Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged Manchester United’s fringe players to force their way into his team.
Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Fred are among the stars who have been reduced to bit-part roles during United’s eight-game winning run under Solskjaer but the United caretaker insists the onus is on them to win back their places.
“I don’t think it’s my challenge to incorporate players,” Solskjaer told a news conference ahead of Burnley’s visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday.
“It’s about the players being ready when they get the chance It’s difficult to leave players out but it’s easy to put players in. That’s the thing. As long as you have got players to put in, that’s no problem because someone has to play, you can only play with 11 but as long as you have got so many players like I have that’s a good problem, an easy problem.”
Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Lukaku and Sanchez have all scored since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December. He accepts he cannot pick all five in the same team and revealed he will call on his own experiences as a player when having difficult conversations with some of his squad.
“I have been on the end of a couple of ‘I need to speak to you son’ and [Sir Alex Ferguson] has given me the reason why and he’s told when I am going to play again so that’s no problem,” Solskjaer said.
“Everyone who wants to be part of a successful team has to have the understanding that I have my time and the other players in the squad have their time and we do this together.”
Fred, in particular, has found himself on the fringes of the team after making just one Premier League start in the last two months. The Brazilian, the fourth most expensive signing in United’s history following his £47 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk last summer, was an unused substitute in the 2-0 FA Cup fourth round win at Arsenal on Friday but Solskjaer has backed the 25-year-old to come good.
“Fred has been working really hard in training,” he said. “He’s a good lad. We know there’s a very, very good player there with Fred so hopefully he’ll adjust to the English game because there’s no doubt there’s talent, absolutely no doubt.
“It’s always difficult to come here. One: It’s Man United, you’re expected to perform straight away. Two: It’s an English league that he’s not used to.
“But he’s a Brazilian international. The talent is there. There’s loads of players that have come in and found the first few months difficult. I don’t think he needs to worry too much. He’ll get chances.”