Manchester United crashing out of the Champions League against Barcelona could be a blessing in disguise for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, former Old Trafford midfielder Steven Fletcher believes.
There was no repeat of Solskjaer’s European heroics at the Camp Nou – where the former striker famously scored an injury-time winner in the 1999 final against Bayern Munich – as United were thumped 3-0 by a Lionel Messi-inspired Barca on Tuesday night.
There is no time for a hangover at Old Trafford, though – a place in the Premier League’s top four is still up for grabs and, with only five games of the season remaining, a return to form is crucial.
Solskjaer’s reaction his side’s latest defeat – their fifth in seven games – was almost one of inevitability. After all, there’s only so much you can do when magician Messi is at the top of his game.
There was a huge gulf between the two sides, which was noted by the manager, who vowed to bring new players to United this summer as he looks to rebuild his squad.
And, result aside, Fletcher believes Tuesday’s game would have done Solskjaer as huge favour.
Speaking on Wednesday’s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, the midfielder said: “Last night when you’re 3-0 down, that’s when you’re looking at the character of your players – who’s still playing, who has not given in.
“He’ll have learned probably more from that than he has from winning games.
“The challenge is down to the players now.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the manager, so from now until the end of the season your performances have got to reflect if you want to be part of Manchester United’s future.
“If you don’t, thanks very much. The club is too big, we’ll move on, we’ll get new players.
“That’s the challenge head for these players now.
“Everyone has got to step up now. I think it’s a test of who wants to be there.”
Listen back to Darren Fletcher on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast IN FULL above