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Solskjaer urges Man United title caution as Smith laments penalty call

After the defending champions were held to a goalless draw at Newcastle on Wednesday, the Red Devils knew they would join their fierce rivals – who boast a significant advantage in terms of goal difference – on 33 points at the top-flight summit if they could overcome high-flying Aston Villa on New Year’s Day.

It was a third straight home win after some earlier struggles at Old Trafford this term and extended their unbeaten streak to 10 matches, though Solskjaer continues to urge caution when it comes to the genuine title expectations now being placed on his team for the second half of a hectic 2020/21 campaign.

“It’s early on in the season and we shouldn’t be too carried away with three points,” the Norwegian told Sky Sports.

“We have improved, we are getting better and the I think the league and the season is going to be so tight.

“There is going to be different and difficult games, strange results – we’ve just got to keep working and improving as a team. We’ve done that since Project Restart started.”

In his post-match press conference, Solskjaer added: “Of course we’re very happy with the position we’ve found ourselves in.

“It’s such a big difference if you look 12 months back. You lose the chance to be there or thereabouts in the first 10 games, you can lose the chance to be in a title race.

“For us now, it’s a good position to be in but we need to improve, we need to get better. There’s going to be many tight games but if you can win games like tonight that’s going to make a big difference.”

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Dean Smith felt referee Michael Oliver should have been afforded a closer look at his crucial penalty decision

/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images )

Meanwhile, Solskjaer’s Villa counterpart Smith was left to lament what he now believes was the incorrect decision to award United a decisive spot-kick after Douglas Luiz was adjudged to have fouled Paul Pogba.

In particular, the former Brentford boss could not fathom why referee Michael Oliver was not instructed by VAR to have a second look at the incident on the pitchside monitor.

“I thought Douglas Luiz got too tight to Paul Pogba and it looked like as he turned he pulls him down,” he said.

“I felt it was a penalty at the time and I could see why the referee certainly did as well. But then going into the dressing room and seeing it again, very, very dubious. It appears to me that he trips himself over. There’s very, very minimal contact.

“If that’s the case, if there’s that much doubt, then the idea of VAR is to send the referee over there to have a look for himself, so a little bit dumbfounded to why he wasn’t sent over to have a look at it.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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