Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident his improving Manchester United squad have the “right mentality” to sustain their title challenge all the way until May – but says his players cannot afford to think too much about the prospect of moving to the top of the Premier League table.
United can go top of the pack for the first time since September 2017 with a point at Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday night.
And while Solskjaer stressed that getting to the summit is one thing but planting your flag on it is quite another, he has no fears this squad will stop pushing.
The Red Devils take on reigning champions and current leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday in a match which acts as an ideal opportunity for United to rubber-stamp their title credentials.
Before then, though, they will be looking to leapfrog the Reds against Lancashire opponents Burnley.
“We need to get points against Burnley for starters before anyone can say that you are top of the table,” Solskjaer said.
“So I would like to think that we go into this game not thinking about where we will end up tomorrow night in the table but where we can end up in the table in May.
“That’s what matters. You accumulate the points throughout the season and if at one point you think ‘Ah, we’ve made it now, we have cracked it’ and you relax, that is when it’s going to hit you back.
“We are very focused and we have some good characters in the team, the dressing room is louder, it’s more vocal
“We’ve got Nemanja Matic, who has won it a few times, Juan Mata, Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes coming in – he wants to feel part of a team that is going to be challenging for trophies.”
Solskjaer said the additions of Fernandes and Cavani, who can return on Tuesday night after serving his three-match FA ban for his controversial ‘negrito’ Instagram post, have been instrumental in adding steel.
The Norwegian manager admitted even he has been impressed with Cavani’s attention to detail, right down to how he has his pre-match meals cooked.
He added: “He knows he is here to improve and to get ready for the game so those little things that you can see in players who have had careers and those habits I really like.
“But we have more players that can grab the situation now. The group’s mentality is getting better and that is the big thing for me – that we go into games with the right frame of mind.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played in a team with loads of characters where we look after ourselves – inner justice.
“You need leaders there to really grab hold of the ones who stray out of line and it’s a big, big thing, that the group push themselves.
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“I’ve been lucky enough at Molde and here now to have a feeling that I can trust them more and more to look after themselves.”
United’s charge up the table from 16th, after being humiliated 6-1 at Old Trafford by Spurs in early October, to the shoulder of leaders Liverpool has also been helped by a lack of serious injury.
And Solskjaer puts that down to players having less opportunity to go out and about due to the government’s strict coronavirus guidelines.
“There are less things to do outside football than you might have before,” he said.
“You stay at home, you rest and recover and maybe you do some things in your own gym to look after yourself.
“Hopefully they’ll find out they can live this way for most of the rest of their careers!”
Solskjaer would no doubt take until May as a start.
Expected Man Utd team vs Burnley (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani