WOLVERHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to the Champions League for some cheer after suffering away defeats by Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup and Premier League.
Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at Molineux was a rare blemish on a stunning start to Solskjaer’s reign at Old Trafford and a win against Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final next week would be the best remedy.
“We will use one or two days to analyse and recover and then we will prepare for Barcelona, which will be a fantastic challenge for the club,” said Solskjaer, who scored a famous injury-time winner in United’s 1999 Champions League triumph.
The Norwegian was also weighing up how to ensure his team make it into next season’s Champions League after the defeat at Wolves left them in fifth place on 61 points, still behind Tottenham on goal difference but now having played a game more.
“We need 15 points in the last six games so we don’t have room for any more losses,” he said, assessing United’s chances of a top-four finish before their next Premier League game at home to West Ham United on April 13.
“It is a difficult run, but then we are a very good team as well so it will be difficult for others who play against us as well.”
Having criticised his team after the 2-1 win over Watford at the weekend, Solskjaer was forgiving about Tuesday’s setback, United’s second 2-1 defeat at Wolves after last month’s FA Cup sixth-round loss, saying United created enough chances to win.
“Very good start. Should have been three up. Or could have. We created our own downfall really ... But for their keeper (Rui Patricio), we should have won this game,” he said.
It was painful viewing for Solskjaer, who was appointed the club’s permanent manager on Thursday, as United squandered chances to improve on their 1-0 early lead before Wolves hit back through Diogo Jota and a late Chris Smalling own goal.
“That’s football for you and that’s why it’s the game we all love, it’s not like maths,” said the Norwegian.
But he was delighted with midfielder Scott McTominay’s performance and rasping 13th-minute goal from outside the box - his first in 41 appearances for the club in all competitions.
“Scotty has never, ever let us down. He never disappoints us when he plays. Today was another very fine performance by Scotty... It won`t be hard to see him play many, many games for Man Utd... I was very, very pleased with him,” he said.
Solskjaer was also forgiving of England international Ashley Young, who was sent off in the second half for a reckless tackle on striker Jota. “He reached the ball, and it was just a little bit too high... It made it a bit more difficult,” he said.
After his second game since being given the Old Trafford job permanently, Solskjaer was asked if the shine might be coming off his incredible start.
“I don’t think there is any kickback or re-setting. I was very pleased with the amount of chances, with the intent in the way we started the game and played,” he said.
Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Additional reporting by Oliver Cawthorne; Editing by Ken Ferris