After a hard-fought, 2-1 home win over Aston Villa, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stopped short of claiming his side were Premier League title competitors after a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Aston Villa took them level on points with Liverpool champions and leaders.
Before a mouth-watering game at Anfield on Jan. 17, Liverpool visits Southampton and United fly to Burnley, although in front of eerily empty terraces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
United look capable of staging their first genuine Premier League title challenge since 2013 when Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge secured their record-extending 20th crown, but his former protege Solskjaer refused to get carried away.
“Of course we are happy with what we are doing,” Solskjaer told the BBC. In a year, we have shown that we have grown a lot. We are getting fitter and fitter and stronger and stronger.
It is a perfect era for these players. They are learning and they are hungry to understand what is vital. With hunger and desire to be the best on match day, they come in every day. They were centered.’
But Solskjaer also blamed his team for trying so many daring passes against a stubborn Villa side instead of easy ones that came close to snatching a draw after being subdued in the first half by violent United pressure.
“It was maybe a little too open and we wasted chances. We tried to play the Hollywood pass instead of securing the first one and using the space that was there,” he said.
“You are always delighted with three points. We had a good save at the end and Eric Bailly made a fantastic block so that probably saved two points for us.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith supported the decision of referee Michael Oliver to grant United a game-winning penalty scored by Bruno Fernandes, granted after a VAR check as Paul Pogba came under Douglas Luiz’s challenge.