Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United’s 3-2 victory over Liverpool on Sunday was a “statement” to his players after reaching the FA Cup fifth round through taking a proactive approach.
Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford were both on target but Mohamed Salah’s second strike looked to have taken the contest to extra time. But Bruno Fernandes’ unstoppable late free-kick ensured United set up a tie with West Ham at Old Trafford next month.
The encounter was in stark contrast to the goalless draw at Anfield seven days ago, in which both teams cancelled each other out in a cagey affair.
But speaking after this demonstration of attacking prowess, Solskjaer said: “It’s fantastic to win games against last year’s champions – they are a fantastic team and we have had good results over the past couple of years playing different systems but today we played well and won on our terms.
“We have found a way that we and the players believe in and we are getting stronger and stronger. Our mentality to come back from 1-0 down. We have shown it so many times this season. Physically we have got stronger and stronger and lasted to the end of games a lot more.
“We look at the difference of a year ago and six months back… you can’t take too many big strides at any one point, but layer by layer we’re getting better and better, winning tight games. The morale and confidence of course is very good.
“For us it’s a good feeling to play on our terms. We have had some good results over the last few years, playing with the diamond or with a 3-5-2… different systems to nullify opponents but to win today with a positive selection and in the way we see our team, that’s a statement to ourselves.
“That’s the confidence boost that we can match the best with our style of football.”
Premier League leaders United sit six points above Liverpool, and while Solskjaer admitted there was a sense of elation in the dressing room following this thrilling victory, he has already turned his attention to the visit of Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
The Norwegian revealed Rashford will have a scan on Monday morning to assess a knee injury which forced the forward off in the closing stages, but Solskjaer reserved special praise for match-winner Fernandes after putting in the extra yards in training on the eve of the tie.
“He’s got that quality in and around the box,” the United boss added on Fernandes. “He’s proven to give assists and score goals. It was a very good free-kick and he managed to practice a lot yesterday. He was practising extra free-kicks for half an hour at least… I don’t know how long. But it worked and paid off.”
Klopp: We have to solve problems together
Defeat made this the fifth time in six seasons Liverpool had failed to progress beyond the fourth round of the FA Cup under Klopp, whose poor start to 2021 continued as they lost on enemy territory.
The Merseysiders are the first reigning Premier League champion to be eliminated from the FA Cup as early as the fourth round since Manchester City in 2014/15, but Jurgen Klopp believes there were signs of progress following their recent poor form.
“It’s not what we wanted, so it’s frustrating,” Klopp said. “We weren’t on our absolute top, but we made a lot of steps in the right direction,” he said.
“You could see the boys really wanted to change the fortune, they wanted to score goals and that’s good. We did that, we scored twice, which is good as well. That’s all okay but in the end they scored three, we scored two and they are through.
“But we can take positives out of this game, of course – I saw a lot of steps in the right direction and that’s all good.”
After watching the way his side were undone on the break by United, he said they would need to work on the training ground this week to prepare for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur who also rely heavily on counter-attacking.
“It was good preparation for Tottenham,” he said. “We know exactly what we have to work on. If you are in a situation you don’t like, you want to get out of it.
“We want to get out of it and for that we have to make steps. Tonight we made these steps — not the final ones, but we made steps and that’s for the moment okay.”
Klopp denied his team, who would slip out of the top four in the Premier League if they lose to Tottenham on Thursday, are running low on confidence.
“Tonight I didn’t see any confidence problems. We are on it, believe me, and we will sort that,” he said.
FA Cup 2020/21 – key dates and draw
The FA Cup schedule has been confirmed, with the final set to take place at Wembley on Saturday May 15.
There will be no replays this season to help ease fixture congestion.
- Fifth round: Wednesday February 10
- Quarter-finals: Saturday March 20
- Semi-finals: Saturday April 17
- Final: Saturday May 15