(REUTERS) – Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has attributed his side’s consistency this season to a change in mentality but has warned his players that they cannot fake their way into the team given fierce competition for places.
United have risen to second in the English Premier League table on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run and can move level with champions Liverpool at the summit if they beat fifth-placed Aston Villa later on Friday (Jan 1).
“Definitely the mentality is stronger,” the Norwegian told a news conference on Thursday.
“I think we have competition for places which means you can not go around thinking that you can just fake your way being part of this team because you only deserve to be in a team you contribute to.
“I think everyone has just realised they are privileged to be part of Manchester United, such a fantastic club with a fantastic history. When you are here, enjoy it as much as you can and maybe experience some fantastic times.”
United will be without Edinson Cavani, who was suspended for three games after admitting to a Football Association (FA) charge of using a racial term, while Victor Lindelof was also set to miss out as he nurses a back injury.
But Solskjaer is confident his side have the depth to cope.
“We have a strong squad,” he said. “We’ll be getting injuries and suspensions, that will happen, but our squad is well capable and ready for every game.”
Cavani , meanwhile has accepted the three-game ban handed to him by the Football Association (FA) for using a racial term and said that while he did not agree with the governing body’s assessment of his comment, his heart was at peace.
The 33-year-old Uruguayan used the word “negrito” in an Instagram post after the club’s victory over Southampton on Nov 29, before taking it down and apologising. He said it was intended as an expression of affection to a friend.
But the FA on Thursday said the comment was “improper and brought the game into disrepute”, fined him £100,000 (S$180,000) and ordered him to complete “face-to-face education” as part of his punishment.
United said Cavani chose not to contest the charge out of respect for the FA and the “fight against racism in football”, with the Uruguayan posting an apology on social media late on Thursday.
“I do not want to extend much in this uncomfortable moment,” he wrote on Instagram. “I want to share with you that I accept the disciplinary sanction knowing that I am foreign to English language customs, but I do not share the point of view.
“I apologise if I offended someone with an expression of affection towards a friend, nothing further in my intention. Those who know me know that my effort always seeks the simplest joy and friendship!
“I appreciate the countless expressions of support and affection. My heart is at peace because I know that I always expressed myself with affection according to my culture and way of life. I send you a sincere hug.”
Cavani will miss the game against Villa, the League Cup semi-final against Manchester City and the FA Cup match against Watford as a result of the suspension.
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