The Red Devils are treading water in the Premier League this season, but a former captain remains a fan of the current manager

Antonio Valencia insists Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can overcome recent hiccups and build a formidable Manchester United, having returned to the club with the same “traits” as Sir Alex Ferguson.

United drew 3-3 at Sheffield United on Sunday and the result left them ninth in the Premier League after 13 matches.

Plenty of questions have been asked over Solskjaer’s ability to take the team forward, with the Red Devils now in danger of missing out on a place in the Champions League for a second successive year.

Mauricio Pochettino’s sudden availability has increased the level of scrutiny on the Norwegian, who was a popular appointment when he initially took the job on a full-time basis in March.

Valencia was club captain at the time and continues to believe the under-pressure head coach will prove a success, pointing to his association with the Ferguson era.

“He knows what a United player should be: he must have character, personality, the heart of a winner,” Valencia, now with LDU Quito, told The Athletic.

“United need to get this feeling back. When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived, he came with Ferguson traits; tactically, the mentality, the players felt more free and he gave us more confidence. When the decision was made to keep him permanently, it was absolutely what the players wanted.

“He has been there for less than a year. He is putting together a team to compete. I have no doubts he will do that.

“He is a very good coach, he knows what he wants, he is a disciple of Ferguson’s school, he is bringing these lessons to a new generation of players.”

United’s form has been hurt by Paul Pogba’s prolonged absence due to an ankle injury.

Transfer rumours linking Pogba to Real Madrid have resurfaced amid another frustrating campaign at Old Trafford, his fourth since returning from Juventus.

When asked to offer his take on the Frenchman’s future, Valencia said: “He is a star… but he can be a bigger star. Paul needs the definitive love of a manager. There are players who have a lot of talent but need to feel important and to have the manager by their side.

“I think Solskjaer restored that to him.”

The Red Devils will be back in Europa League action when they travel to Astana on Thursday, before focus shifts back to the Premier League.

Solskjaer’s side are due to host Aston Villa on Sunday, before Jose Mourinho makes his return to Old Trafford with Tottenham three days later.

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