Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted he has some difficult decisions to make in the summer to return Manchester United to what he considers their rightful place.
At the moment the manager is still confident his side can reach third or fourth place to guarantee Champions League football for next season, though he is aware that is not enough.
“We need to be challenging again. Liverpool and Manchester City are too far ahead of us at present,” Solskjær said. “I’m under no illusions. This is going to be hard work, not plain sailing.
“Over the summer we need to be looking for the players who are capable of taking us forward, and we’ll have some tough decisions to make. We have a certain standard here, we want to see players step up like Fred and Scott [McTominay] did the other day against Barcelona.
That’s what we expect, players who are not afraid of a challenge, because we are not always going to be winning 5-0, it’s not always going to be easy.”
One decision that appears to have been made already is that Mike Phelan will be staying in his capacity as assistant, not taking up a new role as technical director. “I want Mick to carry on doing the job he’s doing,” Solskjær said. “He’s already more than an assistant manager, he’s a fantastic guy to have around.”
Solskjær has confirmed Ander Herrera will miss the game against West Ham on Saturday with an injury picked up in training, while claiming the midfielder’s continued absence has nothing to do with stalled talks on a new contract.
Herrera is believed to be a target for Paris Saint-Germain when his deal expires at the end of the season, and the player has so far resisted Manchester United’s offer of an extension.
“Maybe his future has been a worry for him and maybe that’s part of the reason he picked up another injury,” Solskjær said.
“All I know is that he’s been working really hard to get back fit again after the injury he sustained against Liverpool. I can’t really comment on how far we are down the line with his contract talks, we’ve been letting him focus on his fitness.
He’s not happy at the moment because he cannot help his teammates. He loves to play, he would always give his all whether he has five weeks or five years left on his contract. I would have no problem playing him either but he will not be ready for West Ham, hopefully we might see him against Manchester City or Chelsea.”
Despite a downturn in results Solskjær is sticking to his original targets of 15 points from the last six league games and a top-three finish. “If we get 15 points I think we’ll make the top three because hopefully we’ll beat Chelsea at home,” he said. “We want top three. Top four is fine too, but we should aim for 15 points.”