By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has demanded a strong reaction from his team, stunned by their 4-0 loss to Everton, when they face title-chasing Manchester City in Wednesday’s Premier League derby at Old Trafford.
Much more than local pride is at stake with City knowing they can go top of the standings with a win and United fighting to get into the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
United’s initial upturn in form after Solskjaer took charge has quickly faded with the team suffering six defeats in their last eight games in all competitions.
Solskjaer had slammed his players and apologised to the club’s fans after the meek surrender at Goodison Park but he said the derby is the perfect occasion for a quick bounce back.
“That’s the best game we could ask for with players hurt as they definitely were. We had a meeting after the game and all the players were definitely disappointed but really, really hurt by that performance and the City game is the perfect one,” he told a news conference.
“There’s no hiding place on the pitch and the fans will back you if you give that effort against a City side that’s been very, very good, we have got to turn up.”
“The response has to be there, you have to try and provoke or inspire a reaction and we haven’t had time to work on the pitch because you need recovery at this stage of the season so it’s about changing mindsets and making sure heads are ready,” he added.
The Norwegian, who replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho initially on an interim basis in December and was then handed a three year contract last month, has been clear that he intends to make changes to his squad in the close-season. However, he said he did see promise in some of his current crop.
“Of course, you learn about players and now is not the time to talk about making wholesale changes in the squad that’s been doing so great. (Only) City and Liverpool have taken more points than us in the last 18 games and that’s it,” Solskjaer said.
“You can see loads of Manchester United standards, the DNA in these players, you have to get players in and some players will go out.”
The 46-year-old said he was well capable of making the tough choices that will be needed at the end of the season.
“I would like to think so, I like all these boys I love them but I’ve got to manage for the club and I’m managing the club and the players and I’ve got to put all my effort into making sure we do what is right for the club,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)