Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United face a “massive” rebuilding job in their bid to reclaim past glories after being humbled by Barcelona in the Champions League last night.
United are preparing for a huge overhaul in the summer, with the club targeting as many as five new signings and the futures of as many as nine senior players in doubt, and Solskjaer made no attempt to downplay the scale of the challenge facing the club.
The Barca team here – that’s the level we have to aspire to,” the United manager said. “We know we’re not there yet. We can get there but we have loads of work to do to get back to Man United’s true traditions and level. Barcelona were a couple of levels above over the two games.
We know there’s work to be done, I’ve said all along this isn’t going to change overnight and the next few years are going to be massive to get to the level Barcelona and other teams are at.
We’re on with the job and have spoken to the players. We need to get the best out of each other, create an environment of top-class attitude, world-class attitude every single day.
We’ve got good players to work with and, at the moment, we’ve done really well to get to the quarters and challenge for the top four, but as I said we’ve got a rebuilding job, but it starts with the coaches and players, and with one or two additions.
Ajax’s victory over Juventus, following their defeat of European champions Real Madrid in the previous round, saw the Dutch club reach the Champions League semi-finals only two years after a comprehensive 2-0 defeat by United in the Europa League final. Asked if Ajax’s improvement since then was a lesson to United about the importance of having a clear structure in place behind the scenes,
Solskjaer said: Ajax have done fantastic to get to the semi-finals. I beat them in the Europa League in 2015 with Molde so that shows you how far they’ve come and we have to praise them and the club.
They’ve always been a great club with great traditions. We have to look at ourselves, we have a job to do and are getting on with it.
Solskjaer had warned about the perils of lapses in concentration at the Nou Camp, and the importance of taking chances when they came against Barcelona, but Marcus Rashford’s first-minute miss was compounded by errors from Ashley Young for Lionel Messi’s first goal and then a howler from David de Gea for his second.
De Gea is involved in a protracted contract stand-off with United and has cut a distracted figure of late, even if Solskjaer was reluctant to criticise his goalkeeper.
That’s unfortunate with goalkeepers – when you make an error it can get highlighted and that’ll be remembered, but he made some fantastic saves and his contribution to the team is good, but sometimes that happens in football, Solskjaer said.
You know the level, you cannot slip up and make mistakes. You need to take the chances you get and we didn’t capitalise on our great chance. They have two shots on target and two goals.
Solskjaer believes Barcelona are the favourites to win the Champions League and was effusive in his praise of Messi.
With the quality they’ve got, the front three they’ve got, players to put on like [Ousmane] Dembele, Malcom, I wouldn’t bet against them even though I don’t bet,” he said. “They would be favourites to win the whole tournament. It was the worst draw we could have got.
Messi is an exceptional talent, him and Cristiano [Ronaldo] have been the best players in the world in the last decade and he showed why we think that and why this team have won so many Champions Leagues. If you give him space and time around the goal he’ll create and score goals. He’s a fantastic player.
As Featured in The Telegraph