Ander Herrera is not thinking about the top four despite Manchester United racking up a fourth straight win and finally picking up a clean sheet.
The decision to sack Jose Mourinho continues to pay dividends for the Old Trafford giants, with caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer matching Sir Matt Busby’s record of winning his first four league matches at the helm.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku and the sparkling Marcus Rashford did the damage in a 2-0 win at embattled Newcastle, cutting the gap to the Champions League spots down to six points.
United were an eye-watering 11 points off the pace when Mourinho was fired, but Herrera is not allowing his mind to wander from the here and now.
“When I saw we were maybe 12 points behind, I decided not to think about it, go game-by-game and that’s what we did,” the Spaniard told Press Association.
“That’s what I did at least, and things are going well, so I don’t want to change. I am not going to think about that.
“If we continue this run, we will be closer to the top four but it’s not something that kills my mind right now.
“(Newcastle) is not easy at all. I think we faced a very organised and very tough team.
“I think they’re going to stay in the Premier League for sure because I found them really, really tough. But we are in a good moment.
“Even when we are not playing great, we have the feeling that we can win the game.
“We control the game, we have the possession, we play in the opponent’s half and we have fantastic offensive players. Even the ones that were on the bench.
“For example, Romelu I think after 30 seconds he scored a goal or maybe less. Alexis (Sanchez) made a great assist, so I think we’re in really good form and we have to continue like this.
“This game is going to strengthen our bench players as well, Romelu and Alexis. We really need them so a lot of good things to take from today’s performance.
“But the next Premier League game is Tottenham and is going to be even tougher.”
The trip to Wembley certainly looks tough but United will head there on January 13 buoyed by just their third clean sheet of the Premier League campaign – a lack of shutouts that was grating on David De Gea, arguably the world’s best goalkeeper.
“Very important for David,” Herrera said with a smile.
“We wanted to make David happy because he was a little bit disappointed the last games.
“I had to cope with him after the game, killing my mind, telling me that he wanted a clean sheet and I’m happy for him as well because he got a clean sheet.”
De Gea is likely to be rested for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round clash against Championship strugglers Reading, just as Paul Pogba is expected to be.
The 25-year-old was marginalised by Mourinho but has started all four matches under Solskjaer, scoring and providing goals as well as making an impact off the field.
“He is very important for the club – (on) the pitch and out of the pitch as well,” Herrera said of Pogba, who limped out of St James’ Park on Wednesday after some rough treatment.
“He’s playing really, really well. Not only with the ball. I think as soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team.
“He is playing very simple and effective in our half, and then when he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game, so we are really happy for him.
“I think Nemanja (Matic) and me today, or the other players, we have to help him to make him feel free and that’s what we’re doing.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has heaped praise on Marcus Rashford following his display in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Newcastle in the Premier League.
Second-half goals from substitute Romelu Lukaku, who scored with his first touch after Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka spilled Rashford’s free-kick, and Rashford were enough to take the points at St James’ Park.
If the win on Tyneside was rather more prosaic than what had gone before, Solskjaer was able to revel in the individual performance of England striker Rashford, who has shone in the key role he has handed him.
The Norwegian said: “He gets kicked and he gets tackled, he goes for headers, he wins, he challenges, he runs – he is going to be a top, top number nine, definitely.
“But then again, we’ve got Rom, so sometimes he’ll play on the right, sometimes on the left, sometimes through the middle. He’ll get enough games.”
Solskjaer’s delight was in stark contrast to the mood of opposite number Rafael Benitez, who saw all his team’s hard work ultimately count for nothing as a result of errors.
Benitez said: “On these kind of nights, you have to be disappointed in the way that you lost because if the other team is doing really well, much better than you, you say ‘Fair enough, that’s it’.
“But we were doing enough to deserve something more. We made a mistake and conceded the first goal and after when we were doing better, we conceded the second goal from a counter-attack.
“For 85 minutes, we deserved something more than just to lose the way that we lost. The message is clear and consistent: in the final third, the accuracy of the final pass, the assist, the final decisions, that is the key if you want to score more goals.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted he will not want to leave Manchester United after matching Sir Matt Busby’s record of winning his first four games as manager.
Unlike Busby, the Norwegian has been placed in interim charge at Old Trafford following Jose Mourinho’s exit, but Wednesday night’s 2-0 win at Newcastle extended his perfect start.
Asked if he would not want to leave in May, he said with a smile: “Of course I won’t, I don’t want to.
“It’s such a great bunch of players, a fantastic atmosphere, but it’s the next game, it’s the next game, it’s the next game and I’m doing my job as long as I’m here.”
Second-half goals from substitute Romelu Lukaku, who scored with his first touch after Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka spilled Marcus Rashford’s free-kick, and Rashford were enough to take the points at St James’ Park.
However, Solskjaer was in no mood to rest on his laurels after matching the feat of his famous predecessor, remembering his United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s approach to winning runs.
He said: “That will be in the books, but it’s nothing that I’m thinking of. I’m just thinking about the next game because if you win four, you can win another four at this club. That’s the challenge and that’s the standard that we’re known for.
“The gaffer used to challenge us on them and of course when we’ve won four, you can go onto the next four and think about them.”