The Red Devils’ Europa League advancement continued a strong beginning to the calendar year
Manchester United’s scoreless second-leg Europa League draw with Real Sociedad on Thursday was enough to ease them through to the last 16 and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to a full month.
Despite the 4-0 aggregate win, Red Devils defender Axel Tuanzebe said his side have not forgotten some of their low points under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which now serve as inspiration to finish the campaign in style.
They were dumped out of the Champions League group stage in the fall and have been defeated in three domestic semi-finals and one continental semi-final since the start of 2020. The desire to avoid similar feelings of disappointment has proven a powerful motivator on the pitch.
What has been said?
“It takes a while to get momentum going, have faith in the manager and we are starting to build that,” Tuanzebe told BT Sport. “It is not something done in a year or two, it is a long project and having faith in the coaching staff. The results are coming through.
“The disappointments always stay with you and you do not want to feel like that again, you try your best and ensure it does not happen again.
“This is Man Utd, all players who play for us are talented and the manager always has options. The personalities that United bring through are determined players and that shows when we get the chance to play.”
Solskjaer, meanwhile, acknowledged “you remember the defeats more so than the wins” and said a determined mindset of self-improvement from previous let-downs was crucial.
The bigger picture
Cross-town rivals Manchester City have overshadowed Manchester United in 2021 with their ridiculous 19-match winning streak, but that relative quiet might actually suit a Red Devils squad that not too long ago was under intense fire for apparent stagnation under Solskjaer.
Despite dropping points to West Brom and Everton, they have crept into second place in the Premier League and are now on to the next round of the Europa League. Their match against Chelsea this weekend should provide another barometer of their current abilities.