Manchester United must become ‘addicted to winning’ again, like they were under Sir Alex Ferguson, insists Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he urges his side to go ‘one step further’ and reach Carabao Cup final by beating rivals City
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has quietly turned around fortunes at Manchester United
- United are top of the table and meet Man City in the Carabao Cup semi-final
- Solskjaer has said his players must have ‘no excuses’ as he eyes first silverware
- The Norwegian says winning trophies ‘becomes a drug’ for the players
A year ago this Thursday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw his team ripped apart in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final by a rampant Manchester City at Old Trafford.
City were three up by half-time and 3-1 victors on the night. Manchester United won the second leg 1-0 at the Etihad, but there was no way back. They went out on aggregate and City went on to win this competition for the third year in a row.
It was the start of a depressing trend for a United side that also lost in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Europa League to Chelsea and Sevilla last season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is riding a high with Manchester United and now eyes his first trophy
Solskjaer wants his side to become ‘addicted to winning’ like United under Sir Alex Ferguson
For Solskjaer, a serial winner in his playing days, that was hard to stomach. He believes United are better now then they were then. Better equipped to face City and with a better chance of reaching a final at last.
He will find out on Wednesday when the two teams meet again at Old Trafford in what will be a one-legged affair this time.
Solskjaer knows how important that first trophy and the drug of success could be for his players. His message to them on Tuesday was clear: no excuses.
‘We want to go one step further,’ he said.
‘I speak from my own experience. When I won the first league at Man United, it becomes a drug celebrating with your teammates on the pitch with a trophy. It becomes a thing. You become addicted to winning.
Pep Guardiola’s side knocked United out of the Carabao Cup last season in the semi-finals
‘You play football to win trophies, even though when you get your hands on that trophy you just move onto the next one. It gives you the hunger to get more. For this team, it would be a very big step.
‘I think we’ve improved immensely in a year since the last semi (against City) and even when we were in Europe in August.
‘Sometimes it’s about fine margins and sometimes it’s about quality, and we are a better team now. We have added some players in our group that hopefully can give us that extra edge compared to last season.
‘But it’s not just learning to win semis. We’ve also earned the right to feel we can go all the way with our performances. Hopefully we can make it one step further this time.
‘We are confident. We’re going into the game in good form, so there’s no excuses.’ United followed up their victory in the second leg by beating City 2-0 in the Premier League in March, in what was the last game played in front of fans at Old Trafford.
They go into this match in the rare position of being above their neighbours in the table after a drab encounter ended goalless there last month.
Solskjaer encountered a different City in that game, one happier to give up possession and rely on the counter-attack which explains why they cancelled out a like-minded United.
Ferguson will be watching on at Old Trafford on Wednesday night as United bid for the final
‘I think Man City changed it a bit,’ he added. ‘They don’t concede as many goals and they have more counter attacks themselves. They’ve made a decision to maybe drop more than they used to do.
‘We didn’t have the X-factor in the last game, maybe because they were a little bit more cagey. But there have been some fascinating games and I feel we’ve got closer and closer.’ In contrast to their rivals, City are familiar with the winning habit and particularly in the Carabao Cup.
Pep Guardiola is bidding to reach his fourth straight final, having not been knocked out of this competition since losing to United 23 games ago in October 2016.
‘The team has won it three times in a row, semi-final for the fourth time in a row, so it means a lot,’ said Guardiola on Tuesday.
‘If it were not important then we would drop it before. It is the semi-final and we cannot expect it to be more difficult than with the rival we are going to face. But we have the desire to get to another final.
‘It is a rivalry in the city and for many decades United was above Manchester City. For us, we are incredibly proud and it is an honour for the last decade to be there with them and sometimes win – most of the times – and sometimes lose.’
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