Saturday 17 August 2019

United must do ‘clever business’ to compete with European elite – Solskjaer

The Old Trafford club were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona on Tuesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows he has a big summer ahead (Nick Potts/PA)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows he has a big summer ahead (Nick Potts/PA)

By David Charlesworth, Press Association Sport, Barcelona

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United must conduct “clever business” in the summer following their humbling exit in the Champions League.

Solskjaer admitted in the immediate aftermath of their 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, which sealed a 4-0 quarter-final win on aggregate for the Catalan giants, that he faces a major rebuilding job to re-establish United among the European elite.

In a previous era United were able to attract the world’s best talents but, despite their track record of spending big in recent years, that may no longer be the case.

They have a battle on their hands to finish in the Premier League’s top four but Solskjaer is already envisioning a scenario in the future where United are on an equal footing with their conquerors on Tuesday night.

“Yeah, that is the level we have to aspire to because that’s the level we have been,” Solskjaer told MUTV.

“We want to get there and we have to get there by hard work and attitude every single day, and of course some clever business we have to do and just keep on going.”

United made an enterprising start at the Nou Camp, with Marcus Rashford clipping the crossbar moments after kick-off, but were undone by Lionel Messi’s first-half double and Philippe Coutinho’s wonder strike after half-time.

Solskjaer and his troops have no time to dwell on the defeat with three pivotal clashes in the space of eight days coming up, starting with a trip to Everton on Sunday.

The Manchester derby at Old Trafford is then followed by Chelsea’s visit in a run of fixtures that could go a long way towards defining United’s campaign.

Solskjaer is seeking to finish the season with a flourish but added of the Barca setback: “We gambled and you can say that we gambled and lost but we had to go for the first goal.

“We had to be brave, we created two or three chances but unfortunately we just didn’t have that quality to finish them off.

“If we had got the first goal then it might have been different but when they score two goals in four minutes it’s just game over.

“To be fair to the boys, their attitude was good, they kept going.

“You have to lift them (the players). It’s a big week and we have to get ready for that week because (they are) three big games.

“We have five days until Everton, so we have got plenty of time to get ready and we will be ready.”

Alexis Sanchez made a late cameo at the Nou Camp following six weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.

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Alexis Sanchez returned from injury to face his former club (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Chilean spent three seasons between 2011 and 2014 with Barcelona, where he won a number of honours including LaLiga and the FIFA Club World Cup, and was given a warm reception on his introduction.

He said: “When I came on to the pitch I heard the applause and the truth is I am very happy about this.

“It was a nice moment for me. With the other players we won good things here and I am very happy to return from my injury.”

Assessing the defeat against his former club, Sanchez added: “They played very well. We had very clear chances but this is football, this is the Champions League.

“If you get something wrong or fail then the other team gets on top of you. That’s what Barcelona do.”

PA Media

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