Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels there’s more to progress than cup glory

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Man Utd Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Feels There’s More To Progress Than Cup Glory Man Utd Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Feels There’s More To Progress Than Cup Glory
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident Manchester United are making progress, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes cup success can sometimes paper over the cracks and be an “ego thing”, with the Manchester United boss focused on sustained progress ahead of the Europa League clash at AC Milan.

Having reached the semi-final stage of four successive competitions, the next few days could extinguish the Red Devils’ hopes of ending their four-year wait for a trophy.

United travel to Leicester in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, having taken on Milan on Thursday in a Europa League round-of-16 encounter which is poised at 1-1 ahead of the return fixture at San Siro.

The competition provided the Old Trafford giants’ last silverware in 2016/17, when Jose Mourinho added to that season’s EFL Cup triumph after Louis Van Gaal had masterminded FA Cup success the previous campaign.

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Jose Mourinho led Manchester United to the Europa League in 2017 (Nick Potts/PA)

They are United’s only major trophies since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and, while determined to win his first silverware in charge, Solskjaer believes there is more to progress than cup success.

“When you see the culture and what’s happening every day, I feel a lot of improvement in the everyday routine and everyday work we do,” said Solskjaer, whose side are second in the Premier League.

“The boys have taken on board what we want and it’s for others to assess how much of an improvement (has been made).

“We’re 12 points ahead of what we were at the same time in the league last season. Of course we’re all aiming to win trophies.

“But, as we’ve said, sometimes a trophy can hide the other fact what’s happening at the club.

“In the league position you see if you’re progressing, really, and sometimes in the cup tournaments you might be lucky, you might be unlucky. Draws, games decided on different factors.

“But of course we’re aiming to win because that’s why you play football. You’re always aiming to win trophies.”

When the four-year wait for a trophy was put to Solskjaer, the United boss said: “I’ve been here for two-and-a-half of those years now and of course coming in, as I’ve said so many times, I felt a big rebuild had to be made.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in December 2018 (Alex Livesey/PA)

“In the league position you see if there’s any progress, for me. That’s always the bread and butter of the season that you see how capable you are of coping with ups and downs.

“Any cup competition can give you a trophy but sometimes it’s more of an ego thing from managers and clubs (that) ‘we’ve finally won something’.

“We need to see progress and if we progress well enough and perform well enough the trophies will end up at the club again.

“But it’s not like a trophy will say that ‘we’re back’. No.

“It’s the gradual progression and the consistency of being in the top of the league, in and around there, and then add the odd trophies.

“Sometimes a cup competition can hide the fact you’re still struggling a little bit.”

Solskjaer knows a thing or two about winning from his medal-laden playing days at a club that are entering a key period with injury issues easing.

Paul Pogba, who has been out since February 6 with a thigh issue, is travelling to Milan along with Donny Van De Beek, but Edinson Cavani has been ruled out at the last minute after being named in United’s initial 21-man squad.

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Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek are in the squad to take on Milan (Martin Rickett/PA)

David De Gea is back from paternity leave and ready to challenge Dean Henderson, but Anthony Martial is out and Eric Bailly has not travelled.

“We are happy to have Donny back, Paul and David,” Solskjaer said. “Big players.

“Unfortunately, it looks like Edinson has got a bit of a reaction to training (on Wednesday) and didn’t feel ready to travel.

“Eric is being assessed. I might be wrong there (in saying he was out). He might have turned around and said he’s ready but he didn’t train (on Wednesday morning).”

Van De Beek has struggled for game-time since joining United from Ajax in the summer and fresh reports emerged this week about his happiness.

“There’s always speculation here,” Solskjaer said. “Donny has been focusing really hard, working really hard to get back available for the latter stages of the season so that’s our focus.”

Diogo Dalot found himself struggling for minutes last term and signed a season-long loan deal with Milan, who he is set to line up for against United on Thursday.

“I’ve been very pleased with his development this season,” Solskjaer said. “He’s our player and I’m looking forward to having him back.”

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