury.

Pogba last featured for United when he completed 90 minutes in the 1-1 Premier League draw against Arsenal at the end of September.

Solskjaer had hoped to have the France midfielder back in contention after the November international break, despite his ankle injury requiring him to wear a cast that was recently removed.

He remains optimistic United fans will see Pogba back in action before the end of the year, but the 26-year-old caused some consternation by posting footage on Instagram this week that showed him on court with the Miami Heat's four-time All-Star Butler.

"Didn't I say last press conference, we don't play basketball; we play football," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to Sheffield United, where he will also be without Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, leaving his midfield stocks particularly depleted.

"I don't see many basketball players tackling ankles and twisting and turning with studs. He's not ready to train.

"He had another test and a scan at the start of the international break. He's not healed yet but he is stepping up his recovery.

"He's out of a cast, he was in a cast for about six or seven weeks. You do lose loads of muscle.

"He's just gradually now just stepping up walking on the treadmill, biking with a free ankle. It'll still be a few weeks, yeah. We hope to see him in 2019."

A group of United players including Pogba's fellow injury absentees Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe undertook a more conventional trip during the international break, enjoying some warm-weather training in Dubai.

Solskjaer denied reports the players had decided to do this off their own backs, joking about how United had footed the bill for their Middle Eastern jaunt.

"We had to pay for it, the club had to pay for it. I decided that they should go. If only [it was their idea], they would have had to pay for it themselves," he added.

"I felt it was time for them to go there, get some sun on their backs, bring a couple of the coaches, do some training there, bring their partners and kids. Nothing formal.

"In Manchester it's been quite rainy and floody, so I thought it was good for them to go there."

Scott McTominay has compounded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's midfield injury woes as Manchester United prepare to travel to Sheffield United.

Scotland international McTominay has become a consistent and influential performer for Solskjaer this season, but his manager told a pre-match news conference he will be out for around two more weeks with an ankle problem sustained during the closing stages of the 3-1 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

The 22-year-old, who scored in that victory, joins Paul Pogba, the victim of a more serious ankle injury, on the sidelines. Nemanja Matic has only recently stepped up his return to training alongside defensive duo Axel Tuanzebe (hip) and Luke Shaw (hamstring).

Nevertheless, Solskjaer also has a fresh concern in that department, as Marcos Rojo rehabilitates from a muscular issue on a similar timeframe to McTominay.

"Scotty hurt his ankle so he'll be out for a couple of weeks I reckon," the Red Devils boss said.

"He won't be ready for this week. We've lost Rojo, he's injured. Paul's still injured. But we’ve got Axel, Luke and Nemanja back in training.

"We're getting numbers back. Maybe not match fit – Axel and Luke have been out for a long time, Nemanja's been out but numbers-wise in training we're looking stronger.

"Rojo got a muscle injury in training that he's been struggling with. He's been trying to get back but he's not ready yet.

"He had to pull out of the internationals [with Argentina]. He was playing on with some discomfort towards the end of that run [before the international break]. Maybe a couple of weeks."

Solskjaer praised McTominay's emergence this term, grabbing his opportunity as other more illustrious names have underwhelmed.

"Scotty has performed really well this season. Finally he's nailed a position down for himself," he said.

"He's played regularly, he's been a running midfielder before, he's played centre-back, he's played everywhere. He was a striker when he was a kid.

"But now he's learning the game and his improvement has been great to see. We're going to miss him – Sheffield United, set plays, balls in the box. Of course, Scotty is going to be a little bit of a miss."

Sheffield United are fifth in the table, eight points shy of Manchester City in fourth and one ahead of seventh-placed Manchester United.

Indeed, four points cover all teams from the Blades down to West Ham in 16th.

"We've still got to keep looking up the table. It's so close, but a big gap up to the top four," Solskjaer added.

"We've got City next month. We've got a chance to claw some points back. We know we're getting players back and improving as a team, so hopefully, yeah, we can challenge when it comes towards the end.

"I've seen Marcus [Rashford] talk about it this week, it's not just about getting into the top four, but that's a little bit of a goal for us, of course."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not concerned by Mauricio Pochettino's new-found employment status - and conceded any manager would want his Manchester United job.

Pochettino has been a rumoured target for United for some time and is now available after being sacked by Tottenham on Tuesday.

With the Red Devils sitting seventh in the Premier League table, nine points adrift of a Champions League spot, Solskjaer could be forgiven for looking nervously over his shoulder, but the Norwegian cut a relaxed figure at his media conference on Friday.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to Sheffield United, he said: "It's always sad when one of your colleagues - a good man - loses his job just before Christmas. It's never nice to see. I just wish him all the best.

