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.”
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