MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Wednesday that winning a trophy is not necessarily a good indication of progress ahead of his side's Europa League last 16 second leg against AC Milan, insisting the club is improving every day.
The jury is still out on Solskjaer into his third season at United, with the club having not won a trophy since their 2017 Europa League success when coached by Jose Mourinho.
However, after finishing sixth and third in the Premier League under Solskjaer, United sit second in the English top flight standings this season, and the Norwegian feels domestic improvement shows where the club is at.
"I think that you have to say that when you see the culture of what is happening every day I feel a lot of improvement in the everyday routine, everyday work that we do," Solskjaer told a news conference.
"The boys have taken on board what we want. We are 12 points ahead of where we were in the league last season. Of course we are always looking to win trophies, but as we have said, sometimes a trophy can hide what else is happening at a club.
"It is the league position where you see if you are progressing really. In some cup competitions you can be lucky or unlucky."
Solskjaer was in a confident mood ahead of the clash against Milan in the San Siro on Thursday, despite United having been held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
"We need to perform at our best level," he added. "They are a physical side with loads of energy, but these are the sort of games that we need to challenge and see if we can really reach the next level."
The return of recent absentees David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Donny van der Beek for the trip to Milan has given Solskjaer a boost, but the United coach insisted none are guaranteed to start the match.
"There are a couple that we need to assess if they are available," Solskjaer said. "Anthony Martial is a definite no-go. Apart from that we are assessing the rest as we speak. Some might travel still needing to confirm they are available still."
Solskjaer later revealed that striker Edinson Cavani, who was originally in the squad to travel to Milan, suffered a setback and will remain in Manchester.
"Unfortunately, it looks like Edinson has got a bit of a reaction to training today and didn’t feel ready to travel," he told MUTV.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Christian Radnedge)