Solskjaer expects Cup win to spark United surge

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The Independent Football

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes that Manchester United's FA Cup semi-final win over Arsenal will provide the impetus for another end-of-season charge by the Old Trafford side.

With United 12 points adrift of the Gunners and just eight games remaining, Solskjaer admits that the champions have no chance of retaining the Premiership title. But the Norwegian striker thinks that last Saturday's semi-final victory can prove the catalyst for a sustained winning run that will silence critics who have been willing to announce the end of an era at Old Trafford.

"You can't just pick confidence out of a refrigerator," said the 30-year-old, who has been restricted to just seven starts this season after battling back from knee surgery. "Beating Arsenal on Saturday means we still have a chance of winning a trophy but it has also restored our self-belief. We are too far behind in the league to do anything about it now, but we have our pride and we can do much better than we have been."

Solskjaer's return from an injury that was feared might keep him out for the entire campaign has coincided with the return to form by Sir Alex Ferguson's men. Although still slightly short of match fitness, the man who won the European Cup for United five years ago with a momentous injury-time winner against Bayern Munich is keen to be involved, especially after Ruud van Nistelrooy's absence in the semi-final.

"All I want is to contribute, whether it's for 15 minutes or 90," Solskjaer said. "It was hard up front on my own at times on Saturday but against a side like Arsenal you expect that. You just try to do your job, make runs and either hope the ball comes to you or a defender follows you which makes space for others to run into."

As a veteran of United's last FA Cup final victory against Newcastle in 1999, Solskjaer knows how important the competition has been to United down the years. Ferguson and his side were criticised for spurning the chance to defend the trophy in favour of a trip to Brazil for the World Club Championship, but Solskjaer insists the competition still generates plenty of fervour in the Old Trafford dressing room.

"Anyone who thinks we don't care about the FA Cup should have been with us after the game on Saturday," he said. "It is a special competition and has been to me ever since I was a kid in Norway. At that time, it was the last game of the season and we always used to watch it. It's five years since we had a chance to play in the final and every single one of us will be determined to make the team."