Peter Schmeichel Backing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United 'Grand Plan'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2020

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United gives team instructions during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Manchester United at Goodison Park on March 01, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's method of taking things "one game at a time" when it comes to UEFA Champions League qualification.

Solskjaer said that was his approach even though Champions League football is the club's "ambition."

Schmeichel, a former team-mate of the coach's, told Premier League Productions (h/t Goal's Chris Burton):

"He's [Solskjaer] tried to not put it out there that we are chasing Champions League or that he's setting targets that might be unrealistic.

"He's saying we take it game by game. He's said his grand plan is to play a younger team and get a younger team ready for next season.

"He's doing that. He's getting players at 18, 19, 20 years of age, he's giving them game time so that they will be ready and have that experience. Then we will have to see what happens in the summer.

"Of course he wants to be in the Champions League, but I don't think he can go in an interview and say that because it is a big call, there are a lot of teams there."

United are fifth in the Premier League, which may suffice to qualify for Europe's premier competition because Manchester City—who will almost certainly finish second—have been hit with a two-year ban from UEFA competitions.

Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News suggested supporters would have taken such a position before the season began, despite their ups and downs along the way:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Suspect if United fans were told in August #mufc would enter March in the last 16 of the Europa League and FA Cup, fifth in the league and occupying a Champions League spot, they'd have taken that. Not been quite as straightforward as that, mind.

The Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw at Everton on Sunday. The point left them fifth, three behind Chelsea in fourth.

Fans are divided on whether they think United will qualify for the Champions League or not:

Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning

It would be criminal if Manchester United didn’t finish in the top four given the standards of teams around them.

Jordan Clarke @FourFourJordan

Manchester United’s continuous inability to capitalise on rivals dropping points is stopping them from progressing as a team. Not a bad point and performance was okay but lack the mentality to deserve top four.

The Red Devils are eight points behind third-place Leicester City, but the Foxes have been in poor form, having won just three league matches since December 8. Chelsea have won five times in the Premier League since November 9.

As for those below Solskjaer's side, Wolverhampton Wanderers sit on the same points. Like United, they'll also need to juggle involvement in the Europa League with the Premier League run-in.

Tottenham Hotspur are two points behind having lost their last two league games. Jose Mourinho's men had won their previous three before that, but the remaining months of the season will be a struggle with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son long-term absentees.

Sheffield United are also only two points back on the Red Devils, and they have a game in hand to be played against Aston Villa.

Of those six teams between third and eighth, United have picked up the most points (25) since the start of December, although the Blades have earned 22 points in that time having played one game fewer.

The Red Devils also enjoyed the most significant upgrade in January when they signed Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon. The playmaker's arrival has given a healthy boost to the team's prospects, and in five starts for United he already has three goals and two assists to his name.

One of United and Wolves might also qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League. The former take on Austrian side LASK in the round of 16, while the latter face Olympiacos, who knocked out Arsenal.