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Sunday 18 August 2019

Solskjaer fearful of being overtaken by lesser lights

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA

Mike Whalley

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned that Manchester United risk falling behind Watford, Everton and Leicester City next season unless his players begin to realise their potential.

Solskjaer has effectively written off United's chances of winning the Premier League in 2020, arguing that the gap to the top of the table is too great to bridge in 12 months. The United manager has acknowledged that he has a significant job to revitalise the fortunes of a club who have not won the Premier League for six years.

To reshape his squad, he will attempt to move out some of his under-performing senior players this summer, yet even if he succeeds, he does not expect United to be challenging City and Liverpool in the next year.

"It is not realistic," he said. "Of course I'm an optimist but I don't think that's realistic, because the two teams now at the top of the table, they are far ahead of the chasing pack.

"We have to make sure that we are getting closer and moving that way up the table and not looking over the shoulders because there are big clubs, good clubs wanting to chase that top six. You've got Leicester, Everton, Watford, probably Newcastle, you've got clubs that want to chase us. We have to make sure that we are ones who chase those ahead of us."

Captain Antonio Valencia will definitely move on, while Ander Herrera and Juan Mata are both out of contract. United are ready to sell underperforming forward Alexis Sanchez, although offloading a player with a £26million-per-year contract running until 2022 will be problematic, while there has been significant uncertainty about the futures of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

Solskjaer does not expect to make a significant number of signings this summer, though. "We've got to get it right on the pitch with the ones we have; it's not just about signing players," he said. "It's about making sure that the ones here get the maximum out of their potential, because we do have so many good players here."

United have gathered just seven points from their past seven matches, severely damaging their chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League. To finish in the top four, Solskjaer's side need to win their final two matches, away to Huddersfield today and at home to Cardiff next Sunday, and hope that Chelsea and Arsenal slip up.

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