Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United are steadily getting closer to where they want to be as they attempt to equal an English top-flight record this weekend before trying to win the Europa League.
Wednesday’s clash against Villarreal in Gdansk looms large but first comes the Premier League finale at Wolves, where the Red Devils are looking to spoil outgoing manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s farewell.
United are assured of second spot heading to Molineux so the trip to Poland naturally takes precedence, but a slice of history can be achieved having gone unbeaten in all 18 away Premier League matches to date.
Only Preston in 1888/89 and Arsenal in 2001/02 and 2003/04 have previously gone through an English top-flight campaign undefeated away from home – a feat Solskjaer’s side can replicate on Sunday.
“We’re not where we aim to be,” the United boss said. “We’ve got ambitions to move one place further up, of course, but it’s been steady improvement.
“We’ve improved steadily, surely – third last season, second this season with more points.
“We’ve done really well away from home, of course. We know we had a difficult start to the season with a lack of pre-season and we lost three out of the first six games.
“Loads of them were home games, which put pressure on the team but they’ve managed really well. The players have been very, very good.”
United’s gradual improvement has seen them secure back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as champion in 2013.
Solskjaer also has his side on the cusp of their first silverware in four years, with the 1999 treble hero planning alterations with the clash against Villarreal in mind.
“Well, of course you want to go into the final with loads of energy but also confidence, so we’ll make a few changes,” the Norwegian said.
“Freshen up a few, rest a few that have been really playing and been regular in the team.
“Going into the last game, we know that we’ve done really well away from home, and go enjoy it, get some minutes into a few who might need it before the final.
“Every game matters. Every game you play matters.
“For the players who are on the pitch, it’s an important preparation for the final – get confidence, get momentum. But of course a final lives its own life.
“I know that Anthony (Martial) is not going to be available. Scott (McTominay) and Fred should be OK.”
Harry Maguire is out of the Wolves game and Solskjaer expects the United captain to also miss the Europa League final with the ankle ligament injury picked up against Aston Villa a fortnight ago.
The Red Devils boss wants to avoid any further injury issues to key players, meaning teenagers Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri will be involved on Sunday.
Shoretire, 17, made two substitute appearances in February and was this week crowned the club’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year.
Mejbri, the 18-year-old signed from Monaco in 2019, has collected the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year award and is pushing for a debut that would have come sooner had it not been for injury.
“They’ve had good seasons,” Solskjaer said. “Both of them.
“Hannibal and Shola, both of them will be involved. Maybe we can get some minutes in them.”