Football: Keeping 'feel-good factor' up
LONDON • While the Old Trafford faithful are hopeful more tales can be sung about “the legend of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer” when Manchester United welcome Huddersfield in what will be his first home game tomorrow, Ashley Young is seeking to temper expectations despite their “crazy week”.
The 45-year-old stand-in manager went back to basics at Cardiff on Saturday to provide an antidote to the misery of the Jose Mourinho era, as United scored five goals in an English Premier League game since Alex Ferguson’s last match in May 2013.
But, while Solskjaer will field a similar attacking line-up at home to keep the “feel-good factor” going, Young has urged his teammates to “concentrate on what happens on the pitch, not off it”.
He said: “We have lots of games coming up over the Christmas period and it is about recovering in the right way, and we just have to concentrate on each game coming up and not look too far ahead.
“You go out to do a job and go out and play football. That is what every single player in the squad has been doing and obviously, there has been a change of manager… A lot of the press will talk about us, but Huddersfield is our focus.”
The wing-back admitted that Solskjaer’s positive demeanour had been a refreshing change to the sullen manner often exhibited by Mourinho.
He joked: “I don’t think he has stopped smiling. He was like that as a player, he always has a smile on his face and that can reflect down on to the team which is a good thing.”
United captain Antonio Valencia also felt the mood had lifted around the club.
Despite having been left out of the match-day squad in Wales, the defender, who has made only four league appearances this term after being ostracised by Mourinho, remains convinced that under Solskjaer’s watch, a top-four place is still within their grasp. The Red Devils are eight points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
He said: “Nobody is giving up at all. You know there is half a season left to play so it’s all about working hard, battling and playing well.
“We know we have got the quality within the squad to be able to do that. The main thing is to get everyone together after Christmas and it is a great fact we don’t have to travel as it’s at our doorstep. Playing in front of our fans is always a special occasion.
“We are getting the chance to make them happy and, hopefully, (we can) put any recent bad results behind us to get into good form again.”
With the Terriers mired in the relegation zone after five league defeats on the trot, United have an opportunity to close the gap and Nemanja Matic believes they can put David Wagner’s men to the sword by following Solskjaer’s mantra of “more forward play”.
However, pundit and ex-United player Gary Neville has urged caution as one swallow does not make a summer, insisting it was too early to make a judgment call on the Norwegian’s managerial credentials.
Speaking on his own podcast, the former United defender said: “There was an immediate bounce and impact from Ole, however it was Cardiff and we need to see if they can do it over six months.”
MAN UNITED V HUDDERSFIELD
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