Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told his players they will no longer be able to “fake it” as he laid out his plan for the new year.
Solskjaer has led United to second in the Premier League table, three points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, after a run of nine games unbeaten.
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Heading into 2021, they are still in with a chance of lifting four trophies, and Solskjaer has suggested any player lacking commitment will find themselves out in the cold, regardless of their name or price tag.
“We have competition for places, which means you cannot go around and think you can just fake your way being part of this team,” Solskjaer said. “You only deserve to be in a team that you contribute to.
“I think everyone has realised they are privileged to be part of Man United, such a fantastic club with a fantastic history. When you’re here, enjoy it as much as you can, and maybe you’ll experience some fantastic times.
“You’ve got winners like Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic. They don’t play every single game, but they are so influential in the group and the buildup to games and during games when they’re not playing.”
Solskjaer has used 20 different players to navigate the gruelling Christmas fixture list, and the Norwegian is set to make more changes for fifth-placed Aston Villa’s trip to Old Trafford on Friday.
“We have a strong squad and have rotated a lot,” Solskjaer said. “We’ve not really called it a settled XI because I don’t think this season is going to be about that anyway.
“It’s going to be about the squad. It’s going to be about the 25 players. Players will have to be angry with me until the next time they play because, believe you me, they’re not happy when I tell them they’re starting on the bench. I think towards the end of the season, that will help us.”
The match with Villa will see Solskjaer come up against a player he has been keen to bring to the club in Jack Grealish. The England international has registered five goals and six assists already this season and was in top form the last time he played at Old Trafford, scoring a wonder goal in a 2-2 draw a year ago.
“He’s a player for Aston Villa and England who has only improved,” Solskjaer added. “I don’t want to say too much about other teams’ players, but of course he’s a player we know we have to look for.
“The goal he scored last season was a brilliant goal, and we’ve faced him enough times to know it’s going to be a difficult game.”
Meanwhile, the Premier League announced United will play their rescheduled match away at Burnley from the opening weekend on Jan. 12.
Solskjaer’s side were unable to participate on the opening weekend in September due to their participation in the knockout stages of last season’s Europa League, which ended only in August due to the COVID-19 hiatus.
The trip to Turf Moor is United’s last Premier League fixture before the trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on Jan. 17.