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Why Ole will trust his players on Sunday

Friday 24 July 2020 16:00

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could write a book on dramatic ends to the season and, now in his role as Manchester United manager, he will have learned from the best when it comes to watching on from the sidelines.

There may be a sense of helplessness at times for fans and it is perfectly understandable that nerves are jangling among the club's loyal support going into the key fixture with Leicester City on Sunday.

Rational thought is difficult when things are so delicately balanced on a knife-edge but the manager appears to have been clear when he has been saying he trusts his players to get the job done. It was something that you would often hear from Sir Alex Ferguson. 

For all the tension, such occasions are what representing United is all about and it is time to step up to the plate.

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When one of the greatest-ever United sides were in the midst of the climax to the Treble-winning campaign, it is easy to forget the goalless draw with doomed Blackburn Rovers. 

Solskjaer was on the bench as a team that had, in the previous month, beaten Juventus in the Champions League and Arsenal in a classic FA Cup semi-final replay, were held at Ewood Park without getting on the scoresheet. A point in the penultimate fixture had set things up for the last day at Old Trafford, when victory over Tottenham, rather than a draw, was required to win the Premier League.

Writing his United Review programme notes, Sir Alex (before his knighthood), apologised for mistakenly thinking his former assistant Brian Kidd was still capable of saving Rovers from relegation during the post-match TV interview. He had been so focused on our job that he was unaware the result was insufficient for them to preserve their top-flight status.

"I certainly didn't get it right on television after our match on Wednesday, when I said I thought the draw would give Rovers a lifeline to stay up," he said. "But that embarrassing moment should also tell you something about me and about my players, in the sense that it makes clear that our focus is totally on our own efforts, as we enter this momentous last phase of the season.

“For some time now, I have stressed to the players that our destiny is completely in our own hands and that they should not concern themselves with what is happening elsewhere.

“I know the players will leave their sweat and commitment on the pitch. I cannot think of a more honest bunch of players and, whatever the outcome today, I hope you will give them the welcome they deserve."

I wonder what the reaction would have been on social media to the draw with Blackburn and the pressure and jeopardy of potentially winning all three major trophies, or none of them, in the final 10 days of that unbelievable campaign.

When Les Ferdinand opened the scoring for Spurs at Old Trafford, the tension was unbearable but all United fans of a certain age got through it, cheering the team on and providing the belief that no game, or cause, was ever lost. 

Of course, such parallels to that season would be grossly unfair as our goal is very different in 2020 - even if the effort in getting into third position ahead of the last round of matches should not be underestimated. We can all recognise the importance of getting into the Champions League - it is where United should be and can provide a major step in the right direction for the current squad.

Hence, the nerves starting to fray in some quarters ahead of Sunday's 16:00 BST kick-off, knowing the whole domestic season boils down to 90+ minutes in the East Midlands.

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Yet there has to be belief that, despite some worries over fatigue due to the exhausting schedule, the Reds will be good enough to get a positive result at the weekend.

A trust that we can handle such high stakes in a surreal atmosphere of a largely empty King Power Stadium, while Leicester strive to resurrect their own Champions League ambition that had seemed a virtual certainty earlier in the campaign.

Will it be tense? Almost certainly. Will doubt creep in for some supporters before we get under way? No doubt. 

However, this is a position all Reds would have definitely taken at the turn of the year or at the beginning of Project Restart. The opportunity is there to complete the job against the Foxes, finish in third spot and regain entry to the Champions League. 

All to play for and it's in our hands. Just as Sir Alex always liked it. Ole will trust in the XI he picks when they cross that white line. It might only be a case of shouting at the television but the fans need to share that faith and hope for a positive outcome.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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