Man United must strengthen to challenge champions City – Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed plans are afoot for Manchester United to strengthen before trying to hit the benchmark set by Premier League champions Manchester City.

City’s third title in four seasons was confirmed on Tuesday by Leicester’s first Old Trafford win since 1998, sealed by goals from Luke Thomas and Caglar Soyuncu.

Solskjaer conceded playing a role in City’s coronation was less than ideal but praised United’s efforts for pushing their rivals as far as they did and set his sights on recruiting this summer before mounting a stronger title challenge next term.

“First of all congratulations to Manchester City for winning the league, very worthy champions, we’ve got to hold our hands up,” the United boss said. “They have been lauded, and rightly so, as one of the best teams that have been in the Premier League, they have shown where the bar is.

“That is where we want to be. We are not there yet; they have put the bar where it is and it’s up to us now to take the next step. That’s a long process, what know what we want to do.

“Of course, this is not the position we want to be in. But the sensible answer is that we pushed City to the last 10, 12 days of the season.

“We’ve got to be big enough to hold our hands up, I don’t mind doing that, but we know we want to get there and that is the next step we have to make. Hopefully we can come together as a team and club and push next season.”

Solskjaer added: “If you want to take up the challenge with them, of course, we need to strengthen our squad.”

Solskjaer made 10 pre-match alterations with Thursday’s rearranged clash with rivals Liverpool in mind, and despite equalising through Mason Greenwood after Thomas’ exquisite volleyed opener, United were unable to avoid falling to a first league defeat in 15 matches.

Solskjaer was pleased with the performance of his much-changed side, however, with 19-year-old Anthony Elanga making his senior debut on a night when 18-year-old Amad Diallo made his first United start.

“It took some time to get going but after they scored it looked like we dropped our shoulders, the nerves went and we started playing,” the United manager said.

“We scored a fantastic goal and I’m very pleased with the performance. Amad, very good. Elanga will remember this, so very pleased with them.”

Brendan Rodgers congratulated Manchester City, after Leicester’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United confirmed Pep Guardiola’s side as champions.

He hailed a “huge” three points for his side, who moved eight clear inside the top four with two games to play.

Leicester missed out on Champions League qualification on the final day of last season, losing to United in that game to see them beat them into the top four, but this victory at Old Trafford means four points from their final two games will be enough to ensure lightning does not strike twice.

After moving three points beyond their tally from the whole of the previous campaign, Rodgers said: “It’s huge. We’ve got to 66 points now, two of the teams in third and fourth last season qualified on 66 points, so we’ve taken a big step. But there’s still two games to go, there’s still teams chasing us, and there’s still work to do.

“It’s such a huge challenge for us, you think of the top teams in this country, and everything that goes with that, for us to be there challenging and be consistently there is a huge testament to the players, and everyone at the club.

“It’s not a club used to being at the top, yes there was the one season they won the league, amazing, but other than that it’s not been that type of club. That’s why it’s so difficult, but for these players to have that level of mentality and consistency, and there’s still a long way to go to sustain it.

“But hopefully what we’ve shown in the last couple of years is that we’re prepared to fight for the results, and when we have a blip, we can calmly look at it, be honest, and go again. That’s what we’ve done this evening.”

Report by Sky Sports

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