OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER has taunted Liverpool over their 29-year title agony, declaring: They are feeling the pressure.
Manchester United can do rivals City a favour by beating the Kop men at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Asked about Liverpool’s title drought, Red Devils boss Solskjaer said: “Of course they will feel that pressure — the supporters and players both feel it. It is very difficult to win the league here.
“It is probably the toughest league to win.
“When you look at it, there are only five or six teams that have ever won the Premier League.
“We are not thinking about doing anyone any favours — but I think the whole of Manchester will be supporting us.”
It was one of the most memorable quotes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s glorious reign — and there were plenty to choose from.
Seventeen years ago, Fergie was asked about his greatest challenges at Manchester United. His answer, “Knocking Liverpool off their f***ing perch”, went down in football folklore.
United interim boss Solskjaer was never going to use such colourful terms to describe the task facing United today.
But underneath the boyish smile and the softly-spoken words, the tone was unmistakably steely.
And for a man who insisted he was not interested in the mind games his old gaffer used so successfully, he did a decent impression of someone more than happy to get involved.
Like the moment he was asked about the pressure facing Liverpool to end a title drought lasting three decades and the entire Premier League era.
The answer was as quick, as cutting and as deadly as anything he used to produce so regularly in front of goal in a red shirt.
He said: “I have loads of Liverpool fans back home and it has been like every year is going to be their year.
“Then it has got to October and it’s ‘OK, next year’.
“They are in the race now, so for them it is going to be an exciting finish to the league — but that is none of our concern. We just have to concentrate on ourselves.”
United have been doing that pretty well since Solskjaer arrived, ironically after Liverpool’s 3-1 Anfield victory over the Red Devils in December finally brought Jose Mourinho’s reign to an end.
Eleven points adrift of the top four has now become a place in the top four.
Easy-beats has become hard-to-beats in the Prem, with eight wins and a draw under the Norwegian.
And, most importantly of all, negative must-not-lose football has returned to go-for-the-throat attacking stuff.
It is an approach which was the norm in Solskjaer’s playing days and one he has demanded from the day he replaced Mourinho.
He added: “That is always my first thought — it is always to win the game. I have never gone into one with the first thought to try not to lose.
“If we can do to Liverpool what we have done to a few teams then I will be very happy.
“The game will decide if we have to play a different way, and the start is very important.
“We always want to take the initiative but, then again, there are games where you are not allowed.
“We will go into this game wanting to dominate, of course.
“We know their strengths, we know they will wait for our mistakes and counter-attack.
“Then again if we drop back and stop those counter-attacks, we are inviting them to dominate us so we don’t want to do that at Old Trafford. We have to take that lead.”
No player has taken the lead more than Paul Pogba under the caretaker chief.
Before Solskjaer got the call, the Frenchman was drifting through games, slammed by pundits every week and giving a fair impression of a player who did not want to be there.
Life seemed to more about social media, the celebrity circuit and different haircuts than winning matches.
Now, though, he is THE form midfielder in the Prem and has taken more starring roles than anyone under the new management team. Solskjaer admitted it has all been down to the player, rather than any hardline chats from above.
He said: “We know leading up to the last game against Liverpool there were stories about players not being focused. But it is not about that.
“We know they are focused and doing their best but he does help himself by toning it down a bit and that is just Paul being Paul.
“Knowing him he wants to win, he wants to be the best.
“He is a leader in training, a leader in the dressing room and he spends a lot of energy being a leader on and off the pitch.
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“Paul has always been a larger-than-life character but you do not want to give anyone an excuse really. So of course, you don’t go to the Brit Awards this week.
“If you want the nice car, different haircut, OK.
“I can’t do anything about my grey hair — but it is not a problem to have whatever haircut you want.
“It has never been a problem with Paul.
“I remember when he was 16 he wanted to feel good. If you feel good, you will play well.
“I have not said anything to him about it — just to the team about expectations and standards.
“I’m a bit older than them and I don’t understand all this social media. But I posted a picture of Marcus Rashford’s shirt over my TV when he scored against Liverpool last time at Old Trafford.
“That maybe was one of my five or six tweets ever!”
The whole of Manchester — both blue AND red sides of the city — will be hoping Solskjaer feels the need to do so again by this evening.
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