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Solskjaer discusses major week for Man Utd as they bid for a 2013 repeat

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows the significance of this week for Manchester United, hence his desire to play it down.

United will go top of the Premier League by avoiding defeat at Burnley Tuesday, a position they would occupy going to arch rivals and champions Liverpool on Sunday.

Not since Sir Alex Ferguson signed off with the club’s last league title in 2013 have United been so close to the top at this stage of the season, their fans excited by a potential tilt at the title after such a long wait.

Against that backdrop, Solskjaer is understandably keen to manage expectations, given the unpredictable nature of this season and the fact the league campaign has yet to reach the halfway stage.

But the United boss knows positive results in the next two games could have a profound effect on the rest of United’s season, just as two setbacks could see it unravel.

Asked about how much the next two games will tell him about his squad’s mentality and title aspirations, Solskjaer was typically reticent.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United watches from the dugout the win over Watford

“I think it’s great that our fans are excited, they’re happy with where we are at and that we have this little sense of excitement,” said Solskjaer.

“But then again, we’re not even halfway through the season. Of course every game against Burnley, every game against Liverpool, matters a lot anyway.

“For me, my eyes are on Tuesday and then let’s see where we’re at after that one. Every game in the Premier League is a challenge.

“They’re tests. Every game is a different test. Watford gave us a test, Burnley is a test, Liverpool is another.

“Then you go to Fulham, which is a different test again. No-one will remember what the league table looked like on 12 January 2021.

“We have good momentum. We started well again after the disappointment of losing to Manchester City and bounced back really well with a win.

Scott McTominay celebrates scoring the winner against Watford
Scott McTominay celebrates scoring the winner against Watford

“Of course we want to build momentum again. If we can get a win on Tuesday, then when you win two games on the bounce again, you go into the next game confident.

“So every game in the Premier League is a chance to build more confidence.”

This tie was a means to an end for United, a chance to give fringe players some much-needed game-time and rest established players ahead of a huge week.

Scott McTominay’s fifth-minute header was enough for United to overcome their spirited and enterprising opponents, and see the Reds into the next round.

McTominay, stand-in-skipper until Harry Maguire came on at half-time for the injured Eric Bailly, said of United’s much-changed line-up: “It’s a squad game.

“On Tuesday, I’m sure there’ll be changes again, at Liverpool there’ll be changes again, so everybody’s so ready for their chance.”

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