Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offers title race verdict ahead of crunch Arsenal clash

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Manchester United are taking the season “one game at a time” but is confident there are a clutch of teams that could rival Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title this term. Both sides have suffered heavy defeats already this season and do not appear as invincible as they were in past campaigns.

United came into the 2020-21 season hoping to bridge the gap to the two after they finished 33 points behind champions Liverpool and 15 behind second-placed City last term.

But the Red Devils have lost two of their first five games, going down 3-1 and 6-1 to Crystal Palace and Tottenham respectively, both at Old Trafford.

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Solskjaer’s side have improved of late, beating Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in impressive Champions League displays either side of a goalless draw with Chelsea.

They also defeated Newcastle 4-1 with three late goals before their surprise away win at PSG, offering hope to United fans that they are finding their groove.

United’s form will be put to the test by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal this weekend as they seek a first home league win off the back of their 5-0 demolition of Leipzig.

And as the two teams – who came into the season as outside shots for title contention – prepare to do battle, Solskjaer insists that “anything can happen” this year.

Though United come into the game sat 15th, City are only one point ahead of them while Liverpool appear more vulnerable with Virgil van Dijk set to miss the full season through injury and Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal have all shown notable weaknesses as well.

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“I think football has developed and so many clubs have developed strength in depth and the ability to challenge for trophies,” Solskjaer said.

“Even though in the last two seasons you had two teams running away with it, I think this season, a lot of us just underneath them would look to put up a challenge.

“Back then it was either us or Arsenal, and then Chelsea came through as well. Now it’s probably more exciting for the fans and everyone that it’s not one of these two.

“This season, anything can happen, what’s happening around the world. We’re just taking one game at a time.

“When I played it was between us and Arsenal to win the league, that was a very fierce rivalry, there are all sorts of stories about what happened. That’s passion, the excitement, importance of those games.

“We knew if we beat Arsenal and we took six points off them that’d’ be us winning the league and vice versa.

“Some unbelievable games, some fond memories and some bad memories, there is still a rivalry and history but now we don’t think about them or anyone as our rivals, we just need to put points on the board and it’s so early anyway.”

Solskjaer has been pleased by United’s reaction to losing 6-1 to Spurs before the October international break and added: “I think any result as brutal as a 6-1 would have to get a response and, of course, it has been dealt with internally.

“We’ve tweaked a couple of things, got players fit and I think the manner of the defeat wasn’t something we should ever have to be confronted with again.

“Then again things happen in football these days and the response has been fantastic, and that’s what I’m concerned about, because we wanted to finish that off as soon as we could and move forward.”

The Norwegian will take charge of his 100th match as United manager against Arsenal.

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Initially appointed as caretaker boss, he was named the permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho in March 2019 and has racked up 55 wins from 99 games during his tenure thus far.

And he continued: “Arsenal is always going to be difficult, because they are a very good team with a very good manager who’s got some great ideas on how football should be played and I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m surprised it’s 100, it’s gone really quickly even though a lot has happened. So let’s hope I can celebrate number 100 with a good performance and a result. But I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

Speaking on Jamie Carragher’s Greatest Game Podcast, however, United legend Ryan Giggs admitted his concern that United – who have not won the league since 2013 – could end up going two decades without a title triumph.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” the former Welsh winger said when asked if he’s worried about the club’s title drought.

“It could be 15, 20 years before you know it, especially if [Jurgen] Klopp and [Pep] Guardiola stick around.

“They have got the resources and the players so we have Liverpool to look at, where the last time when they won it in 1990. They thought ‘we’ll win it again soon.'”

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