LONDON (AFP) – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident that Manchester United will not repeat last season’s embarrassing “capitulation” against Everton as they seek to strengthen their push for a Champions League place.
United make the short trip to Goodison Park tonight in an upbeat mood after seven games unbeaten – and six clean sheets – in all competitions.
On Thursday, they progressed to the last-16 of the Europa League after a 5-0 win at home against Club Brugge gave them a 6-1 win on aggregate.
Solskjaer endured what remains his most chastening day in the hotseat last April at Everton, apologising to fans after a 4-0 rout as their season unravelled.
“That was the lowest I’ve been,” Solskjaer said, referring to the Everton defeat. “I think you all know that and remember that. That was a capitulation.
“We had absolutely nothing about us, even though their goals were more or less counter-attacks from set plays and long throw-ins.”
The Norwegian said he was certain his side would produce a better performance tonight.
“I can with hand on heart 100 per cent say these boys will never give in and never give up like that team did,” he said. “These are the boys we want to build the next team around.”
Of that starting line-up, Chris Smalling has left on loan, Phil Jones has barely featured and Paul Pogba has seen his playing time heavily restricted by injuries. Romelu Lukaku is the only starter that day to have left permanently.
United at last appear to have found some consistency and confidence after a bumpy season but Solskjaer said he knew it would take time.
The January arrival of Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes has lifted the team, who are fifth in the Premier League table, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
“We knew when we made the decisions we made in the summer it was going to take time,” said Solskjaer. “As I’ve said a few times, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“The culture, the attitude, the fitness, the camaraderie, the team spirit and maybe even the understanding between players have improved.
“We have missed that box opener that Bruno is proving to be now.”
Solskjaer again praised Fernandes over the impact he has made since his arrival at Old Trafford, saying he had been a “big boost” for the team.
“He just loves football,” he said. “He’s got so much enthusiasm and smile about him.”