Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits Manchester United were handed a painful reality check in 2018-19, with the “biggest and best club in the world” needing to rebuild quickly.
The Red Devils have seen the curtain come down on a forgettable campaign that delivered a sixth-place finish in the Premier League, no silverware and failure to qualify for the Champions League.
A serious rebuilding job is required at Old Trafford, with Solskjaer the latest manager to be charged with the task of putting foundations for future success in place.
He has experienced a steep learning curve since returning to familiar surroundings, with a positive opening to a reign as interim boss having been countered by a run of two wins in 12.
Quizzed by United’s official club app as to what lessons he has taken from a season that promised much but delivered little, he said: “I’ve learned that I don’t like losing. I like winning.
“We started off fantastically. The boys were unbelievable when I came in. We were positive. We won games.
“The whole group gelled together and I enjoyed winning but I know that football is hard. You can’t just expect everything to go that way and the reality hit us.
“We are in a league with loads of very good teams and, to be at our top [level], we need to be 100 per cent focused.
“We came into some games really, really focused with the full team and I thought that was fantastic.
“Then you learn a lot when you go through tough times and think about who can be build this team around, and who we think is going to take the next step because we need to go to the next level.”
Part of the problem for United is that they have fallen behind domestic rivals who are flourishing at home and abroad and will likely spend again over the summer in an effort to become even stronger.
Solskjaer acknowledges the challenges he faces and the differences in English football to when he was starring for United as a player, adding: “There are different playing styles, more teams playing more continental styles and competitiveness to the league.
“It’s a massive difference, we’ve got six teams who would say ‘we can challenge for trophies’ and it used to be one or two, with us when Arsenal or Chelsea were challenging when I played.
“Leicester won the league, Everton are challenging and there are 10 teams who could qualify for Europe.
“You can see by City winning the league and possibly a domestic treble, maybe to Liverpool and Spurs in the Champions League final, and Arsenal and Chelsea in the Europa League final, that we’re competing against the best clubs in the world.
“That’s a challenge we won’t take lightly. It’s a great challenge for this club, the biggest and best club in the world.”
United are expected to splash the cash in the next transfer window as they endeavour to close the gap on those around them, with Solskjaer having already admitted that his squad for 2019-20 will look markedly different to the one he inherited from Jose Mourinho.