Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has underlined Manchester United’s difficult task of trying to get back to the top of English football, ahead of the Red Devils clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
While there is, as yet, still no silverware to show for it, there has seemingly been a marked improvement at Old Trafford since the Norwegian walked in the door, the club looking set to follow up last season’s third-place finish with a place in the top two.
Such a strong league performance has meant that Solskjaer’s men are now on course for back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, while they could well secure only their second top two finish in that time, the other having come under current Spurs boss Jose Mourinho in the 2017/18 season.
Much like that campaign, however, United are a distant second to Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City, with the gap between the two rivals currently at 14 points, albeit the Red Devils currently have two games in hand.
With City almost certain to clinch the title in the coming weeks, it will be their fourth Premier League triumph in just the last eight years, while United are still enduring their barren run since their last league success in the 2012/13 campaign.
The big task now for the former Molde boss will be attempting to end City’s dominance next season, the 48-year-old admitting that he’s aware of the ‘challenge’ ahead to try and get the club back to the summit.
“At the moment City have had a fantastic season, they have had three or four of them, and we know the challenge ahead of us,” Solskjaer told his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Spurs.
“But we have to take it on. If you don’t, then you’re in the wrong place being here because that is what I am going for.
“Players have to really take that on with the sacrifices they have to make and the work they have to do.
“Blood, sweat and tears have to be put down because this is the best league in the world – and the most difficult.”
Solskjaer was also keen to point out the strides that his side have made this season, although he insisted that it will be how they end the campaign that determines how much ‘progress’ they’ve made.
“If you look back at the last six or seven years, we have not been stable in the top two or three, the top positions,” he said.
“There have been seasons when we’ve been fifth, sixth or seventh. So if we can get a good second place, not just scrape into it at the end of the season but have a good finish, then we will go into the next one with hopes we can go even further and do even better.
“We know we’re in a good position at the moment but don’t get me wrong, our ambition is to catch the team in front of us.
“We’re in the Europa League quarter-finals and have had a good first-leg win against Granada in Spain.
“We’ve had some more good results in the league as well, we’re in second place and fighting to get that.
“Right now you cannot give a rating on our season until it has finished because it can be defined in three days, it can be so quick.
“It can be the difference between going into a final, having a strong finish in the league or just doing OK and scraping over the line, which is such a different scenario.
“So I will tell you at the end of the season. Then we can see the progress we’ve made.”