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Man Utd: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must kill final concern this season as new contract beckons | Football | Sport

It would be interesting to know what Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would opt for if offered the binary choice between a guaranteed top-four finish and Europa League success.

With cameras on he would no doubt suggest that a club as big as United should never believe they should exclude one possible route to glory at the expense of another.

Yet privately Solskjaer would surely concede that, even allowing for the back door entry to the Champions League that victory in Gdansk on May 26 would give, victory would also dispel the last remaining concern about Solskjaer’s leadership skills.

Because still, for all his excellent man-management, the calmness and long-term approach that others without his deep connection to the club could not begin to offer, his ability to get over the line remains in question.

Given the structure being assembled around him and the way that holistic philosophy is starting to permeate the club, there seems no doubt Solskjaer will be offered a contract extension this summer.

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Only blowing the eight-point Premier League cushion over West Ham in fifth combined with catastrophic exit from the Europa League and probably some personal scandal thrown in could possibly dislodge him.

In contrast the possibility of finishing the season with second place and a first piece of silverware in Gdansk in late May could set him on a course for a lengthy stay at Old Trafford offering all sorts of possibilities.

The opportunity to outlast Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and almost certainly Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea? Quite possibly. The opportunity to build a second team during his era? Maybe.

Last weekend’s FA Cup exit to Leicester was a blow for Solskjaer closing off one route to silverware this season but it left, arguably the easier one – one without City and Chelsea still to beat – still open.

And with a top four place looking theirs to lose, Solskjaer should be circling the dates of April 8 and 15 against Granada, and April 29 and May 6 for the semi-final legs against Ajax or Roma as his most important games remaining this season.

At United he has gone from sixth in 2018-19 to third 2019-20 both with 66 points, before this season racking up 57 with nine to play.

Based on his average of 1.97 points per game, the status quo should see them finish with around 74 which will probably be enough for second place.

Plenty of United fans would gladly take third or fourth if Solskjaer could write another chapter in their European history instead. Some might take fifth or sixth if victory in Gdansk was assured.

Solskjaer has to grab the opportunity to show that coming second is not enough for him.

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