Keep that coming’: Solskjær insists he enjoys criticism at Manchester UnitedNovember 2, 2021
Ole Gunnar Solskjær conceded “one swallow does not make a summer” after Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Tottenham, and said criticism fuels his drive for success.
The Norwegian’s job was in the balance after United’s 5-0 humiliation by Liverpool yet Solskjær survived and responded by leading his team to Saturday’s emphatic victory in north London. Yet with United at Atalanta for Tuesday’s fourth Champions League Group F match before hosting Manchester City on Saturday in the Premier League, Solskjær knows United must put a string of displays together.
“The next one is the one that matters and we’ve been working to get consistency and we know that when we get that consistency we will get results and performances,” he said. “One swallow doesn’t make a summer and it’s important we keep focusing on what we did well in that game and improve on what we didn’t do as well. It is relentless with games every three days and it’s a chance against Atalanta to prove that we can go again.”
Solskjær was the subject of fierce scrutiny and some scathing analysis after the defeat by Liverpool but he is at ease with the focus. “Criticism can make you doubt yourself or you can stand up for yourself and I’ve always enjoyed criticism, keep that coming, it’s fine,” the 48-year-old said. “Journalists, pundits, experts, we’ve all got different jobs and it’s their job to give their opinion. I’m not here to fight with them, I don’t need a spat with anyone.”
At Spurs Solskjær’s switch to a three-man defence for the first time this season was successful, United keeping a second clean sheet of the campaign. While Victor Lindelöf, who featured alongside Harry Maguire and Raphaël Varane, is unavailable to face Atalanta, the manager believes he has the necessary tactical options.Quick Guide Atalanta v Manchester United teams Show
Atalanta (3-4-1-2) Musso; De Roon, Demiral, Palomino; Zappacosta, Koopmeiners, Freuler, Maehle; Pasalic; Illicic, Muriel.
Manchester United (3-4-1-2) De Gea; Bailly, Varane, Maguire; Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, Matic, Shaw; Fernandes; Rashford, Ronaldo.
Referee Slavko Vincic.
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“We’ve got players to play many different systems, back three, four, five, we’ve got wide men, wingers, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, we looked at the Tottenham game and felt that to get more control we played that system and it worked,” he said. “The execution within the role is more important than the system. The quality of the pass from Bruno [Fernandes] to Cristiano [Ronaldo] for the first goal, that’s individual brilliance. We were solid, we were very happy with the defending and the pressure in the team, the individual reactions in the role were more important.
“I cannot give you the gameplan [for Atalanta] and the tactics but we have a squad to play many different ways, you can put any tactics out and system but it’s the players within it and how they execute the role. That was the difference on Saturday, the quality of what we did was more important than the system we played. No matter what game Cristiano or Bruno are playing they have a winners’ mentality and are as highly motivated as an individual or professional can be.”
If United were to beat City on Saturday they would draw level with the champions on points. Solskjær, though, hinted he may be reluctant to rotate too much tonight, such is his focus on Atalanta. In the first meeting, at Old Trafford, the Italian side led 2-0 but were beaten 3-2; a second victory over them would keep United top of the standings, on nine points with two rounds remaining.
“I think you just have to look at the next game, get a result in that one,” he said. “We’re in a decent position but you need a result away from home to go through so all eyes and all focus is on this one. Then you look forward to the next one after that – we haven’t been thinking about that at all.
“This is going to be a difficult game, we saw last time how close they were to getting a 3-1 goal. Everyone is focused, we’ve worked on recovery since Saturday night, the turnaround is quick and let’s see who we can choose from.”
Atalanta are fifth in Serie A, 12 points off the lead, having drawn 2-2 with Lazio on Saturday. Gian Piero Gasperini, the coach, said: “We did show a great deal of character at Old Trafford – but tomorrow night’s game will be a completely different match.