Under-fire Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists the job is not too big for him ahead of face table-topping rivals Liverpool on the back of the club’s worst start in 30 years.
The 20-time league champions enter the weekend two points off the relegation zone and 15 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s visitors, who are going for a record-equalling 18th successive top-flight win.
The rivals could hardly be in more contrasting states, with Solskjaer’s side desperate to kick-start their ailing season, but the United manager is sure he will turn things around.
“No, I’ve never felt it’s too big for me,” he said.
“I’m confident in what we’re trying to do and I’m confident in my staff – the coaching and what’s happening here every single day, I’ve been so impressed.”
Solskjaer accepts United have not been adventurous enough at a club where “you do take risks” – something Ed Woodward clearly does not believe he is doing in sticking with the Norwegian.
The executive vice-chairman reiterated his support of the Norwegian at a recent staff meeting and will not sack him regardless of the outcome against Liverpool.
“I speak to Ed loads of times and we speak regularly,” Solskjaer said.
“As we’ve spoken about so many times, we do have a plan and we know that we’ve made some decisions that maybe in the short-term would harm us, but we know in the long-term will benefit us. And that’s part of the plan.
“But results are always are always the main thing and we can move forward quicker if we get results and performances.
“But I’m sure we will get there. It’s just still planning for the next transfer window, summer transfer window and how we see the team moving forward.”
Letting the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez go for the benefit of the squad has certainly left them light in attack, with injuries compounding matters ahead of his players’ chance to “get in the history books” against Liverpool.
Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could return on Sunday, but Paul Pogba is out and David De Gea is expected to join him on the sidelines. Question marks also hang over the likes of Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot and Mason Greenwood.
“Of course, I would like to tell you positive news, hopefully… we’ll see on Sunday who’s come through the last two sessions,” Solskjaer said.
“Because there’s players here who have just started training, just on the verge of coming back or not so I can’t really say.”
Asked what the scan on De Gea came back with, he said: “Well, I don’t expect him to play.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 18, 2019
“But it wasn’t as bad as feared. When I saw the game, I thought that’s him out until next international break because we’ve had some long-term muscle injuries but it’s not as bad as feared.”
As for Pogba, he has been doing warm-weather training in Dubai as he bids to return from a nagging ankle injury – although the trip has increased speculation about his future.
Talk has been rife about the France international since admitting his openness to leaving in the summer, while the publication of a photo of him with Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane in Dubai has set tongues wagging.
“I’ve not heard Paul say he doesn’t want to be here,” Solskjaer said. “Paul wants to stay here and play well.”
Put to him he has said he wanted a new challenge, he added: “Paul is part of our plan going forward and Paul knows that.
“I’ve spoken to him so many times. He’s been playing through the pain barrier and he’s been criticised left, right and centre but when he came back for Rochdale and Arsenal he could easily have opted to not try to play them, but he wanted to play, he wanted to try to get back.
“It was too painful so he had that scan but he’s on the way back, he’s mending, he’s recovering.
“He’s been on a few days off working but he’s away from here and then there’s a picture.
“When you’re at Man United, you do get pictures, speculation, I don’t have any problem with that at all.”