"In football you can never be surprised or you can't be shocked at anything. For me, I've just got to focus on us.

"It doesn’t bother me at all. I've got the best job in the world. I'm sure that if you're in a job or if you're out of a job and you're a manager, you want this job."

Solskjaer says he has open communication with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and is confident he will be granted the time and resources to improve United's fortunes.

He added: "It doesn't really matter [that Pochettino is out of work]. I've got to focus on my job at Man United, do it as well as we can.

"I speak with Ed, I speak with the owners all the time about how we're going to move the club forward. That doesn’t change if some other clubs change their managers."

Pochettino was replaced by former United boss Jose Mourinho, and Solskjaer was pleased to have such an engaging, and controversial, figure back in English football.

"It's good to have Jose back, definitely - especially for you guys [the media]," he said.

"Maybe for me because you can talk and write about everything else."

Mourinho's arrival in north London prompted suggestions on social media that the Portuguese will immediately target United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January - a player he has worked with previously at Old Trafford and Chelsea.

Matic even liked one post and replied with laughing and clapping emojis, but Solskjaer, who has previously encouraged his players to be "boring" on Twitter and Instagram, appeared unconcerned.

He said: "No, that's not a part of being boring.

"You like Jose coming back. It's going to be a spectacle and a circus. Nemanja has got a sense of humour."

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford insists there is no better manager for the club than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite suggestions they could be interested in Mauricio Pochettino.

Tottenham sacked Pochettino this week and replaced him with former United boss Jose Mourinho, with Spurs having won only four of their past 18 matches in all competitions.

There has been talk that United could consider turning to Pochettino to take over from Solskjaer, whose side have only managed two more points than Spurs from their opening 12 Premier League games of the season.

However, Rashford - who signed a new four-year contract in July – said Solskjaer's plans were part of the reason why he committed his future to the club.

"There was no hesitation from me over signing a new contract," he told Sky Sports News.

"And it was the same for Ole as well – I could see where his head was at, where he wanted the club to be at and for me it was just a no-brainer.

"We were on the same page and wanted the same things for the club. Ole is a great guy and he has the club's interests at heart so there's not a better person for the job in my opinion."

While he supports Solskjaer, Rashford admits he will not be happy if United end the season in the Premier League's top four but without winning a trophy.

The Red Devils have not won meaningful silverware since claiming the EFL Cup and Europa League in Mourinho's first term in charge in 2016-17.

With the Premier League title seemingly out of their reach already this season – leaders Liverpool are already 18 points ahead of United after 12 matches – Solskjaer's routes to success lie in the cup competitions.

There is pressure on United to return to the Champions League after failing to qualify last season, but Rashford does not think 2019-20 can be considered a success unless they also win at least one of the EFL Cup, FA Cup or Europa League.

"It's been a while," the England international added about United's barren run of titles. "If we come out of this season with top four but without a trophy, I wouldn't be happy.

"If we manage to get some trophies and get ourselves into the top four then, of course, it has been a successful season.

"For me, it is just about putting markers down for what we can do in the future because we know that this period is not going to change overnight, Ole's not going to get what he wants overnight.

"We have to bide our time and just be patient, as long as we keep working hard and believe in what we are doing – which I think the team do 100 per cent – then I think we will be fine."

Romelu Lukaku claimed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to keep him at Manchester United, contradicting the Red Devils manager's claim he was happy to let the Belgian international join Inter in August.

Solskjaer told Sky Sports that starting the season a striker short due to Lukaku's departure was "the decision that I made and I made it happily", but Lukaku said there was a time when the move did not have the United boss' approval.

Inter paid United £74million on the final day of the Premier League transfer window in August, ending months of speculation over the striker's future.

But in an interview with Het Belang van Limburg, Lukaku said his departure was decided as early as March.

"Solskjaer has my eternal respect," said Lukaku.

"He understood me when I said in March that it was time for me to leave.

"I had been in the Premier League as an 18-year-old boy and now I am 26. Solskjaer wanted to keep me, but I was ready for something new."

I called game pic.twitter.com/cvxaifdV3w

— R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 (@RomeluLukaku9) November 2, 2019

Lukaku has scored nine goals in 12 Serie A appearances for Inter, but was subjected to racist abuse by Cagliari fans in September.

He said he knew what to expect when he arrived in Italy, and insisted he is enjoying his time in Milan.

"I knew it would happen," said Lukaku.

"I was prepared because I had spoken to other footballers about it.

"But I'm having a good time in Italy. The people on the street are very good to me and it's on that, that I want to focus."

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