Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged his players to maintain their “laser focus” after doing the “easy bit” of getting to the top of the Premier League table.
Manchester United entered Tuesday on top of the Premier League table but went second after Leicester's 2-0 win over Chelsea.
United could drop down to third should Manchester City get a result at home to Aston Villa before the Red Devils kick off on Wednesday night.
A win at Craven Cottage would see them regain that position at the top, regardless of City’s result, but with it being such a tight season only five points separate Solskjaer’s side from Everton, who sit in sixth.
Wednesday's clash against Fulham marks the halfway point of United’s league season and Solskjaer knows there is a long way to go before they can start getting carried away with any talk of becoming champions.
“The position we are in now is due to loads of hard work by everyone. We are halfway through the season and we are up there. But it is a really, really congested top of the table so we know every little run of form can move you away from teams, or a dip of form you drop down. We just need to keep the consistency,” Solskjaer said in his pre-match press conference.
“It is not about getting there once – that is the easy bit, to go up the league. Staying there is the challenge and that is the challenge we are looking forward to. Focusing on every game and building this squad and hope that in the end we can lift the trophy. That is when you can talk about moving the team where it should be.”
With just three points separating United from fourth-placed Liverpool and a flurry of league fixtures scheduled over the next two weeks, the lead at the top could potentially change hands on several occasions, while City’s game in hand is still waiting for a confirmed date.
But despite the uncertainty at the top, and aware that a couple of bad results could drastically affect a team’s standing, Solskjaer insists his players aren’t focused on their league position.
“I don’t think it’s a different mindset at the moment for my group of players - where they are in the league. I don’t think it really enters their minds. We have a laser focus, there is a sharp focus on just the next game and to get momentum. To get to where we are now, we’ve been focused on doing the job day in, day out in training and every game matters,” Solskjaer explained.
“This season the lead has changed so many times – I don’t know how many teams have been top of the league. The only thing that matters is who is there at the end and that is not something we discuss at the moment. We just need to keep our form, keep our shape and for everyone to be ready to perform when they have been asked.”