Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not believe Manchester United are “a million miles away” from challenging for the major prizes once again.
United are on course to finish second in the Premier League this season, a place better than last year, and are in the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Although his side trail leaders Manchester City by 11 points and exited at the Champions League group stage, Solskjaer is convinced they are not far away from challenging at the very top again.
United have beaten three of this season’s four Champions League semi-finalists – City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain – under Solskjaer, giving him the belief they are on the right track.
“The reality is we’re in the Europa League and they’re in the Champions League,” said Solskjaer.
“But when you sit and watch the games and you know how well you’ve done against these teams, you know we’re not a million miles away.
“It’s about consistency. It’s sometimes little details go against you, fine margins go against you, and we would love to have been going through the group stage.
“I felt we’d done enough at one point, but we just couldn’t get it over line.
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“Now it’s about improving again and taking inspiration from good performances against them and learning from the bad performances and results we’ve had.
“You’ve got to make progress, step by step, that’s the reality.
“Third last year, second this year, close to a trophy. It’s progress. It’s not the end game – the end game is winning the league.
“But we’re not in the era of Sir Alex Ferguson and we’ve had a transformation period since he left.
“That always would happen because there was nobody better and never will be. It was always going to be difficult to replace him.
“But it’s progress, step by step, and if we do that well enough, that’s when you get trophies and league titles which, of course, is our ambition.”
United host Burnley tomorrow, knowing victory will cut City’s lead to eight points with six games to go, with Pep Guardiola’s side involved in FA Cup semi-final action.
Under Ferguson, United famously lost the Premier League to City from that position in 2012, when Sergio Aguero’s dramatic late goal on the last day clinched the title on goal difference.
But Solskjaer does not expect City to crumble with six games left to play. “Of course we’ll never give up,” he said.
“ Manchester United will never, ever give up. This club has had too many setbacks and too many great comebacks to give up. It’s in our DNA.
“Is it realistic? No, probably not. When you have a team that is so consistent as City have been, you don’t expect them to lose three games of the last six.
“As long as we do our job, we want to finish the season strong and so we’ll go one game at a time.”
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