Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says players cannot “fake” their way into the Manchester United side as “you only deserve to be in a team that you contribute to”.
A challenging year that started with fan discontent about the direction of the club ended with the Old Trafford giants sat second within the Premier League, just three points behind leaders Liverpool.
United have won seven of their last nine top-flight matches and talk about a title challenge is increasing thanks to the clear improvements in mentality and squad depth.
Solskjaer has thus far been coy on point out a push for the Premier League crown but was more forthcoming when it came to the good strides taken in his two years within the dugout.
Asked if he senses something has changed within the players which they’re stronger mentally as individuals, the United boss said: “Yeah, definitely.
“One, they’re two years older than once I came. Two, a number of them are really strong personalities that we’ve brought in, they’ve really been an honest influence.
“And i feel we’ve competition for places, which suggests you can’t go around and think that you simply simply can just fake your thanks to being a part of this team because you simply need to be during a team that you contributed (to).
“I think everyone’s just realised that we’re privileged to be a part of Man United, such an incredible club with an incredible history.
📸 Battling until the final whistle: it's the United way 🏁
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 29, 2020
“When you’re here, enjoy it the maximum amount as you’ll and perhaps you’ll experience some fantastic times.
“You’ve got winners like Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic. They don’t play every single game but they’re so influential within the group and within the build-up to games and through games when they’re not playing.”
Solskjaer made six changes for the last-gasp 1-0 win against Wolves on Tuesday, when Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay came off a bench that included the likes of Mata, Fred and Donny van de Beek.
“We have a robust squad, we’ve rotated tons ,” the Norwegian said.
“We’ve not really called it a settled XI because I don’t think this season goes to be that anyway. It’s getting to be about the squad. It’s getting to be about the 25, 26 players.
“I think towards the top of the season which will help us.
“It has got to be done this manner . once you leave Scott and Fred out, it’s tough because they need to play every game. But Nemanja and Paul (Pogba) played so well against Everton so we wanted that midfield.
“Injuries and suspensions will happen, so i feel our squad is well capable of being ready for each game.”
Solskjaer knows a thing or two about being in and out of the side at United.
Sir Alex Ferguson wont to plan teams beforehand and sometimes that frustrated players, like when the Norwegian scored four goals against Everton in 1999 only to then be benched in their next match
“It’s horses for courses,” Solskjaer said. “Some players you are feeling are more suitable for a few teams but, of course, you are doing plan ahead.
“I remember those four goals and that i remember also the days that you simply feel you need to play and you’re overlooked . That’s a part of being at Man United.
You have top players everywhere and that we know that throughout the season if you’re getting to win something you’ve got to contribute.
“Like (against Wolves), Anthony came on and did rather well for half an hour. Luke came on and did rather well.
“That’s just the way it’s getting to be. Players will need to be angry with me until subsequent time they play because, believe you me, they’re not happy once I tell them they’re starting on the bench.”
The New Year’s Day selection are going to be interesting against Aston Villa, who are fifth and just four points behind United because of the “fantastic job” that Solskjaer believes counterpart Dean Smith is doing.
Solskjaer highlighted their 7-2 win against Liverpool because the results of the season and knows Jack Grealish, who has admirers at Old Trafford, are going to be tough to shackle.
“He’s a player for Aston Villa and England who has only improved,” the United boss said.
“I don’t want to mention an excessive amount of about other teams’ players but in fact he’s a player we all know we’ve to seem for.
“The goal he scored last season (at Old Trafford) was an excellent goal and we’ve faced him enough times to understand it’s getting to be a difficult game.”