Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits United are not at City and Liverpool’s level yet
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted he does not believe Manchester United will be ready to compete with rivals Manchester City and Liverpool for next season’s Premier League title.
United can have a major say in who lifts the trophy this year when they face City at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, when a home win would hand the initiative to Liverpool.
But Solskjaer believes United, who last won the title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge in 2013, must wait a little longer for their own turn.
“You cannot expect things to happen overnight and we know that,” Solskjaer said. “It will happen gradually and we have to be realistic enough as a club to know we have to take it step by step.
“That’s not changing 10 players now and bringing 10 players in. It’s slowly, slowly but surely.
“It has to be the right quality, right personality, the right standards to get us back to where we want to be.”
Asked if United – who need victory over City to keep alive their own top-four hopes – could compete next term, Solskjaer said: “I don’t think we’ve got the consistency to do that.
“Over the last 18 games we’re not far away from them but it’s doing it over the course of a season.
“We’ve done it for half a season now. Let’s see. You can never say never.”
This has been a painful title race for United fans to watch given the unpalatable choice between City or Liverpool taking the honours.
Solskjaer understands both rivalries and how much it would mean to fans to reclaim local bragging rights.
“For me, the motivation is towards something, to win something yourself,” he said.
“It’s not about taking something away from others. We have to want to overtake them, not because it’s City and Liverpool.
“But of course, because it’s City and Liverpool, for a supporter as I am, and as a manager now as well, because they’re so close in the vicinity as well, we want to be the best. We have been the best, and it’s not nice seeing those two at the top.”
Solskjaer’s first few weeks in charge brought hopes of a swift return to competitiveness as United took 25 points from a possible 27.
But United have now lost six of their last eight, a run largely coinciding with the Norwegian getting the job on a permanent basis.
That poor form has left United as outsiders to claim a Champions League place, particularly as they must face both City and top-four rivals Chelsea this week.
City have lost only once at Old Trafford in the league since Wayne Rooney’s famous overhead kick in 2011, and go into Wednesday’s game on a fantastic run of domestic form with hopes alive of a treble, even if the quadruple dream is over.
“Of course we have to pay them respect because they have been fantastic,” Solskjaer said. “They have won the last 10 games in the league, 17 out of the last 18. You have got to respect that.”