Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has sensed a positive shift in mentality among his Manchester United squad ahead of the visit of high-flying Aston Villa on Friday.
United will enter 2021 second in the Premier League after their 1-0 victory over Wolves on Tuesday, and are enjoying a six-game unbeaten run.
Solskjaer’s side have emerged as challengers to table-toppers and reigning champions Liverpool, and the manager credits a combination of new signings and experienced “winners” with instilling a more resilient attitude in the United dressing room.
Asked if he had witnessed a change in mentality, Solskjaer said: “Yes, definitely. One, they’re two years older than when I came. Two, the strong personalities we’ve brought in, they’ve really been a good influence.
“I think we have competition for places, which means you cannot go around and think you can fake your way through being part of this team. You only deserve to be in a team that you contribute in.
Solskjaer says ‘winners’ such as Juan Mata help United’s squad even when they are not playing
“I think everyone’s just realised we’re privileged to be part of Man United – such a fantastic club and fantastic history. When you’re here, enjoy it as much as you can and maybe you’ll experience some fantastic times.
“And you’ve got winners like Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic, who don’t play every single game, but they’re so influential in the build-up to games, and even during games when they’re not playing.”
Solskjaer: Rotation will help United
Solskjaer believes one of the reasons for United’s strong league position is their strength in depth – so much so that he does not think he will settle on a first-choice starting XI this season.
United have not named the same line-up in consecutive games this campaign, with clubs enduring a more gruelling schedule than usual after the coronavirus pandemic shrunk the 2020-21 calendar.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Wolves in the Premier League
But Solskjaer believes his squad is capable of handling whatever is thrown its way, saying: “We have a strong squad. We’ve rotated a lot. We’ve not really found a settled XI, which I don’t think this season is going to be about anyway.
“It’s going to be about the squad, it’s going to be about the 24, 25, 26 players and I think, towards the end of the season, that’ll help us.
“It has to be done this way. Getting injuries and suspensions will happen. I think our squad is well capable of being ready for every game.”
Friday 1st January 7:30pm
Kick off 8:00pm
United played nine games in December and face another seven in January, and when asked if he was being forced to look several games into the future when picking his teams, Solskjaer said: “Sometimes horses for courses – some players you feel are more suitable for some teams.
“Of course you do plan ahead. I remember the times you feel you deserved to play and you get left out. That’s part of being at Man United – we have top players everywhere.
“The players will have to be angry with me until the next time they play, because, believe you me, they’re not happy when I tell them they’re starting on the bench.”