Reds boss says derby match is 'best game you can ask for' after Champions League exit
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer underlined the importance of not "pressing the panic button" as Manchester United look to bounce back from their chastening Champions League exit against bitter rivals Manchester City.
Europa League football awaits in the new year after the Red Devils stumbled in Germany, where Tuesday's agonising 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig sealed their fate as a stunning start to Group H counted for nothing.
It was a gut punch that the Solskjaer's side need to pick themselves up from on Saturday evening as rivals Manchester City head across town to Old Trafford in the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola's men are in the unusual position of starting the game behind a United side that can welcome back Anthony Martial and may be able to call upon Edinson Cavani.
"Of course the group was disappointed on Tuesday night," manager Solskjaer said on the eve of the derby. "It's just natural.
"We really wanted to go through in that tournament. Now the reality is we're not, then we've just got to move on.
"It was a tight group decided by fine margins. I think you can see that in most of the games.
"We had a long travel back, so we had a day of recovery on Wednesday.
"Then after that the focus has been good. The focus has just been on this game and the Manchester derby, which is what you want the players to get onto straightaway.
"That's probably the best game that you can ask for after such a disappointment because it does stick in your system.
"Anthony will definitely be involved so he's cleared. Edinson has been on the grass but I'll make a decision later on."
The pair's return would be a shot in the arm for Solskjaer as United look to avoid another disappointing day and intensified scrutiny about a manager that retains the support of the Old Trafford hierarchy.
"It's important not to press the panic button every time because you know in football you can't win every single game," Solskjaer said of dealing with setbacks.
"But there are games that you lose that will stick and hurt more than others, that will have more consequences than others.
"Now we're facing the reality without Champions League (for the) rest of the season so we need to make sure we move on, get back into the Champions League and how we do that is just by improving from last season."
Sixth-placed United start the weekend just five points behind leaders Tottenham with a game in hand, but it is clear that improvements are needed if they are to kick on.
United have managed just one win in five Premier League home matches so far this season and defensive shakiness continues to hamper them, even if they have managed to bounce back to win every away game.
Solskjaer knows "there's loads of things we can do better" defensively and stood up for David De Gea after former United midfielder Paul Scholes labelled his attempt at saving Leipzig's third goal as "criminal".
"I think David's a top goalkeeper," Solskjaer said of the Spain international, who was named on the 55-man shortlist for the 2020 FIFA FIFPRO World 11 team on Thursday. "Of course I do and rightly so he's on lists of being the best goalkeeper in Europe.
"For me, he's handled criticism before, he's handled setbacks before and he's a boy, or a man, that we really rely on.
"Hopefully he's not affected by criticism and I don't think he will be because every goal that a goalkeeper concedes you'd be disappointed with."
Dean Henderson played instead of the injured De Gea in United's last Premier League match at West Ham, where Paul Pogba kicked off an impressive 3-1 comeback win last Saturday.
But the 27-year-old came off the bench in Leipzig after a build-up dominated the by Mino Raiola's comments about his client, leading Solskjaer to say he hopes the agent realises football is about teams rather than individuals.
Asked again about the midfielder, the United boss said: "I speak to my players on a daily basis and Paul's no different to anyone else.
"For me what was disappointing this week was us going out in the Champions League.
"Players want to go through in that and whatever anyone's representatives say can't really affect me. I've said what I wanted to say about that."
Manchester United are in a 'miraculous' position in the Premier League after their lacklustre start to the season, according to their former captain Gary Neville.
Meanwhile, United are in a 'miraculous' position in the Premier League after their lacklustre start to the season, according to their former captain Gary Neville.
"Man Utd miraculously find themselves in the position they are despite performances that were well below par," Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast.
"My concern over the long term is you need consistency of performances that knit together in a form of identity building and I can't quite see what they are yet.
"They can't play without Bruno Fernandes - I don't know what it is. He is a very, very good player, but you would think that (Donny) Van de Beek, (Paul) Pogba and (Scott) McTominay in midfield, with (Mason) Greenwood, (Edinson) Cavani and (Anthony) Martial would be able to do so much better than that.
"I think the Man Utd players will be sitting there thinking if we could start playing like we could, then even we may have a chance daftly enough as that sounds.
"I do not think they will win the league, but that is what this season is doing to us because the top two have set a bar that I've never seen before, none of us have ever seen before in the last couple of seasons, and now we are seeing something that is more normal."
While United do not look likely to get in the mix for the title, Neville suggests Liverpool's dominance of the teams trying to knock them off their perch as champions has been leaked this season after injuries to key defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
"I've said before that I think Liverpool win this league at a canter if Virgil van Dijk was fit, no one can get near them," he added. "I still think they win this league, but there are just some little things that are going against them that have not gone against them in the last couple of years.
"The same with Manchester City and that makes it interesting and there are just a couple of teams, Chelsea at the moment, Tottenham that are just looking at them and thinking: 'They are not right and we are OK here, we are just starting to hit form and spirit and we are getting closer to them'."