Belfast Telegraph

Solskjaer tips United to put on a Boxing Day clinic at Old Trafford

Happy times: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims for another good performance
Happy times: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims for another good performance

By Mark Critchley

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot wait to lead Manchester United out at Old Trafford for the first time - and he believes his side are ready to put on a Boxing Day show.

Having been parachuted in as caretaker manager for the rest of the season, the fan favourite got the post-Jose Mourinho era off to a dream start.

United ran amok at Solskjaer's former club Cardiff, scoring five goals in a Premier League match for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013 as they left the Welsh capital buoyed by a 5-1 win.

Boxing Day offers an opportunity to secure another exciting win as struggling Huddersfield arrive at Old Trafford for a match that will leave the Norwegian pinching himself as he manages "back home" in the hotseat.

"Of course, you try to keep your emotion in check because I'm there to do a job, I've got to be focused," Solskjaer said.

"It's not easy, I don't think it will be easy, but I'm looking forward to it and I think the boys are looking forward to playing at Old Trafford.

"That's the key, we should be looking forward to playing there.

"I was sat next to Rene Meulensteen in a reserve-team game once as a coach, second half, and I was there with Cardiff. But, of course, it will be special."

Solskjaer is looking to become just the fifth manager in United's history to kick off their reign with back-to-back league wins - a result that would provide another timely shot in the arm.

United have managed to win just five of 12 matches at Old Trafford in all competitions so far in this disappointing campaign, with the pressure appearing to be too much for players at times.

"That comes when you sign for Man United," Solskjaer said. "You know you're going to play in front of the best fans in the world.

"Confidence is not something you store into the fridge and pick out.

"You earn it by your performances, by your training, how you feel. Hopefully this gave them a boost, so I'm happy and looking forward to Boxing Day."

Solskjaer knows all about such pressure having represented United for 11 years as a player, with the pinnacle being his Champions League final winner that sealed the treble in 1999.

But there were rough patches and periods of criticism from onlookers and pundits - something that got under the skin of predecessor Mourinho during his tenure.

A number of Solskjaer's former team-mates were among the most outspoken critics, but the Norwegian will not baulk at comments made by the likes of Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville (below).

"Don't worry, Gary will be really hard on me," he said, smiling. "I sat next to him in the dressing room for 11 years. He was next to me and you know Gary!

"He's paid now to give his opinion and of course he should do. I'm no different to anyone else.

"I'm no different to any other manager when you lead that team out onto the pitch. It comes with a responsibility but my job is to get the players enjoying themselves."

There was no need to worry about negative comments at Cardiff as United played with style and purpose - perhaps even raising expectations of what Solskjaer can he achieved.

"You can never set the bar too high," he said. "They're setting the standard.

"The players who play for this club have high standards to live up to.

"Today, it's not like they were outperforming themselves.

"We want to look at this game. We'll evaluate, look at a few clips and as I said earlier we can better, we can understand each other better."

Few expect the air of positivity at United to dissipate on Boxing Day, when Solskjaer will be welcomed by the '20LEGEND' banner that has been put back up at Old Trafford.

"They're the best fans in the world," he added. "Of course, I have my history at the club and to see that banner is special.

"I just hope in the next five months I'll do a good enough job for them to keep singing my name."

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