Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called on Manchester United to “step up and show personality” as they aim to hunt down a place in the Champions League.
United’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Thursday – which came courtesy of strikes from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – lifted the Red Devils back level on points with fourth-placed Leicester City, who had defeated Sheffield United earlier on.
Manchester City’s successful appeal of their European ban for a breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations means only the top four in the Premier League will qualify for next season’s Champions League, and the race looks set to run to the wire, with United facing Leicester in their final league game.
Solskjaer believes his side put in a cagey display at Selhurst Park, and wants more confidence from United, who are unbeaten since January, heading into the final two matches of their Premier League campaign.
“It was a tight game, didn’t get the rhythm in our passing but two fantastic goals won it for us,” he told BT Sport.
“We need to smile, we need to go into this like we’ve earned this right. Nobody thought this in January, that we were in with a shout of the top four.
“We’ve done fantastic since the restart. We’ve got to smile, got to enjoy it, these are the games that matter at Manchester United. You’ve got to step up and show your personality.”
Solskjaer was delighted with the play for both of United’s goals, though again called on his attackers to offer more moments of such quality.
“The finish was great but also the build-up with some quick, interchanging passing, but we didn’t do it enough, and we don’t do it enough, because they are a handful to play against,” Solskjaer added.
“I’m glad I’m not a defender playing against them – they need to trust themselves to do that more.
“We needed the second goal, that’s when they started strutting about as well as they can.”
The match was not without controversy, with Palace denied what appeared to be a valid shout for a penalty when Victor Lindelof went in on Wilfried Zaha prior to Rashford’s opener before Jordan Ayew had a goal disallowed by VAR for a marginal offside.
Palace have now suffered six straight losses, but Roy Hodgson does not believe his team deserved to lose on Thursday.
“I thought we could so easily have been leading in the game, so to find yourselves on the wrong end of a result like that against a team of Man United’s quality is very hard to take,” he told BT Sport.
“There were decisions which could have gone our way that didn’t. I thought the referee on the field could have given a penalty, he didn’t.
“The people in the office somewhere, they didn’t give that one as well. Apparently the [offside] is one of those hairline decisions. We’re used to football without VAR – when the ball was crossed into the six-yard box and someone scores, I don’t remember those goals ever been ruled out for offside.
“Now we have to come to terms with the reality that you’re celebrating, think you’ve scored a good goal and then you have it taken away from you by a fine decision.
“It’s tough for the players, I feel really sorry for them, because if there’s ever a game that I should be congratulating them on the performance and result, tonight was the night.”