Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists the fact his side and Manchester City are the Premier League’s two title-contending teams is “remarkable” as he took a subtle dig at rivals Liverpool. City moved eight clear at the top of the table on Saturday night with a 16th straight win across all competitions, beating Tottenham 3-0 in Manchester.
United can cut the gap to Pep Guardiola’s side back to five points if they beat relegation-battling West Brom at the Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon.
The Red Devils have only won two of their last six top-flight matches, drawing with Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton and losing at home to bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.
But while Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1 on Saturday to temporarily move into second, United are seen as the only team with a glimmer of hope of stopping a relentless City team.
The two teams go head-to-head on March 6 in a game which could all but confirm City as title winners for the third time in the past four seasons if they win at the Etihad.
But Solskjaer thinks it is extraordinary that United and City are the league’s two leading teams as he pointed out that champions Liverpool, who are continuing to slide down the table, had better preparations this term.
The Merseyside club had a pre-season training camp in Austria in mid-August while City and United were in Champions League and Europa League action in Portugal and Germany respectively.
And while their seasons started late and they had no real pre-season, the two Manchester clubs look likely to end as the league’s top two come May.
“We were disadvantaged at the start of the season with the lack of a pre-season, us and Manchester City actually too, who had played in Europe and had less preparation,” Solskjaer pointed out.
“So the performances of the two teams has been remarkable to catch up after such a difficult start.
“We lost very many points then because of the lack of preparation and pre season. We are well placed in second and it’s up to us to keep getting the points we deserve, to just focus on us and improve.
“It sounds boring but we cannot control what other teams are doing. For me it’s not to squeeze the lemon as such, but to get better performances.
“If we improve just a little bit we will turn those points we lost into wins and hopefully will put pressure on other teams to have to do the same.
“We are a work in progress, we’re still improving, but it’s hard to say – I go into every game thinking we can win it.
“Every game in the Premier League is a challenge and you have to refocus your mindset in every challenge.
“You can’t get carried away if you are winning or too disappointed when you’ve had a setback.”
The United boss meanwhile insists he will not be afraid to drop David de Gea for Dean Henderson in the league if it comes to it, with the Spaniard having been culpable for some of the goals Solskjaer’s side have conceded recently.
“The keeper position is no different to the right-back, left-back or centre-forward position. It’s about your performances and what you give to the team.”
Solskjaer added: “It’s not my job to keep any players happy. It’s not like I’m going round telling them jokes and giving them games just to keep them happy.
“Of course, we know here that we’re in a competitive environment. We’re at Man United, we’re here to win – and it’s about having the best possible chance to win and you need performances.
“It’s more their job to keep me happy and give me more and more reasons to pick them. That’s the way it is.”