Ole: We should be the hardest-working team
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has outlined the effort he expects from his Manchester United players as the Reds enter a crucial stage of the season.
Solskjaer's side are embroiled in a fierce fight for a spot in the Premier League top four as well as being in the last eight of the Emirates FA Cup and the Champions League.
Speaking as the Reds gear up to face Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, the caretaker manager provided an insight into how he wants his team to work and insisted the squad can strive for more in order to climb the league table.
“I love to work with teams that play forward, run forward, chase the ball and work harder than the opposition,” he said.
“Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Becks [David Beckham], the graveyard shift that they did up and down the line. They didn't just stand out wide, get the ball and deliver - they worked their socks off.
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“When you play for Man United you can't just be: 'Well, I'm talented. I'll just do my magic when I get the ball.' That is not enough. That's not going to be enough if we want to challenge for the top two.”
Going into this weekend's fixtures, United occupy the final spot inside the top four, however there is a 12-point deficit to the top two positions currently held by Manchester City and Liverpool. Since Solskjaer's appointment in December though, the Reds have picked up more points than any other top-flight team, although the Norwegian reckons a lot more effort will be required if the squad wants to mount a title challenge next season.
“We need more time to be challenging but that's, of course, what this club should be doing,” he stressed.
“The foundation is here and we just need to add a few attributes to the squad. In terms of total running distance, that was the highest we've had against Paris Saint-Germain, and there's absolutely no reason why Man United shouldn't be the hardest working team in the league.
“If you ask the Molde players back in Norway, that's one of the things I always demanded from them, that work-rate and attitude and fitness, so we need to keep working on the fitness and, next season, the players know that they'll be asked if they want to challenge at the top, they've got to improve all the time.
”That's what you see from the top teams in the league. They run more than us and that's not acceptable really.
One of the ways of increasing that work-rate is by providing competition for places in the matchday squad and Solskjaer has done just that since his appointment. If players have been injured, he has also utilised United's youth set-up, as seen in Wednesday night's enthralling victory at the Parc des Princes.
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With a lengthy injury list and Paul Pogba suspended, Solskjaer named a youthful squad with five teenagers on the bench and gave a second-half debut to 17-year-old Mason Greenwood. Ole believes that the work ethic ingrained into the players at the Academy has helped them settle into the first team and they will provide extra motivation to the experienced players going forward.
“We always know that there's going to be players that come players through and, when we've had coaches in the Reserves like Warren [Joyce], I worked with him and it was the hardest training sessions and the hardest days you can ever imagine,” he said.
“But that's what they have to get through, because if the youngsters are going to go past the first-team players, they need to train harder than anyone else.
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“This then means that the first-team players look at them and go: 'They're fitter than me, they work harder than me, they're going to take my position, I need to step up my game,' and that's what we want to do by bringing youngsters through and probably one or two signings as well.”
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