Man Utd: The first six fixtures of the new Premier League season
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Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker has warned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he will need to compete with Manchester City in next season’s Premier League title race in order to keep his job on a long-term basis, urging the Red Devils boss to make a fresh start as he prepares for the upcoming campaign. United finished 12 points behind their cross-city rivals last time around, with Pep Guardiola’s side storming to a third domestic triumph in four years.
United made a slow start to proceedings, but mounted a remarkable surge up the order during the festive period.
Solskjaer’s side even rose to the summit of the table in January before City, who lost on just three occasions after the turn of the year, pulled clear and never looked back.
United also failed to end their four-year wait for silverware in any capacity, notably losing the Europa League final against Villarreal after a penalty shoot-out.
Reflecting on the previous campaign, Parker exclusively told Express Sport that United never looked like winning the Premier League title despite their mid-season purple patch, suggesting that City were always too strong to be seriously troubled at the top.
The 57-year-old, who won eight major trophies with the club between 1991 and 1996, also declared that Solskjaer will be expected to improve his side’s fortunes with immediate effect to justify his position as manager.
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“Ole has to compete with City next season, has to be in it all the time,” said Parker.
“He can’t afford to let it go and disappear as quickly as they got within sight of City. They got in that position where everyone went: ‘They’re there, they’re on top of the league’.
“United fans weren’t shouting and screaming. They knew in their own hearts that the team wasn’t really good enough to compete with City in the league.
“As much as they got there, where they were and they were above Liverpool, they knew that the team wasn’t a Manchester United team that was going to win league titles.
“They weren’t seeing what they really wanted to see. They didn’t believe in it.”
United will be hoping to lead a sustained title challenge next time around and have already been active in the transfer market as they attempt to bolster their ranks.
A deal to sign long-term target Jadon Sancho was finally agreed earlier this month, while Red Devils academy graduate and former Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton has returned to provide additional cover between the sticks.
Parker added that Solskjaer could benefit from starting afresh and prioritising his summer recruitment drive in order to reshuffle his pack ahead of next season’s battle with City.
“Ole has to start again and prove himself,” explained the former England right-back.
“His signings are going to be so important for him. Every single one that comes in has to hit the ground running and United have to take control of games to go and show that they can win the league.
“Being unbeaten away from home at the end of the season, in my opinion, doesn’t really mean anything. A lot of teams struggled at home.
“United struggled at home, didn’t have many great performances at home, but United went away and they took advantage against a lot of teams. But it doesn’t really mean anything.”
Parker was speaking to Express Sport on behalf of Outlaw Pro, who are launching a six-part mini-series called Angling Outlaws in which Parker will join fellow ex-footballers in being trained by multi-world champion anglers on BT Sport next year.
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