Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows this season has presented Manchester United with their best chance of winning the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down.
United have failed to challenge for the title since Ferguson signed off with the club’s 20th championship triumph in 2013, to end his glittering reign in style.
But if United can win a sixth straight league away fixture at Sheffield United, as well as their game in hand against Burnley, they could be just a point off the top.
With Solskjaer expecting this season’s unpredictable results to continue, he acknowledged the prospect of United making a realistic title push for the first time since the end of the Ferguson era.
“I’d be disappointed if the players didn’t think we can put a challenge up,” said Solskjaer.
“At the moment, anything goes in the league. There’s different reasons for different results.
“I feel we’re getting better, but we have to improve quite a bit to take that next step as well.”
Tonight’s trip to Bramall Lane is the start of six games in 16 days for United, a period Solskjaer admitted will be an indicator of his side’s title credentials.
“This is a big run of games for us,” said Solskjaer. “After the Villa game on New Year’s Day, we have a little bit of a break in the league.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have missed out on Jadon Sancho in the summer, but he still made some big moves in the transfer market with Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani all arriving.
But their start to the season has been a mixed bag, with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 thrashing by Spurs at one end of the scale, and a tremendous 2-1 win over PSG in Paris at the other.
The question now is whether they can find the right balance?
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“This period is going to be vital and it’ll be easier for me to answer [about a title challenge] around that time.
“This season is going to be very unpredictable and up and down.
“Whoever finds the consistency and the energy will have a better chance than in the last few seasons, because there’s been a few runaway teams.
“For us, the quicker we can get the game in hand against Burnley played the better, so the league table looks as it should be.”
Edinson Cavani, who missed the 0-0 derby stalemate with Manchester City, is close to a return from injury, but unlikely to be risked tonight.
Solskjaer refused to rule out left-back Brandon Williams going out on loan next month, with Southampton keen on taking the 20-year-old.
“Brandon has done really well since he came into the team,” said Solskjaer. “He had a slow start to the season for different reasons.
“I think he’s now coming back to himself. I’ve enjoyed seeing him, I’ve enjoyed him more in training, he’s played a couple of Under-23s games and been more involved.
“That’s something we’ll look at in January, but we rate Brandon highly, so whoever’s interested, they’re not wrong.”