herald

Monday 18 February 2019

Matic: Ole's United can go for title next season

TITLE AMBITION: Matic. Pic: Reuters
TITLE AMBITION: Matic. Pic: Reuters

Nemanja Matic is optimistic about Manchester United's title prospects after they moved into the top four for the first time since August.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's superb start to life as United caretaker coach continued on Saturday with a convincing 3-0 win at strugglers Fulham.

Anthony Martial scored a superb solo effort in between two Paul Pogba goals at Craven Cottage, putting United back in the Champions League spots after a six-month absence.

They had been 11 points off fourth when Jose Mourinho was sacked, but Solskjaer's side have dropped just two points since his December 19 appointment and Matic was buoyed by this latest win.

"We knew that if we win then we will be in fourth position," the midfielder said. "Of course, Chelsea have one game less, but we are happy for three more points.

"We played well, we fight for each other. Clean sheet, we scored three goals, so we are very pleased."

United are the Premier League's in-form side, with their upturn in fortunes seeing the likes of Matic talk up next season's title chances.

"To win the league you need to win the games like we did in the last seven, eight games," said Matic, a two-time league winner with Chelsea.

"But we have to continue like this. We have to learn always, and this is the way to play.

"This is the way to fight so if we play like this for the next season then we will be one of the teams going for the title."

United can still lift a trophy this season but face a few crucial weeks, with Paris St-Germain arriving at Old Trafford on Tuesday for the first leg of a Champions League last-16 tie before a trip to face Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Solskjaer's Reds head into those games unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions, with the Norwegian reaping the rewards of his good mood behind the scenes as well as in front of the cameras.

"He's always positive," Matic added. "Of course, when we don't play well, of course he needs to shout a little bit. But he's always positive.''

Claudio Ranieri is another positive manager, but things continue to go awry for embattled Fulham.

Survival looks increasingly unlikely as the weeks go by and some of the Craven Cottage faithful turned on the Italian during the second half.

"I have soldiers, because until the end we wanted to score the goal," Ranieri said. "Even at 3-0 we wanted to score the goals.

"When you play against champions you have to stay calm, don't lose your composure. That's the real problem. They wanted to do something, but you have to stay calm and think.

"I understand the fans want to see the players fight until the end. Of course we lost 3-0, we are in a very dangerous situation, I understand.

"I told my players it's important to show our fans that we are alive, and that we will try to do our best until the end."

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