Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the buck for Manchester United’s poor start to the season stops with him but insists he will prove he is the right man for the job. United have made a miserable start to the season, winning one of three including a humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham before the international break.
And they now face a run of seven tough-looking games in 21 days which threaten to decide the fate of the United boss.
But while Solskjaer accepted the start has not been good enough, he insisted he can handle the pressure and is confident his players can pull the club out of a corner.
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The Norwegian’s Old Trafford future has been the subject of speculation with the shadow of former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino looming large over the 47-year-old.
And some have called for Solskjaer to be relieved of his duties – but he insists he’s the right man for the hotseat.
“The spotlight should be on me because I’m the manager and I’m responsible,” he said. “I hold my hands up.
“Last season was also hard. After we had played nine games we had won two which was difficult. But if you are part of Man United as player or staff you’re used to this and you have to be mentally strong.
“For me this period is another chance to prove and tell the players how much we believe in them. It’s about being focused for the next game because I know they’re capable of getting results and moving up the table.”
On paper, United’s fixture against Newcastle on Saturday night looks their easiest in a crucial three weeks.
After that, United travel to PSG in the Champions League, host Chelsea at home, face RB Leipzig away, Arsenal at home, before taking on Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir and high-flying Everton on the road.
Yet with pressure building, Solskjaer knows he might not reach the end of that run if he cannot find a way past Newcastle.
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He continued: “For me it’s we need to stick together as a group. When you lose a game the first thing you need to do is bounce back in the next one and we’ve got a chance to do it against Newcastle.
“It’s not been easy so far because of the fitness, we’ve not had the physical preparation, maybe we’ve not even had the mental preparation but now we don’t have that excuse any more.
“Now the players have had some internationals and we’re getting that fitness back now so it’s about creating that energy in every game.”
Solskjaer hinted he may yet take captain Harry Maguire from the firing line after a couple of poor performances, suggesting the defender returned from international duty with a “knock”.
He will also be without Anthony Martial (suspension) and deadline day signing Edinson Cavani (quarantine).
Bruno Fernandes will be restored to the line-up after he was subbed at half time in the Spurs fiasco, a decision which infuriated the midfielder.
However the Portugal playmaker angrily denied he had fired off at either team-mates or his manager when asked this week on international duty.
And Solskjaer threw his weight behind his player circling wagons in reaction to what he believes are the regular outside influences always keen to destabilise the club.
“False stories come out and I don’t know who started them, but you can see Bruno’s reaction as well,” said the United boss.
“He’s clearly not happy with them but then welcome to Man United, you are everyone’s favourite target if something goes wrong.”
Captain Harry Maguire has begged Solskjaer not to take him out of the firing line, insisting he can handle the pressure.
The United defender has had a difficult time on and off the pitch since his arrest in Greece in the summer and was criticised after seeing red for England earlier this week.
But while Solskjaer appeared to give himself the option to drop the centre-half, citing a mystery injury in his pre-match press conference, Maguire wants the chance to play himself back to form.
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“He’s adamant he’s ready to play, he’s a lad who doesn’t want to hide he doesn’t want to hide behind a red card or a bad performance,” said Solskjaer ahead of the trip to Newcastle. “He wants to go out there and prove himself.
“I don’t doubt his resilience in that respect he’s very professional so he wants to put himself ready for selection. It is up to me to choose him or not and if I want to take him out the firing line.
“I haven’t considered that without him coming to knock on my door and I speak to him regularly. He has been very positive in his communication.
“I just hope he can play tomorrow because he picked up that knock just before the red card, I’m not sure if he’s going to be available yet.”
Maguire has had several poor performances since the season restart with a dismal display in the 6-1 defeat to Spurs and a calamitous effort for England against Denmark.
That drop off in standards has seen many link his arrest for aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery in Mykonos this summer, to his drop off in form.
Solskjaer added: “In football you’re in the spotlight all the time. When he is part of the England team who beats the No 1 ranked team in the world (Belgium) it is just a normal day.
“Then you get the headlines when he gets sent off. Harry has great resilience and I know he will bounce back.”
Probable Man Utd XI to face Newcastle (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Mata, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood.
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