By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is focused on Manchester United tightening their grip on second spot rather than damaging Liverpool’s Champions League hopes in Sunday’s “massive, massive” Old Trafford encounter.
Jurgen Klopp’s men cantered to Premier League glory last season as they racked up 99 points – an eye-watering 33 more than the third-placed Red Devils.
But things have changed markedly this term, with Liverpool languishing in sixth as the teams enter the home straight while United sit safely ensconced in second.
It is a matter of when rather than if Manchester City win the title but United can move seven points clear of Leicester in third by beating Klopp’s side, while landing a potential key blow to the visitors’ top-four ambitions.
“We don’t go out there (thinking about that), we’re just thinking about winning ourselves,” United boss Solskjaer said.
“Whatever that does to Liverpool cannot be of our concern. Throughout the season you have games that you look forward to and this Liverpool game at home is one of the biggest games of the season.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re first or second, or third or fourth – no matter what this is a massive, massive game.”
Asked about Liverpool’s drop-off this campaign, Solskjaer said: “I think we all before this season had worries how this season is going to go for the players.
“They’ve had bad injuries this season. This season has been more different to any other season in modern football.
“So, I’ve just focused on ourselves. I can’t say anything about Liverpool’s season. I’ve not really watched them too closely and followed them because I’ve got my own club and problems and challenges.”
Off-field challenges will be made loud and clear before Sunday’s match, with around 10,000 United fans expected to descend on Old Trafford to protest against the Glazer family in the wake of the European Super League debacle.
Solskjaer does not think that will prove a distraction to his players and has no fresh concerns heading into a match where he no longer has to keep his selection for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg at Roma in mind.
Having gone into half-time 2-1 behind in the first leg at Old Trafford, United roared back to thrash the Giallorossi 6-2 and take a giant stride towards this month’s Gdansk final.
“I think the whole team took responsibility, of course, Bruno (Fernandes) was part of that as well,” Solskjaer said.
“We picked an experienced team to handle setbacks and to be able to handle setbacks.
“It was a big, big plus for me the way Bruno, Paul (Pogba), Edinson (Cavani), Marcus (Rashford) – even at his young age, the runs he made in the second half he might not get the credit for it, but his movement was excellent.
“Against Liverpool we need experience, we need quality, we need to defend well, we need every aspect of the game because we know the quality they have got and they can hit that quality against us easily.”