Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims dig at managerial rivals amid Manchester United trophy drought
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has downplayed the possibility of a fourth successive season without a trophy at Manchester United as long as they show progress in the Premier League.
United have straight knockout ties in the Europa League and the FA Cup this week away at AC Milan and Leicester in what is a potentially season-defining week as the competitions represent United’s only realistic chances of silverware.
Manchester City are 14 points clear of second-placed United in the Premier League but the United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said earlier this month the team has shown ‘clear progress’ under Solskjaer this season.
United have 12 more points from 29 games than they did after the same number of league fixtures last term and have also scored 12 more goals.
The Europa League is the last competition United won in 2017, when Jose Mourinho also led the club to Carabao Cup victory. United finished sixth in the league but qualified for the Champions League through their Europa League success.
Solskjaer, who has suffered four semi-final defeats as United manager, believes lifting the Europa League trophy or the FA Cup would not necessarily signal United’s return to glory and suggested trophy-chasing was ‘an ego thing’ for some managers.
“When you see the culture of what’s happening every day, I feel a lot of improvement in the every day routine, every day work,” Solskjaer said. “The boys have taken on board what we want and it’s for others to assess how much of an improvement.
“We’re 12 points ahead of what we were at the same time in the league last season. Of course, we’re all aiming to win trophies at this club. But, as we’ve said, sometimes a trophy can hide the other fact of what’s happening at the club. It’s in the league position you see if you’re progressing, really.
“And sometimes in the cup tournaments you might be lucky, you might be unlucky, draws, different games decided by different factors. But we’re aiming to win, that’s why you play football, you always aim to win trophies.
“I’ve been here for two-and-a-half of those [trophy drought] years now and coming in, as I said so many times, I felt a big rebuild had to be made and it’s in the league position if you see any progress, for me. That’s always the bread and butter of the season, you see how capable you are of coping with ups and downs.
“Any cup competition can give you a trophy but sometimes it’s more of an ego thing for managers and clubs – ‘we’ve finally won something’. We need to see progress and if we perform well enough and progress well enough the trophies will end up at the club again.
“But it’s not like a trophy will say that we’re back, no. It’s the gradual progression, and the consistency of being top of the league, in and around there, and the odd trophies. Sometimes the cup competition can hide the fact you’re still struggling a little bit.”