Ole Gunnar Solskjaer accepts Manchester United are not the force they once were, with the manager braced for more ups and downs as he waits for their younger players to “blossom”.
Life since Sir Alex Ferguson ended his medal-laden reign in 2013 has rarely been easy at Old Trafford.
This looks set to be another uncomfortable campaign, with injuries already biting in areas where the squad is weakest and a lack of cutting edge playing a big part in their Premier League problems.
An inability to triumph away is also hampering United, with Thursday’s goalless Europa League draw at AZ Alkmaar taking their winless streak on the road to a 10th successive match in all competitions.
Solskjaer is confident the poor run is not due to any psychological block and that an away win is imminent, but the 1999 treble hero also knows United cannot roll into town with the fear factor they once possessed.
“We’re not in the ’90s now so it’s a different era, a different group that we’re building,” he said after the Europa League draw in The Hague.
“We know there are going to be ups and downs. I’m ready to see these boys blossom.
“There’s not many clubs with our stature that play the young players that we do. They’ll have a chance to come through and we’re sure that some of these will be part of a successful team.”
Put to Solskjaer that opponents do not appear intimidated by United, he said: “I don’t know what the opponents think of us. I just know that sometimes when you walk off games we’re not doing bad here.
“Sometimes there’s a gap. I’ve felt that a couple of times but not very often.
“I can’t think about what anyone else is thinking about us. We’re working to improve and that’s what we have to do.”
United could do with a shot in the arm before the international break, and Sunday’s trip to Newcastle looks as good an opportunity as any to win away.
Thrashed 5-0 at Leicester last weekend, pressure is already building on Steve Bruce and Solskjaer expects a tough challenge against the former United defender’s side.
“As managers, we don’t want to give anyone any favours when we play each other,” the Norwegian said.
“Brucey’s going to set up a team to win, I’m going to set up a team to try to win.
“We’re going there, it’s a great stadium to play at and we’re looking forward to the game. We’ve hopefully got many players fresh for Sunday.”
United made eight changes in Holland with an eye on Sunday’s trip to St James’ Park, where their injury problems look set to continue.
Anthony Martial, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young joined long-term absentee Eric Bailly in missing the trip to AZ, as did Aaron Wan-Bissaka through illness and Paul Pogba with an ongoing foot issue.
“I don’t know (if players will be back available),” Solskjaer said. “Let’s see on Saturday morning. Probably not.”
Jesse Lingard will need to be assessed after leaving the field with a hamstring complaint.
And when pressed on Pogba in particular, he added: “Probably not. There’s an international break as well. It might be time for us to give him 10 or 14 days extra to be ready for Liverpool.”
Provided by Press Association Sports
Know more about Sport360 Application
Reaction after AZ Alkmaar and Manchester United produced a 0-0 draw in the Europa League on Thursday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unhappy with the standard of officiating after the match – especially when Marcus Rashford was brought down by AZ’s Stijn Wuytens with 10 minutes left.
VAR is not in use in the Europa League.
Paul Pogba has not travelled to Holland for Manchester United‘s Europa League clash with AZ Alkmaar following specialist advice about a foot injury.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side continue their Group L campaign in The Hague on Thursday night, when the World Cup winner will be among a number of high-profile absentees.
Pogba played the entirety of last week’s Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out win against Rochdale and Monday’s 1-1 league draw with Arsenal, but an ongoing foot issue means he will not be heading with United to Holland.
The club said: “Following a specialist’s opinion, Paul Pogba requires a period of further rest and conservative treatment for the foot injury he sustained during the game against Southampton in August. Updates will follow in due course.”
Speaking at his pre-match press conference in Holland, Solskjaer said it would have been too much of a risk to play Pogba, given that the game will be played on an artificial surface.
He said: “It is after discussions with a specialist that we planned that he needs further treatment and rest on his ankle.
“And I probably wouldn’t risk him on Astroturf anyway if he was available for this game. But he needs a bit of rest now.”
Anthony Martial, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw are also absent for the Europa League clash, as is Aaron Wan-Bissaka after missing the Arsenal match with tonsillitis.
Diogo Dalot and Angel Gomes are available for Thursday’s clash, while 19-year-old Brandon Williams has been named in the squad.
Alkmaar are playing in The Hague because of problems with the roof at their own stadium.
Solskjaer admitted he was unimpressed by the pitch, saying: “I was surprised they have chosen to play on this pitch when I looked at it.
“I am used to Astroturf pitches from back home in Norway and it is not the best I have seen. It is one of the worst ones I have seen for a long while.
“We have all got standards back home in Norway. They are all more modern and new, and you get them changed. But it is safe. It is not the newest.
“The ‘grass’ is on the floor, on the carpet more or less. I don’t think they have pulled the grass up to get it to stand and be more bouncy.
“It seems like it has been used a lot. My knees haven’t enjoyed Astroturf but these boys are OK.”
Solskjaer said he would not use the surface as an excuse and his team would adapt.
He said: “It is what it is. It is the same for both of them.
“There is part of the game that will become different. When you play Astroturf, from my experience, there are less tackles and you get lazier in your head because the passes will get there anyway.
“It is impossible to make a misplaced pass – you can’t complain about a bad pitch.”