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fighting words United form hasn’t dipped, Ole insists after scoreless run

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Reuters

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Reuters

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Reuters

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brushed off suggestions his team’s form had dipped after three goalless draws in all competitions and backed them to regain their spark in tomorrow’s Premier League derby against Manchester City.

United were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Sociedad in their Europa League last-32 second-leg clash last month before drawing blanks in league draws with Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

“We’ve had a week without scoring ... it’s not like we had six weeks with no form. We beat Sociedad 4-0 (in the first leg), Southampton 9-0,” Solskjaer said.

“It’s also the opposition. I’m not buying into the narrative that we’ve had a dip in form. Three 0-0s isn’t really us but we have lacked a bit of spark.

“We’ve not been clinical enough but they’ve been tight games and it’s a chance to put that right.

“In the Premier League when opponents don’t make mistakes you’ve got to earn it.

"We lacked that, but then we are still unbeaten (away). Three-four weeks ago the narrative was we couldn’t defend, now it is that we can’t score.”

Solskjaer said his focus was on the match against City – who are on a run of 21 wins in all competitions and have a 14-point lead over second-placed United – and not where his team will eventually finish. “We have to be the best possible United and try to improve on last season. We have to challenge ourselves. They’re ahead of us by a far distance, so it’s a test,” Solskjaer said.

The United manager had no hesitation in allowing his ’keeper David De Gea to return to Spain for the birth of his first child as Dean Henderson prepares to line up for tomorrow’s derby.

The long-serving No 1 was conspicuous by his absence from Wednesday’s drab goalless league draw at Crystal Palace due to what were repeatedly described as “personal reasons”.

De Gea has since confirmed that his partner gave birth on Thursday, with the club giving their first-choice ’keeper permission to return to his homeland despite the potential coronavirus-related quarantine headaches.

“Dean came in and played well and he’s ready, so I’ll give David the time he needs of course.”

Juan Mata and Phil Jones will be missing at the Etihad Stadium, where Solskjaer is “still hoping to get one or two back”.

Donny van de Beek was absent for the trip to Palace with an unspecified injury, while Anthony Martial missed out after sustaining a knee complaint in training on Monday and Paul Pogba has been out with a thigh issue.

Manchester Utd v Manchester City,
Live, Sky Sports, 4.30 tomorrow

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