Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned his Manchester United players they will come unstuck if they start to believe their own hype.
United will go top of the Premier League by avoiding defeat at Burnley on Tuesday night, a position they have not occupied for two-and-a-half years.
That would also see Solskajer’s men go into Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash at Liverpool ahead of their arch rivals and reigning champions.
But Solskjaer has told his squad the table counts for nothing in January and spelled out they must remain humble if they want to stay in the title hunt.
“We need to get points against Burnley before anyone can say that you’re top of the table,” said Solskjaer. “But that’s the position we’ve put ourselves in.
“I’d like to think we go into this game not thinking about where we’ll end up tomorrow night in the table, but where we can end up in the table in May.
“That’s what matters. You accumulate the points throughout the season.
“So if at one point you think, ‘We’ve made it now, we’ve cracked it’ and you relax, that’s when it’s going to hit you back. So we’re very focused.
“We have some good characters in the team, the dressing room is louder, it’s more vocal, with experience.
“We have more players who can grab the situation.”
The last time United were top was August 10th 2018, after a 2-1 win at home to Leicester in the Premier League’s opening game of that season.
But the last time they were top this far into a season was 2013, when Sir Alex Ferguson led United to their most recent league title before stepping down.
Since then, United have flitted between second and seventh, lacking the consistency to challenge for the title, something Solskjaer feels is now within their grasp.
“Since Sir Alex left we’ve been second, third, fourth, fifth, twice sixth and once seventh,” said Solskjaer.
“When I played it was a different ball game, we were really disappointed if we didn’t win the league. Now the league’s different.
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“There are so many other teams who can challenge and look at themselves as candidates to challenge the top teams.”
Despite warning his players about getting ahead of themselves, Solskajer believes they are mentally stronger than at any point in his two years in charge and that he can trust them on and off the pitch.
“I feel the group’s mentality is getting better, so that’s the big thing for me,” said Solskjaer.
“Sometimes results don’t go as expected, but I’m very happy with where we are mentally at the moment.
“There’s nothing worse than having your manager or coaches always telling you what to do – this, that and the other.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played in a team with loads of characters, where you look after ourselves – inner justice.
“Because you don’t just let yourself down, you can let your team down, so you need leaders there to really grab hold of the ones who stray out of line and from what we’ve agreed as a group.
“When you’re part of a team, there’s nothing stronger than being part of a team that keeps together.
“I’ve also seen teams that have cliques that don’t work together – that’s the killer of a team – so it’s a big, big thing that the group pushes themselves.
“I have a feeling that I can trust them more and more to look after themselves.”
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