Football

Red Devils face fight for a top-four spot, says manager Solskjaer

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded his side were much more likely to face a scrap for a top-four English Premier League finish than challenge Manchester City for the title, after a frustrating 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace yesterday morning (Singapore time).

United lacked spark on a foggy evening at Selhurst Park and, having missed several chances in the first half, they were on the back foot after the break and were fortunate to come away with a point.

Solskjaer criticised his team after a lacklustre performance left second-placed United 14 points behind runaway leaders City ahead of the Manchester Derby on Monday morning.

"It's not good as you know, if you want to move up the table, you need to win," the Norwegian told the BBC.

"You have to earn the right, you have to win tackles, you have to fight, you have to play passes better as we kept giving the ball away.

"We go into every game thinking we need to win and we want to win. We just have to concentrate on ourselves. We know we're in a fight to be in the top four, so every game is important."

It was a third successive 0-0 draw for United in all competitions, following a goalless stalemate at Chelsea last Sunday and against Real Sociedad in the Europa League last week.

The Red Devils were on the front foot for much of the game, but their influential playmaker Bruno Fernandes failed to make any impact and the best chance fell to Palace, whose left-back Patrick van Aanholt squandered a 90th-minute sitter.

United striker Edinson Cavani was a surprise starter after missing the last four games with a muscle injury and he spurned a gilt-edged chance in the 14th minute when he skied a close-range shot over the bar.

Nemanja Matic, who was preferred to Scott McTominay, and Marcus Rashford also went close for United in the first half, before a superb Joel Ward clearance denied Cavani a tap-in from three metres in the 44th minute.

Andros Townsend fired just wide for Palace on the hour before Dean Henderson thwarted van Aanholt, after a lovely through-ball by Luka Milivojevic left the Palace defender one-on-one with the United goalkeeper.

Keeping a third clean sheet in a row did not impress Solskjaer, who stressed his side lacked bite up front to turn draws into wins.

"Of course, it's a concern," he said. "When you have three clean sheets in a row, that will help you win games but we haven't produced the quality. We just have to find a spark again and try to win games.

"A couple of times when we had the tempo in the right positions, we created decent opportunities but I don't think we deserved anything more than one point."

Matic conceded United were too cagey, telling Sky Sports: "We have to do much better, we have to risk more in attack to create chances.

"We are Manchester United, we have to win this kind of game. On Sunday, we have a big game against Manchester City and we have to refocus for that." - REUTERS

Football