Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his players have been affected by the fan protests against the Glazer family as the club prepares to welcome supporters back to Old Trafford for the first time in more than a year.
United have won just two of their last six games in all competitions while supporter unrest has swirled in the background following the club’s failed attempt to join the European Super League.
For the first time since March 2020, fans will be in attendance for Fulham‘s visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday and Solskjaer is hopeful it can help unify the club after weeks of unrest.
“I didn’t want to use it as an excuse because we lost two games but surely it’s a reason behind the performances,” Solskjaer said. “I’m not saying it didn’t affect them but I was impressed with how professional they were and how they went about it.
“I think the mood in any club and the relationship between the team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch. The players are all human beings, we’re all human beings, and we will react to getting our supporters back in a positive way.
“They have always been giving us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer and that’s what we have to focus on. It’s a big game for us in that respect.”
Victory over Fulham would guarantee United second place in the Premier League with a game to spare. It would represent their highest finish since 2018 but Solskjaer said he will not class it as a significant achievement.
“It’s a good performance but we can’t say it’s an achievement, it’s not an achievement,” he added.
“We’ve taken steps as a team, we’re not where we want to be, we know we have some deficiencies as a group there’s parts of the game that we need to improve on but I’ve felt we’ve made strides in most places and I’ve been very pleased with the players and I’ve got to say I’ve been impressed by them but we want to take the next step as well.”
Solskjaer has also said there are talks planned with Juan Mata with the midfielder’s future up in the air. He is out of contract in the summer, although the club hold an option to extend his deal by another year.
“I’ve kept the dialogue with Juan and we’re due to speak again very soon,” Solskjaer said. “Of course he’s not played as much as he would like and that’s a decision we will make with him.
“He’s in charge of his own future, he’s been such a good servant for the club but it’s hard to leave good players and good people out of the team and it’s about what does he want as his next step in his career.
“Is it to play his career out here or is it to go somewhere else? We haven’t made the final decision yet.”