Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told his players to keep cool heads when they play Tottenham Hotspur today as they look to avenge a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s side in the reverse fixture. France international Anthony Martial was sent off in the 28th minute in the humiliating October defeat at Old Trafford after retaliating to an elbow from Erik Lamela with a push in the Argentine’s face.
Solskjaer says Martial was “conned” into reacting and he does not want to see a repeat in London as they look to put their club record-equalling defeat in the Premier League era firmly behind them.
“We didn’t look anything like (them) and we got conned into a red card and that’s something we have to be aware of,” Solskjaer told a news conference. “We can’t react, because in games, there’ll be situations you’ll be wound up, we’ve learnt from that. I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain and their pride has been hurt. Pre-season was short... but we were so poor and I’m sure we’ll see some players wanting to prove we’re better than that.”
United have made huge strides since the loss in October, moving up to second in the Premier League. They also have one foot in the semi-finals of the Europa League following Thursday’s 2-0 quarter-final first-leg victory at Granada.
But Solskjaer said there was plenty of room for improvement. “We’ll never settle for second,” he said. “We have seen the heights and we know what this club is capable of. It’s taken time for us to be in this position and, hopefully, we can be better next season because this is below our ambitions.”
Solskjaer also said forward Edinson Cavani, who arrived on a one-year deal in October, is still undecided over his Manchester United future. “It’s not been an easy year, either for him or the rest of the world this season, so he still wants time to make his mind up,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho said that he does not believe Solskjaer will be using Manchester United’s 6-1 humbling by Spurs as motivation. Former United manager Mourinho, now in charge of Tottenham, believes the match early in the season produced a freak result.
“I believe that 6-1 doesn’t reflect the reality,” he said. “I go much more in the direction of the other two previous matches between us and United. We lost 2-1 at Old Trafford, with the penalty, and we draw 1-1 at home last season, also with a penalty. I think this is more the reality. If Solskjaer is going to use that result I don’t know. If it was my team losing 6-1 to them I would just say to my guys that it happened once and it’s not going to happen twice.”
A huge factor behind United’s resurgence has been their form on the road — they have not lost away in the Premier League since January last year. But Mourinho said that record would not intimidate his team, who are desperate to break into the top four after an inconsistent season.
“I am not going to comment on the record other than to say congratulations for the record,” said the Spurs boss. “We are going to try and win the match. It is the only thing that I can say. “It is very difficult for many reasons but that record is not going to stop us to think we can win and it is not going to stop us to fight to win.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho said Tottenham want to make an impact on the fight against online racist abuse after defender Davinson Sanchez was targeted last week, and may join other teams in a boycott of social media.
Scottish champions Rangers and English second-tier side Swansea City said on Tuesday they will boycott social media for a week after several players from both teams were racially abused. Sanchez was also targeted on Instagram following their 2-2 draw at Newcastle United on Sunday.
“The club is thinking, analysing every detail and the club of course wants to make an impact,” Mourinho said. “The decision that the club will make will be a decision that we will accept and support. It is an internal discussion about a sad situation.”
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