Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he does not agree with the “narrative” that Manchester United’s form has dipped alarmingly as he prepares his team to face runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
United are second in the table but 14 points adrift of City, who are on a record run of 21 straight victories in all competitions.
Solskjaer’s men head into Sunday’s clash after drawing a blank for three consecutive matches, with concerns that attacking talisman Bruno Fernandes is beginning to show signs of fatigue.
The Norwegian manager admitted his team, who were top of the table in late January, were lacking a “spark” in front of goal but was bullish about their form.
“We have had a week without scoring a goal, not six weeks of bad form,” he said on Friday. “We beat Real Sociedad 4-0 (in the Europa League last-32 first leg) and Southampton 9-0.
“The amount of games can have an effect.
“I am not buying into the narrative that we have had such a dip in form. We have defended well but we have lacked a little spark to score a goal.”
The 48-year-old United boss hailed City’s “fantastic” run but said his focus was on winning a trophy.
United have lost four semi-finals under Solskjaer, most recently to City in the League Cup in January but are still in the Europa League and FA Cup.
“Our focus is just on this one game and not where we’re going to end up,” he said. “We just have to be the best possible Man United and try to improve on last season.
“That means moving up the table, getting more points, hopefully challenge or get to a final, win a trophy.
“What other teams do we can’t control, so we have to just keep at it ourselves, challenge ourselves.
“They’re ahead of us by a fair distance at the moment so Sunday’s a chance to test ourselves against a very good team.”
De Gea absence
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson will be between the posts at the Etihad after first-choice David de Gea returned to Spain for the birth of his first child.
The long-serving number one missed Wednesday’s drab goalless league draw at Crystal Palace for to “personal reasons”.
De Gea, who was given permission to return home despite a potential coronavirus quarantine period on his return, has since confirmed that his partner has given birth to a daughter, Yanay.
“I’ll give him the time he needs before he comes back,” said Solskjaer. “He has to go home and in the old world that’s a day, you come back and you’re ready again.
“Now with the pandemic and quarantines of course it’s a different world, but still we felt when David wanted to go and be there to support his girlfriend of course there’s not even a decision to make.”