How does Ole measure United's development?
Barely a week goes by without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being asked whether winning a trophy is the next step for his team – and the boss agreeing that it is.
The Reds have not won silverware since claiming the Europa League in May 2017, but we still have hopes in that competition and the Emirates FA Cup in 2020/21.
But in the media briefing ahead of United’s round-of-16 tie with AC Milan on Thursday (kick-off 20:00 GMT), Ole was asked a slightly different version of the question: how does he measure the progress of his team?
And the Norwegian said that, while the Reds always strive to win trophies, the league offered the true measure of any development.
“Of course, we are all wanting to win trophies at this club,” admitted Ole. “But sometimes a trophy can hide the other facts of what is happening at the club. It's in the league position you see if you're progressing really. Sometimes in the cup tournaments, you might be lucky; you might be unlucky with draws and games that are decided on different factors.
“But, of course, we're aiming to win; that's what's required in football and you're always aiming to win trophies.
“I think you have to say that when you see the culture of what's happening every day, I feel a lot of improvement in the everyday routine, the everyday work. The boys have taken on everything I want. It's for others to assess how much we've improved. We're 12 points ahead of where we were in the league this time last season.”
Solskjaer confessed that when he arrived as interim manager in December 2018, he felt a big, long-term rebuild was needed.
“I have been here for two-and-a-half of those years [since we last won a trophy in 2017] now and coming in, I felt a big rebuild had to made,” he continued. “It’s in the league position that you see if there has been progress. That's how you see if you are capable of coping with ups and downs.”
But he argued that success in the Europa League or FA Cup would not prove that his team were closer to being the finished article, at a club where the fanbase expects the Reds to regularly challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.
“We need to win something and, if we play well, the trophies will return. But a trophy won't say ’we’re back’. We need the consistency of being top of the league and then winning some trophies. A cup can hide that you are struggling a little bit.”