Ole Gunnar Solskjær is teaching his Manchester United players to cope with a new phenomenon: receiving plaudits.
“At the moment we’re getting praise and now that’s another thing we have to learn to deal with,” said Solskjær before Saturday lunchtime’s trip to Leicester.
United’s manager and his squad have weathered so much criticism in recent months it almost seems alien to regard them as title challengers but they sit third, five points behind the leaders, Liverpool, with a game in hand and one point behind Leicester, who have also played an extra match.
“We’re getting better and better,” said Solskjær. “I go into every single game thinking I can win. These boys know what I want from my team. There’s always noise around Manchester United but for us now it’s about improving every game and taking one game at a time … Every game is a cup final now.”
The need to maintain this incremental progress dictates that Solskjær does not mention the possibility of eclipsing Liverpool and company to his players. “It’s not something we talk about,” he said. “The only thing we focus on is improving day by day and learning how to deal with different situations.”
Leicester are a case in point and Solskjær is not underestimating the threat posed by Brendan Rodgers’s team. “We’ve had some very good games against Leicester, tight games; they’re a very good side, with a very good coach,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed watching them under Brendan. They have some threats you have to look out for.”
United’s manager acknowledges he could do with a clean sheet. “It’s going to catch up with you if you keep giving teams the lead,” he said. “Leicester are one of those teams you definitely don’t want to give a one- or two-goal lead to.
“They have so many players who play on the transition that [if you fall behind] you can easily end up conceding three or four goals. We have to start well; the first goal is going to be very important.”