Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done a fantastic job at Manchester United. From Watford’s biggest rival for tenth place to favourites for fourth spot is a stunning transformation and one most United fans are truly in awe of. However, with huge games against Chelsea and Liverpool this week and injuries threatening to hamper United’s run of good form, should Solskjaer be focusing his efforts more on the league?
First up, it’s Chelsea and the chance to make it through to the FA Cup quarter finals. Twenty years ago that would have been an exciting proposition but that was before the fourth place cup being more valuable and winning the FA Cup became about as interesting as listening to Michael Owen’s autobiography on slow play. It’s the bigger picture that makes this game so important though. Both sides are vying for that coveted fourth spot and momentum is key at this time of the year.
Both clubs are in a similar situation. Neither are anywhere near being title contenders and both sets of supporters are under no illusions that to get back where they want to be is going to take time and major investment. Both clubs also have new managers. Maurizio Sarri, like Solskjaer, started off fantastically well and there was even talk of a title charge before reality exposed their need to reinvest in a squad that’s desperately lacking leadership and personality.
So will it go that way for Solskjaer? A good start like Sarri before reality hits home because the squad isn’t good enough? Hopefully not. Because the two things United have under Solskjaer that Sarri is struggling to implement is determination and unity. Yes United’s squad beyond our best eleven has more dead wood in it than a half a ton of sawdust but they all seem up for the fight and that could be the difference over the coming weeks and months?
Whether it’s enough at Stamford Bridge we’ll see. United’s record their in recent times has been a bit like a fighting a shark with a toothpick – ineffective and more often than not you leave empty handed.
If United were to lose at Chelsea then that would be two in a row with the huge tie of Liverpool on the horizon. Some United fans are already saying of the Liverpool game “There’s no pressure on Ole. If we win great, but he’s worked miracles already”. Very encouraging to hear that fans don’t want to put pressure on manager, but in reality total nonsense. It doesn’t matter where United are in the league or how big the injury list is, Liverpool at home is a game you don’t lose. And the way Solskjaer has conducted himself in his short time as United boss I’d be stunned if he isn’t saying the same thing.
Beating Chelsea in the cup would be nice because it keeps the momentum going but beating Liverpool will keep us with a firm grip on that precious fourth spot, and blow a big hole in Liverpool’s title hopes. To be blunt it’s like this. I’d take a seven nil defeat at Chelsea if it meant we fluke a last minute one nil win over at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Emmerdale Cup, the bottom line is every side has their priorities at this time of year. Yes it’s nice to think you can win every tournament you’re in but injuries, suspensions, fatigue shows you that unless you have a squad like Man City, it’s almost impossible. For United the priority has to be the league. If Chelsea knock us out of the cup the battle will be theirs. But if in May they’re holding up the FA Cup and we’re holding up the fourth place cup then as sad as it sounds, we’ve won the war.