Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes this season’s Premier League title race will be “so tight”, though he is not getting carried away after Manchester United moved level with Liverpool at the top.
United defeated Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford on Friday, remaining second behind the defending champions only due to their inferior goal difference.
It was a 10th straight league match without defeat for Solskjaer’s side, who seized the opportunity presented to them by Liverpool’s goalless draw at Newcastle United on Wednesday.
Liverpool can pull clear again at Southampton on Monday, with United’s game in hand against Burnley to come later in January, but Solskjaer is expecting plenty more twists and turns before the campaign is out.
“We’ve improved, we’re getting better,” the manager told Sky Sports. “The league – and the season – is going to be so tight.
“There are going to be different and difficult games, strange results, we’ve just got to keep working and improving as a team.
“Since Project Restart [late last season], we’ve been a very consistent team.
“Every time you win a game, you take one step further. It’s three points in total, you’ve just got to accumulate them.
“The first game is just as important as the last game of the season – they all count the same.”
With Anthony Martial’s opener cancelled out by Bertrand Traore, it again fell to Bruno Fernandes to hit the winner from the penalty spot against Villa, who are winless in 16 league meetings with United.
The Red Devils have lost just three of their 30 league matches since the 2020 signing of Fernandes, who has been involved in 33 goals in this time (19 goals, 14 assists).
In Premier League history, only Andrew Cole (37 involvements – 28 goals, nine assists) has had a greater impact from his first 30 games in the competition.
But United were clinging on in the closing stages, with Eric Bailly – who made a game-high six clearances – lunging into a vital stoppage-time block in front of goal, to leave Solskjaer a little concerned about his team’s inability to close out games when ahead.
“To be fair, I didn’t enjoy the last 10 minutes that much – we should have seen the game out in a better way,” he said, having seen United finish with just 48.9 percent of the possession.
“It seemed like it was a cup final, or the last game of the season. We need to learn how to play out games better when we’re in the lead. We’ve shown that when we’re chasing a goal, we’re capable of doing that.
“We created chances. It was always going to be a physical game. We knew that they’d improved massively, and they gave us some challenges.
“There were a few times in that box when you were a bit worried. We didn’t stop the crosses well enough, because when they put crosses in, they were always dangerous.
“But we made some fantastic blocks, some saves, so I’m delighted with the three points.”