MANCHESTER, England — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United were “lucky” to not be playing Barcelona after a stuttering display against West Ham at Old Trafford.
United moved up to fifth in the Premier League table with a 2-1 win, thanks to two penalties from Paul Pogba, but West Ham had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, hit the bar and saw a Michail Antonio header expertly saved by David De Gea.
His side’s display prompted Solskjaer to say they “had got away with it” against at home, before suggesting that the good fortune offset recent undeserving away defeats.
“Sometimes you get more than you deserve and today is one of those nights,” said Solskjaer. “Watford was one of them as well but then Wolves and Arsenal, we should have won, so it evens itself out in the long run.
“We were lucky today to get away with three points. Even a draw at one point I would have taken. We’re lucky it wasn’t Barcelona but West Ham played well and played better than us but we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”
De Gea’s save, diving to his right to push Antonio’s goalbound header wide of the post, came one minute before Anthony Martial was fouled for the spot kick that Pogba converted to win the game.
“That save is unbelievable,” Solskjaer said of De Gea. “He won us the game because at 2-1 we would have struggled to create enough.”
Solskjaer, who takes his team to Barcelona on Tuesday looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal, rested Marcus Rashford, Victor Lindelof and Scott McTominay ahead of the Camp Nou clash and it looked like the move might backfire until Pogba sealed victory 10 minutes from time.
“We know it is going to be a very difficult game [against Barcelona], but we beat PSG,” Solskjaer said. “It will be a greater achievement if we can manage it against Barcelona because we know what they are. We will go there, why not have a go but we have to be better defensively.
“The effort was there [against West Ham] but the quality wasn’t good enough. Wednesday night would have played on some of the players’ minds. When you have three games in six days, it is physically and mentally tough. I feel good about the players. We cannot get a lot worse than we were today.”
United have 72 hours to rest before facing Barca for the second time in less than a week. Their schedule contrasts that of Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, who have eight days between the first and second legs.
“I don’t understand that,” said Solskjaer. “Someone needs to explain why a Wednesday night becomes a Tuesday in the Champions League. The other teams have one day extra. We tried to Google it but we couldn’t find anything.”