Man Utd boss Solskjaer issues two-part Champions League demand to stars after Palace win

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has demanded his Manchester United players play with a “smile” and also be braver on the ball as they edge closer to a winner-takes-all final day showdown with Leicester next weekend. The Red Devils moved level on points with the Foxes after beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Thursday night.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s strikes in either half got United back to winning ways after they slipped to a draw at home to Southampton last time out.

But the Red Devils had VAR to thank for not giving Palace a first-half penalty when Victor Lindelof appeared to foul Wilfried Zaha inside the area.

Moments later, Rashford scored at the other end, although Lindelof appeared to have cleaned out Zaha before winning the ball with his sliding challenge.

The Eagles also had a second-half goal from Jordan Ayew ruled out for a narrow offside as Palace put the pressure on United, who eventually sealed their victory through a well-worked move which saw Martial curl into the far corner late on.

United join Leicester, who beat Sheffield United 2-0 earlier the same day, on 62 points with third-placed Chelsea just one ahead on 63.

Solskjaer’s charges take on Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester at the King Power Stadium in their final Premier League game of the season a week on Sunday as they look to sneak into the top four and clinch a Champions League spot.

United know that victory in both of their final two matches of the top-flight season will see them wrap up a top-four berth, while they also have the FA Cup and Europa League still to play for in their search of silverware.

Speaking to BT Sport post-match, Solskjaer said: “It was a tight game and we didn’t get the rhythm in our passing but two fantastic goals won it for us.

“The finish was great but also the build-up with some quick inter-changing passing.

“We didn’t do that enough and they don’t do it enough, because they are a handful to play against.

“I’m glad I’m not a defender playing against them. They need to trust themselves to do that more.

“When we got the second goal, that is when they started strutting about and playing as well as they can. 

“Of course it is tight scheduling but we can’t afford starts like this.”

Rashford scored in his second straight match and set up Martial’s goal to take himself up to 16 strikes and eight assists in the league and 21 and 10 across all competitions.

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Martial’s effort also puts him on 16 top-flight goals and 21 in all competitions, while he has laid on eight assists for his team-mates.

“Those two have found each other really well this season,” Solskjaer continued.

“They are enjoying themselves, when they go out onto the pitch they’re ready to do a shift, work hard for the team and they just go out with a smile. I like that and they defend each other out there as well.

“We need to smile and we need to go into this, we have earned this right, no-one thought in January that we would be in with a shout for the top four. 

“We have done fantastic since the restart. We’ve got to smile and enjoy these games, the games that matter. 

“That’s what it is at United, you have to step up and show your personality.”

Giving his verdict on the controversial decision not to award Palace a first-half penalty before United took the lead, Solskjaer felt the conclusion not to point to the spot was correct.

“It looked like Victor Lindelof kicks the ball first,” the Norwegian said while watching replays of the incident during his interview.

“It is a tight decision, probably the same with Anthony at the other end, I don’t know I haven’t seen that one, but I don’t think that was a penalty no.”

United now turn their attentions to an FA Cup semi-final showdown with Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday (6pm kick-off) before clashes with struggling West Ham (Wednesday 6pm KO) and then Leicester (Sunday 26th, 4pm KO).

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