Friday 18 October 2019

Solskjaer sees work to do for ‘sloppy’ Manchester United

Norwegian celebrated his first game as permanent Red Devils boss with a victory.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer salutes the Old Trafford crowd after the win over Watford (Martin Rickett/PA)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer salutes the Old Trafford crowd after the win over Watford (Martin Rickett/PA)

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges that Manchester United were “sloppy” at times as he began his permanent reign with a 2-1 win over Watford.

The 1999 treble hero’s impressive caretaker reign led to his inevitable appointment as Jose Mourinho’s full-time successor on Thursday.

Solskjaer was given a warm welcome as United lined up at Old Trafford two days later, but his side could only stutter over the line against Javi Gracia’s high-flying Watford.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial struck for the hosts on Saturday, when Watford had far more shots and deserved more than Abdoulaye Doucoure’s late consolation.

Put to Solskjaer that it was a good result but perhaps a less impressive performance, the newly-appointed manager said: “Well summarised.

“(In the) first 20 minutes we started so slow and sloppy and you could see we’ve had players out with injury and the international break.

“We’ve not been able to train them that much, so it’s one of those first games after an international break that you look forward to but know there might be a potential banana skin, because Watford are a good side.

“They didn’t have that many players away and I think they deserved to take the lead.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got United back to winning ways after consecutive defeats (Martin Rickett/PA)

“But after we scored, for the rest of the first half we played some great counter-attacking stuff (and) defended well.

“We had to because they were dominant but Chris (Smalling) and Jonah (Phil Jones) especially were fantastic, (they) kept us in it.

“In the second half we started sloppier but at 2-0 we were in control until they scored and then anything can happen, but three points is all you can get.”

Watford impressed a week out from their FA Cup semi-final, with Solskjaer saying they are the best side outside the top six along with Wolves, who they face at Wembley next weekend.

United head back to Molineux on Tuesday looking to keep up their top-four tilt and exact revenge for their FA Cup quarter-final loss before the international break.

Goalscorer Martial is a doubt for that match after limping off on Saturday afternoon with an issue that needs assessing.

“Hopefully he can be available for Tuesday,” Solskjaer said.

“He got a bad knock. We’ll check him on Monday morning, probably.”

The United manager defended anonymous Paul Pogba after the match and praised man-of-the-match Luke Shaw, who won possession before producing an excellent pass for Rashford’s opener.

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“Luke has got so much in his locker and I can’t wait to see it blossom,” Solskjaer said.

“He’s exceptional going forward and his sharpness defending well. He was top, top class today until he got cramp. That just shows because he struggled during the international break.”

Watford counterpart Javi Gracia was naturally disappointed after his side dominated for large parts of the game only to leave Old Trafford empty-handed.

“It is difficult to explain because I think we had a good performance,” he said.

“It’s true it wasn’t enough to get points but I am happy with the performance. We need to finish better, we need to improve in the last metres but we created chances, we had more shots, more shots on target, more corner kicks.

“We dominated, we played a lot of the time in the opposite half.

“But the first goal was on a counter-attack, the second goal was in a moment where we felt we were playing well.

“But when you don’t kill, you don’t score, playing these teams with high quality then you can lose any moment.

“We tried until the end because the team believed until the end but it wasn’t enough.”

PA Media

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