Nemanja Matic has his sights trained on the top four after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s record-breaking start turned the improbable into the possible for Manchester United.
The Old Trafford giants were in a tailspin when Jose Mourinho was sacked last month, with defeat at leaders Liverpool leaving them 19 points off the top and 11 behind the Champions League places.
Caretaker manager Solskjaer has swiftly overseen a change in fortunes, with Saturday’s 2-1 win against Brighton continuing his perfect start in a club-record sixth-straight league victory.
United are now just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and Matic is determined to overtake his former club and Arsenal in the Premier League standings.
“In the Premier League, it’s always hard,” the defensive midfielder said after digging deep to prevent Brighton grabbing an equaliser.
“You cannot be sure you are always in control, especially against this team – they are very strong at set pieces, they have two big guys on that, and they try to use them.
“We knew it, we saw some of their games which were enough to show they can hurt us. But, as I said, we managed to control and to win.
“I’m happy for one more win, happy for our team and our supporters. We will try to give our best to reach the top four until the end of the season.
“The teams in front of us have quality, they will also try to play in the Champions League next season. But I’m sure that we have enough qualities to compete with them.
“We will give our best and we will try to make our supporters happy.”
There is certainly a feel-good factor around Old Trafford again, with fan favourite Solskjaer getting the side smiling and playing with a swagger.
“I think this is the best what can happen to him, to us,” Matic said. “Seven games, seven wins. I think that everyone needs to be happy.”
It was Matic’s shortest answer when speaking to MUTV – perhaps to avoid making any unwanted headlines about former boss and mentor Mourinho.
While the Serbian maintained a strong relationship with the former United manager, the improvements in many team-mates since his departure has been striking.
Paul Pogba continued his resurgence under the Norwegian by scoring the penalty he won against Albion, before Marcus Rashford continued his exquisite form with a superb turn and strike late in the first half.
The England international was named man of the match on his 150th appearance for United, having scored in a fourth-successive Premier League match in an all-action display.
“Marcus is very important for the team,” Matic said. “When he’s in good form, he’s one of the best players in the league and he scored a great goal.
“I think it’s good for his confidence and I hope he will continue like this.”
United had the opportunities to put the game out of sight before Pascal Gross struck to cause a nervy conclusion.
The Brighton midfielder said: “There were two decisions in the first half where we didn’t defend well enough, but we showed great character in the second half.
“Manchester United can score goals with the quality they have, and we perhaps made it easier for them with the goals we gave away.
“But at half-time, the gaffer said to us to imagine it’s still 0-0 and show we are a good side. We did that, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough today.
“We definitely showed our qualities in the second half.
“You can also end up losing a game like this two, three, four or five nil, but we turned it the other way and tried to get something out of the game, and we believed until the end.”