Monday 19 August 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer concedes that Manchester United have a 'big mountain to climb' to make Champions League

Manchester United's Ashley Young looks dejected with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his side's draw with Chelsea. Picture credit: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Manchester United's Ashley Young looks dejected with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his side's draw with Chelsea. Picture credit: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

David Charlesworth

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side has a "mountain to climb" if they are to make the top four.

A win at Old Trafford today would have brought the Red Devils level on points with Chelsea in fourth but the one all draw means they remain three points back in sixth. An inferior goal difference of eight makes their chances of Champions League qualification remote with just two games left.     

Solskjaer said: "I don't think you can give up until it's theoretically over, but of course it's a big mountain to climb.

"Two games, we need to focus on those two and do our best for ourselves as well, win games again and see what the other games will throw up because the end of this season has thrown up a few marginal decisions, strange results - anything can happen.

"Of course we still want to finish the season on a high and let's see where that takes us now. Let's see how many points we can get and I can answer that when and if."

Solskjaer remained steadfast in his support of David De Gea despite another high-profile mistake from the faltering goalkeeper.

The Spaniard was culpable for Chelsea's leveller in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, parrying a long-range Antonio Rudiger shot which let Marcos Alonso steal in and score, cancelling out Juan Mata's opener on his 31st birthday.

De Gea made a fine save from Gonzalo Higuain in the dying seconds but the major talking point was his latest blunder, following on from mistakes against Manchester City in midweek and Barcelona earlier this month.

Solskajer said: "He's been in the spotlight for the right reasons for so long, now he's going through a period where he probably feels he could have done better.

"I don't have any worries about him because he's a strong character.

"Of course I'll sit down and speak to David as I've done when he's played well. But he's not the reason why we're in the sixth position at the moment.

"You cannot say there is any complacency, David is not the type to sit down and be complacent. He is a competitor and he wants to be the best.

"David knows he could have done better with the goal, there's no reason to hide that, but there's no chance any of us will point fingers because he's saved us so many times."

England striker Marcus Rashford was withdrawn midway through the second half because of a shoulder injury while Solskjaer confirmed Eric Bailly's season was over after he awkwardly twisted his knee shortly afterwards.

The Frenchman was seen leaving Old Trafford on crutches with his right knee in a heavy brace.

Solskjaer added: "Eric, it's a bad knee injury, hopefully it's not the worst case. But I'm sure we won't see him any more this season unfortunately.

"Rashy we strapped him before the game, you could see clearly that his shoulder got worse and worse and he couldn't run freely any more."

United lie three points behind the fourth-placed Blues with two games remaining - although both teams and Arsenal have endured indifferent form of late.

"Of course if you look at the league table it's going to be difficult. We've got to make sure we turn up, win the next two games, play well and you never know," the United boss continued.

"Points are being dropped left, right and centre in this race."

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has his own injury worries, with Rudiger being helped off the field after injuring his knee.

The problem will almost certainly rule him out of the first leg of the Europa League semi-final at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

The Italian believes United were fortunate to finish the match with their full complement, with Marcos Rojo booked for a studs up challenge on Willian, who was substituted shortly after the tackle.

Sarri said: "The card was an orange card - between the yellow and the red card. We have to accept everything from the referee, of course.

"It's not easy for the referee but in my opinion the yellow card was not enough."

On the point earned, which keeps them in pole position to qualify for next season's Champions League, Sarri said: "The draw is not so much important for us because with the 1-1 here, we have to win the last two matches, otherwise we are at risk with the goal difference."

Asked whether Eden Hazard, who enters the final year of his contract next season, will remain at Stamford Bridge, Sarri was non-committal.

He added: "I don't know - you have to ask the club. In this moment for me it's not really important. Eden is playing very well, he fights on the pitch and so I am very happy with him."

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