Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Manchester United fans are behind him and has said “patience is key” after the club’s worst start to a season for 31 years.

Solskjær’s side have won four of 14 league matches and are closer to the relegation zone (six points) than the top four (eight) going into Wednesday’s game at home to Tottenham. Yet the manager is confident that supporters can see the bigger picture.

“I can just go on the evidence of the game days and supporters I’ve met,” he said. “There’s not many I’ve met that say: ‘You’ve got to do something different.’ They can see what we’re trying to do. They know there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes – putting a culture into the team, with what’s happening here at Carrington [in training]. We just need results. All the six games we’ve drawn, I feel we should’ve won. That’s the evidence; that’s all the answer we can give.”

As Solskjær approaches the one-year anniversary of his interim appointment at the club, on 19 December, he believes patience is required as he attempts to make United contenders again.

“Everyone knows continuity is one of the keys of success,” he said. “Some clubs have more patience than others, some clubs don’t have that time and continuity. We have a plan in place and hopefully we can get the results to speed it up.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go at the speed you want but it’s still going in the right direction. There’s different aspects to this: it’s on the pitch, it’s behind the scenes, it’s what’s happening in the club.”

Solskjær did not wish to offer a precise gauge of United’s progress under him. “How long is a piece of rope?” he said. “Results will change moods but the mood behind the scenes is positive. I can’t sit here and just talk about that; we want results. I feel we’re going to stick to the plan we’ve put together. Results will probably speed that up.”

He says he has no fear of the sack despite the recent removals of Unai Emery by Arsenal, Quique Sánchez Flores by Watford and Mauricio Pochettino by Tottenham. “No, it doesn’t make me more concerned. I’m just focusing on my job and that’s doing as well as I can.”

Yet unless Spurs, Manchester City on Saturday and then Everton the following weekend are beaten, Solskjær will not better the 26 points from 17 matches José Mourinho accrued before he was sacked last December.

Mourinho returns to Old Trafford as the Tottenham manager and Solskjær predicts “a very good reception”.

He added: “That’s just a testament to this club and these supporters, remembering he was here for two and a-half years and won trophies. I’m 100% sure our fans, staff and club will welcome him.”

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In the close season United bought Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire while selling Romelu Lukaku and allowing Chris Smalling and Alexis Sánchez to be loaned out, while Ander Herrera departed as a free agent. The manager hinted that the timing of Maguire’s acquisition, three days before the window closed, and Lukaku’s sale 24 hours before the deadline, hampered him in the market.

“We do have a clear picture of what the squad is going to look like in June, July,” Solskjær said. “Hopefully, you get as much done as soon as possible. With Harry coming in, Romelu going out, it was late. We do have a plan now.”

Paul Pogba is still not fit as he recovers from an ankle injury. “He’s still a bit away but working hard so let’s see – he’s out on the grass,” the manager said. The availability of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic is also in the balance because of injuries.

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