Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Manchester United are heading into ‘important spell’

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Manchester United have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League at West Brom and kick on heading into a crucial stage of the season.

An impressive festive period saw the Red Devils enter the halfway point of a season top of the standings for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as champion in 2012/13.

United were top until City thrashed West Brom on January 26, with Solskjaer’s men wasting the chance to return to the summit when falling to a shock 2-1 home loss to rock-bottom Sheffield United the following night.

Pep Guardiola’s men have kept their foot down since then and sit nine points clear of their city rivals after United, who lie third, drew with Arsenal and Everton either side of the 9-0 annihilation of nine-man Southampton.

Tuesday’s 1-0 extra-time win against West Ham in the FA Cup fifth round provided a welcome shot in the arm but Solskjaer knows they cannot afford any slip ups against Sam Allardyce’s Baggies on Sunday.

“Of course it’s an important game for us this weekend,” the United boss said.

“It’s an important spell. It’s time now that every game you tick one off and there’s less and less possibility to catch up on points on the teams in front of you.

“That’s what we want to do. That’s what we’re here to do. Sunday’s a big one for us in that respect to get back on winning ways.

“The two points dropped against Everton was disappointing when it’s the last kick of the game.

Manchester United celebrate a goal
Manchester United beat West Ham in the FA Cup in midweek (Martin Rickett/PA)

“But we bounced back really well in the cup against West Ham. We’re through, we’re in the quarters and that was a good step in the right direction again, another clean sheet.”

Tuesday’s win over the Hammers helped shake off the disappointment of Dominic Calvert-Lewin securing Everton a 3-3 league draw with the last kick of the ball last Saturday.

An FA Cup quarter-final trip to Leicester is the reward for United, who are still in with a shot at Premier League glory and start their Europa League campaign this week against Real Sociedad in the last-32.

Asked what he sees as a successful season for United and at which point his success has to be measured in trophies, Solskjaer said: “You always go into every season trying to improve.

“If you improve, that’s a step forward. Is it a big enough step forward? We’ll have to see at the end.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates scoring a goal
Dominic Calvert-Lewin denied United a win at Old Trafford last Saturday (Michael Regan/PA)

“If we end up with trophies. We’re still in competitions. We lost in the semis of the Carabao Cup (to Man City), we’re in the quarters of the FA Cup, we’re still in Europe and we’re second in the league.

“At the moment it looks like we’ve improved but we’re going into the deciding period of the season so it’s now that we have to kick on.

“It’s now that we have to keep our consistency, get the quality higher, eradicate some of the mistakes that we’re making and be more clinical in front of goal.

“So, I don’t want to say what is a successful season at the moment but we have a chance to end this season or with a feeling of this season being successful if we improve because I think we’ve shown qualities that can win us trophies.”

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