Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants Manchester United’s Premier League draw against relegated Fulham to be a “wake-up call” ahead of the Europa League final after his players overplayed in an attempt to entertain returning fans.
Old Trafford welcomed supporters back for the first time in 436 days on Tuesday evening, with the 10,000 in attendance making their feelings against the Glazer family loud and clear as they enjoyed their long-awaited return.
Edinson Cavani opened the scoring with an outrageous 35-yard clipped effort 15 minutes into his first match in front of United fans, but the hosts failed to turn their dominance into victory.
Joe Bryan all too easily ghosted in to seal relegated Fulham a 1-1 draw, leaving Solskjaer frustrated at the end of a special evening at Old Trafford.
“The buzz, the energy, the atmosphere was magic, really,” the United boss said. “It was fantastic to have them back.
“You felt in the warm-up the buzz of people just talking and that’s been missing. We’ve really missed it.
“Maybe that was part of the reason that we played the way we did because I thought we played too much to entertain at times.
“Too many difficult choices instead of a simple one. We made the difficult one, the one that might look better and that will come back to cost us at times. A good experience.”
Solskjaer had hoped to use this match to wrap up second spot and build momentum ahead of next Wednesday’s Europa League final against Villarreal, but they followed back-to-back home defeats with this draw.
“We need to play better against Villarreal than what we have the last three games,” the United boss said.
“But I think you’ve seen so many times that when we’ve been backed into a corner, when we’ve lost, when we’ve been criticised, we’ve always come back and stuck together.
“I think it might be a wake-up call because we tried to do the fancy stuff – the flicks, the extraordinary things, the things that pleased the fans.
“That’s not what we’re about. We should be more efficient.
“Have a look at Cavani, have a look at how he plays the game. Every single one of us look at him.
“Back tackles, runs, scores – there’s no fluff. And we can’t have fluff in a game of football.”
Solskjaer said Cavani’s audacious effort would have been a goal of the season contender had the club’s award not been handed out before a match in which Europa League injury concerns grew.
“We’ve had a couple of players that have got knocks and injuries today, with Scott (McTominay) and Fred so I’ll see how they are,” he said.
“Unfortunately Scott had to come off and Fred doesn’t look great when he’s walking now but we’ve got 10 days so hopefully everyone will be available that was available today.
“Harry (Maguire) we’re working on. It doesn’t look great. Anthony (Martial) we’ve still got a little bit of hope on.”
Solskjaer and his players did a lap of applause after the final home match of the season, with Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo holding a Palestine flag aloft.
“We have players from different backgrounds, different cultures, different countries,” the United boss said.
“I think we need to respect their views if they differ from someone else’s. If my players think about other things than football, that’s a positive thing.
“I think we’ve seen that with some of the players before, that they do care about…say Marcus Rashford, for example, the differences he’s made. We respect their right to have a different view.”
Meanwhile, Fulham boss Scott Parker was pleased by the way his relegated side battled for a draw at Old Trafford.
“A little bit of both (regret and hope),” he said. “The performance tonight has been there this season, but we were on the right side of fine margins tonight.
“What was different was Phonse (Alphonse Areola) making a few saves, one of their shots goes over the bar.
“On the flip side, we executed a lovely move to work a goal.
“Nothing really changed as I told the team to come here and play like a top team and be ultra brave. That was a risk but that’s how we put our stamp on it.”