Performances, not league position, the immediate priority for Solskjaer
Manchester United have made their worst start to a Premier League season in 31 years but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not yet concerned by their position in the table.
A 2-2 draw at home to Aston Villa – a match the Norwegian admits they did not deserve to win – left the Red Devils ninth with 18 points from 14 matches, their worst return at a similar stage since 1988-89.
Back then they finished 11th in the top flight, 25 points behind eventual champions Arsenal.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 1, 2019
While United are only two points behind fifth-placed Tottenham they are a whopping 22 behind arch-rivals and Premier League leaders Liverpool.
A victory over Villa would have lifted them above Spurs and within six of Chelsea but Solskjaer, with just six wins in 22 league matches since being appointed permanent manager in March, is not paying any attention to the table.
“I wouldn’t have sat here and talked about us being fifth if we had got that one goal extra, so the league table at this point is not the biggest concern because it is so tight,” he said.
“I just need to make sure that we get performances and get three or four performances after each other – and results.
“What I can say is so far we have had the lead in so many games and we haven’t been able to win those games; six or seven times we’ve been 1-0 up, or 2-1 or 3-2 like last week (a 3-3 draw at Sheffield United).
“We should be better at seeing those games into wins.
“I think there is loads of evidence these boys are closer to winning games than losing games.”
What will have disappointed Solskjaer the most is that United hauled themselves back into the match against a side who had lost 16 of their previous 17 matches against established top-six opponents.
Villa captain Jack Grealish ran the show in the first half and capped a commanding performance with an equally-impressive goal, cutting in from the left to curl a shot over David De Gea.
Marcus Rashford’s header just before half-time hit the post and went in off goalkeeper Tom Heaton for an own goal and then after the break Victor Lindelof headed the hosts in front.
However, the lead lasted just four minutes before Tyrone Mings sprung the offside trap to volley home unmarked.
It was Grealish who stole the headlines though.
“A super goal. It’s what I’ve come to expect from him,” said manager Dean Smith.
“First 30 minutes I thought he was running the game, everything good coming from us was through him and that’s not overlooking the whole performance.
“He is a a top player and when you have top players you get performances at places like this.”
Asked whether he thought Grealish would have had England recognition by now had he played for one of the Premier League’s big names he added: “We have Tyrone Mings in the England squad.
“All Jack can control is his performances and if he keeps performing the way he is then he keeps putting pressure on the people who have to choose these squads.”