Ranieri backs Reds' caretaker for permanent position
Claudio Ranieri believes Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer "deserves" to be appointed Manchester United's permanent manager.
The Norwegian has excelled since succeeding Jose Mourinho on a caretaker basis, overseeing nine victories from 10 matches, and remaining undefeated to transform the club's season.
Tomorrow's fixture at Craven Cottage represents the start of a period that is expected to influence whether Solksjaer remains at Old Trafford - in the coming weeks they also face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Ranieri, who arrived at the London club a month before Solskjaer returned to Manchester but who has struggled to have anything close to the same positive effect as the 45-year-old, said: "At the moment he deserves it. He's shown all the players are with him.
"Manchester United's mentality has changed. Why not?
"I remember him as a player, against Chelsea. He was a fantastic player. His career's open, and I wish him all the best."
Ranieri, however, feels that "sooner or later (United) have to lose", adding: "Why not against us?"
The Italian said: "We must be positive and we have to fight. If we don't fight and lose, you lose before you play.
"If the opponent is better, well done to them. I want to see my players fight until the end. My fans will be happy seeing the players fight for every ball."
Tomorrow's fixture could also reunite Ranieri with Anthony Martial. As Monaco manager, he engineered his arrival at the Ligue 1 club for a remarkably low fee two years before his departure for what could eventually cost United £58million.
"I signed him for £5million, it was good business," said the 67-year-old. "He was fantastic. I watched him during the Under-21s match against Monaco and was impressed.
"When the chance came to buy, I said 'Take this guy because for me he could have a good future'. He came to Manchester and well done to him.
"He's very good; can dribble; strong; fast. There are so many good players, (Paul) Pogba, (Marcus) Rashford; so many. We must be concentrated and strong, positive to show our personality during the game."
Meanwhile, Ander Herrera is keen to stay at United as discussions over a new contract continue to progress.
The 29-year-old left Athletic Bilbao for Old Trafford in 2014, with the midfielder signing a four-year deal with the option of a further season.
United invoked that clause last year and Herrera's contract is due to expire at the end of the season.
Although negotiations remain ongoing, the Spaniard's desire to stay at Old Trafford means there is unlikely to be any major issues. When asked about his contract after the 1-0 win at Leicester on Sunday, Herrera said: "If I deserve it, I will get it.
"I was player of the year two years ago and, I cannot lie, I feel very good at the moment. I feel in form, I can run a lot and recover the ball and I feel good when I have it at my feet."
Juan Mata is another player out of contract at the end of the season, along with Ashley Young, who is set to extend his stay at United beyond the summer.