Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists his side have to “put up a fight” to halt Manchester City from claiming a third Premier League title in four years, but logic tells us they will need a lot more than pluck to halt their ‘Noisy Neighbours’.
United limped to a timid draw against lowly West Brom on Sunday but a defiant Solskjaer insisted they will not “give away” hope of a first tile in an age as the Red Devils have finally mounted a title challenge after years in the doldrums. United are second in the table, ahead of Leicester on goal difference, but seven points behind City.
Solskjaer admitted he and his boys will need help from the likes of Everton and Leicester if they are to reel in Pep Guardiola’s men, but they will need a lot more than that. Pep Guardiola’s side, who have won 15 games in a row in all competitions, also have a game in hand on both United and the Foxes. Only a massive slip can stop them, regardless of what United do.
However, Solskjaer is not ready to throw in the towel.
United, who had topped the table earlier in the season, could only draw 1-1 away at second-bottom West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, leaving them second on 46 points after playing one more game than City and with 14 matches left.
“No, I don’t think so,” Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told reporters when asked if the title race was over. “I think no one will give it away this early. Of course, no one knows this season, it’s so unpredictable. Life is so unpredictable. Anything can happen. Of course we’re not going to settle for second.” Maguire, who nearly won the game with a last-minute header, agreed when asked if United were still thinking they could win the league: “Of course we are. We’ve got to look after ourselves and go again and win the next one and win the next one.”
Solskjaer, whose team let in a last-minute equaliser against Everton last weekend to lose further ground, rued the lack of clear-cut chances against West Brom. “We didn’t create enough big moments to create goals, even though the ball was in their last third all the time ... We just lacked that little bit of ruthlessness, clinicalness in finishing,” he said.
Still, the United Boss praised Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes, for “fantastic technique” in his volleyed equaliser.
Maguire was convinced he should have had a penalty in the second half when he was manhandled and clipped in the box, but Solskjaer said he was offside anyway and had a dig at the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for bothering to check the foul.
“It’s a clear foul if you only look at the clash ... But from what I see, I can see Harry being in an offside position,” he said. “So someone must have been asleep in that VAR office, Stockley Park, or wherever they are. Someone needs to brew some coffee because it could have easily been avoided by saying ‘he’s offside, let’s move on.’”
West Brom have turned to the experienced Sam Allardyce, who has built a reputation on rescuing teams from relegation. But his team has only notched six points in 11 games since he took over and remain deep in trouble, 12 points from safety.
Asked if he could pull off another great escape, Allardyce was non-committal but praised his players for matching United.
“I can’t knock any players’ application and effort ... Excellent in terms of how we limited Manchester United to very few opportunities. And then the other way, really, really pleased about how many chances we created,” he said. “But unfortunately disappointed we didn’t convert more of them, because then we would have won this game ... To say I’m slightly disappointed in the result is a big thing to say when your team is struggling and you are against a team that is top of the league like Manchester United.”