Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he wants Manchester United to challenge for the Premier League title next season.
As quoted by the Telegraph, the United boss said: “Supporters and the club alike are not happy with not challenging for the top position in the league. That is where we feel we should be.
“At the moment we don’t have that type of team. That is not what we want to be. We want to be challenging for the league and the Champions League.”
“The aim, of course, is to challenge next season. I’m not saying it is a realistic one. We are… a fair rate behind the top one now. A few signings, with the improvement these players are making, in the next couple of years we want to do that.”
Even as expectations dwindled in the post-Ferguson era at Old Trafford, the brief for any manager appointed should have been top four in their first season in charge before mounting a title challenge in the second.
Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho were both ‘three year managers’; the former only had a three-year deal and was on the verge of retirement, the latter burns all his bridges by that time anyway.
So a lofty, relatively short-term expectation was reasonable.
Solskjaer has taken a slightly different approach and the club seem intent on giving him more time.
But that demand for silverware should never subside and Solskjaer knows that as well as anybody.
He knows that if he said United were aiming for second, or top four, it would highlight the club’s decline. He has to be realistic, but say the right things too, without appearing deluded. It’s a difficult balance to strike.
How realistic is the aim?
As Solskjaer acknowledged, United are a way off battling for the title.
Manchester City wiped the floor with United last week, have a squad packed with quality players who have won multiple Premier Leagues and have still been left in the dust by Liverpool. That pair are streets ahead.
How do United bridge the gap? Solskjaer must first implement a clear footballing philosophy which extends beyond counter attacking in the big games.
United don’t have an identify like City’s or Liverpool’s and that has to be remedied if Solskjaer wants to mount a challenge over the course of a season.
Mentality and consistency play a huge part in lasting the pace across a long Premier League season and United are nowhere near on that score either; mistaking confidence for arrogance as soon as results pick up and seemingly unable to treat every match with the same intensity and focus.
And of course United need reinforcements – in central midfield and in attack to name two – as well as culling more of the deadwood. Recruitment will be key.
Solskjaer has stated his aim to be the man who oversees those changes and gets United challenging for the league again, but time will tell on how close he’ll get.
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