The former United full-back also explains what United need to become title challengers, and why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for the turnaround…

Top four and two finals?

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I don’t want to come out and say they’re good again, but they’re competing well to win the lockdown league. They’re one of the form sides. It has not just continued, it has improved from pre-lockdown, and could get even better. I always had a feeling the only way they could go was to improve, especially with Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba coming back.
Champions League and the top four has to be a priority for United now, especially with Bournemouth and Aston Villa next. It’s there for Ole to go out and get, he could not settle for the Europa League, and it’s there now with the games they’ve got.
I don’t think Bournemouth are going to get out of trouble, there is nothing to raise them in an empty stadium, and United will want to get that early goal to kill them off and test them mentally.

Bruno Fernandes celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

Ole has to go out and play virtually the same team, there’s no point thinking about resting players like he did against Norwich in the FA Cup. These players need to get to know each other, win the game two or three-nil and let everyone else know they are taking this top-four race seriously.
There’s an opportunity that has occurred, and United need to go and grab it, and then stay up there. There’s no point threatening to challenge but not taking advantage of these slip-ups. Don’t be like Chelsea and Leicester, be like the United of old.
Qualifying for the Champions League is the main aim, and you have to say that is a bonus given how things were going before the lockdown.
I would like to think Ole is also aiming for two finals. With the FA Cup, you’d have to say United believe they can beat Chelsea in an empty Wembley. Likewise with the Europa League, the way they have stepped forward, they could get into another final in Europe.

‘Ole proving doubters wrong’

People are still struggling to come forward and say ‘Well done Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’, no one wants to do it because a lot of people wanted him to get the sack so they could follow up and say ‘we told you so’.
He’s hurting a lot of people at the moment, I don’t want to begrudge anybody that opportunity because it’s still viable it could happen, but he has made people’s life a little bit more difficult because of how good a job he has been doing.
If you throw out any top manager’s name, somebody in the press or a keyboard warrior would know all the reasons why Mauricio Pochettino would be doing better than Solskjaer. In fact, they don’t really know to be honest, they haven’t got a clue why he would be better, all they know is that he’s a bigger name.

Mauricio Pochettino, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Ole’s record prior to United wasn’t very good, but a lot of managers were getting jobs and we all questioned why, and they’ve been quite successful. People questioned Arsene Wenger coming to Arsenal, look what a difference he made there. He made them an institution and changed other clubs’ habits as well.
That’s how football works sometimes. Because someone is a big name and has done alright at another club, that doesn’t mean they’ll go to another club and do well.
Jose Mourinho is one of them with the way he has been of late, a big name because of his history, but it doesn’t make any difference in the here and now. Football is changing, there isn’t time to think about history, putting three fingers up doesn’t guarantee you anything now.
Mourinho didn’t achieve enough, or the right things, at United on and off the pitch, so who says Pochettino could go and do that. He will want to bring in his own people, change the playing style, why are United going to go backwards and do that again?
No one wanted to give Ole any time at all. Yes it has taken him a while, but he had to get rid of a lot of bad eggs and lift a club in the doldrums because of the previous manager.
He has put smiles back on people’s faces, done a lot of homework and worked to know what United needed off the pitch. There are still issues to be sorted out above, but he has put himself in the best position to change the culture and get people at the club thinking more about winning games and trophies, rather than coming close and worrying about a profit line in the market.

Can United close the gap and challenge Liverpool?

If you look at the points difference you would have to say no. However, United will be taking more points off people next season than they have done this season.
Liverpool will have to fight harder to take points off sides. Can United make up that difference to go and win the league? You can’t expect that to happen, but if someone brings out that chequebook then you never know.

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Money doesn’t guarantee anything, being a team with unity and continuity can sometimes get you over the line, but I think United can challenge, Man City have learnt lessons too. They’ve realised they need proper centre halves rather than ones who might make mistakes every game or two.
In terms of what they need. Definitely a centre forward, a central defender, and left back.
Brandon Williams needs a run of games. He needs a chance, Luke Shaw is not doing enough defensively. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is great defensively and even better going forward, Shaw at the moment is not the master of anything, there is a problem there.
In central defence, I’m not sure on Harry Maguire. I think he needs to go on the right side of central defence, because he hasn’t got a left foot. He makes the game too narrow when he runs out.
I think they need Nathan Ake, he’s better in the opposing box and would be a good acquisition to play with Maguire to find out how good he really is. He would be an improvement on Victor Lindelof.
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