Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit back at Gary Neville after recent criticism over his side’s style of play.
The Red Devils won four of their first five Premier League matches. But, since then, they’ve lost three out of their last four matches across all competitions.
Neville recently criticised United, saying: “I said it even when they were winning, even when Ronaldo scored – they don’t play well enough as a team to win this league.
“They don’t play well enough as a team.
“I think that you have to be a unit in possession and out of possession, and when you only deliver in moments, those moments won’t go for you in certain games.
“You need patterns of play. You need a way of playing. I see a group of individuals playing in moments, with some patterns and combinations at times…
“They’ve got to come together as a team and start to define a style of play, and then you start to get results when you don’t play well. I think the way they are at the moment, they’ll always have days like that yesterday.”
Yet Solskjaer has now responded, insisting he’s confident in the team and the current players he has – while also saying Neville ‘knows the club’s DNA’.
“I have not read that,” he said.
“Of course you are working on your style of play, your patterns. The Aston Villa game we broke up play really well, attacked maybe too fast. Gary knows that. Maybe we did it too fast.
“I don’t think I’ve seen any game with less efficient playing time. It was 44 minutes the ref gave us, but 45 minutes of effective playing time is one of the lowest I’ve ever seen, normal 55, 60.
“If you slow it down too much it might be a low-block again. We know Villarreal will defend well. We need to play quickly, but Gary knows what DNA is here at the club.”
And he then added: “He has always got loads to say!
“The pressure is a privilege.
“To work in this environment you have to embrace it. I have got to say I have been backed and the progress has worked well.
“The backing I have got seems to me we are sticking to that plan. Expectations have improved with the better signings and performances. I am here to win, Gary knows that.
“We will get there, hopefully around April and May.”
Solskjaer knows United need to return to winning ways, too.
“My focus is always to win the next game, short-term and think long-term about the squad building. My focus now has been on winning this game, getting back on track,” he said.
“Then we focus on the league again from Thursday morning. We would have loved to be top of the league, but we are still up there.
“With the squad and coach I have got we can improve and we will get that consistency.”
Villarreal boss Unai Emery, meanwhile, feels United must be ‘respected’ during their showdown.
“I’m not afraid of Manchester United we respect them ok, respect is important,” he said. “If you lose respect you may lose.
“Man Utd is the clear favourite. It was also the favourite in the final. We played a competitive match but they also had the options.
“They lost against Young Boys, it was the favourite very less favourite but there was a surprise. If you lose respect the other team may take advantage of that
“Tomorrow Manchester will be the best Manchester, they have to prove their power.
“What Solskjaer has done for as a player and a coach, we have to respect them, they are the favourites.
“Individually have very good players – attackers like Cavani, Martial and Cristiano Ronaldo. These are three attackers who could play in any team.
“We don’t fear them but we have a high respect for the opponent. What Solskjaer has done as a player and coach we have to respect that.”