By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England, March 8 (Reuters) - There was no shortage of reasons for Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be smiling after Sunday's 2-0 derby win over Manchester City at Old Trafford -- and smile he did.
The victory over the champions completed United's first home and away Premier League double over City in a decade, moved Solskjaer's side up to fifth and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games.
Away from the numbers there were some excellent individual displays with Solskjaer signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dan James and Bruno Fernandes all influential on the outcome.
The Norwegian is not a man to engage in 'told you so' rants but, after beating arch-rivals City, he would have been justified in replying to those who wrote him off as a manager just a couple of months ago.
A display that was tactically smart and highly organised shows the direction of travel at United and, while it may be too soon to talk of more than foundations for the future, the right things are beginning to be put in place.
"We feel we are improving all the time. We know we lack one, two, three players to be considered a title contender and some experience. We know that. We are just going to start talking about going up the table, getting more points," said Solskjaer.
"Chelsea and Leicester are too far ahead for my liking," he added of the fourth and third-placed teams who are three and five points respectively in front of United as they battle for the top four and Champions League qualifying spots.
One statistic shows a particularly solid bedrock for the future -- Sunday was the eighth time in the 10 unbeaten games in which United kept a clean sheet.
"Eight in 10 and the two goals we conceded, one shouldn’t have been given," Solskjaer said with a grin before explaining what has gone right at the back.
"Time and quality players. Harry (Maguire) and Victor (Lindelof) and David (De Gea) have been excellent," he said
"Luke Shaw has been absolutely top class, Aaron (Wan-Bissaka) you can see his performance today and Brandon (Williams) is not fazed by anything."
Solskjaer was credited a year ago with bringing the 'feel-good factor' back to the club but that vibe appeared to have faded earlier this season.
On Sunday, though, alongside the signs of progress there was a real sense of togetherness at Old Trafford.
"The connection between the fans and the team and the players, that means a lot to me," he said.
"I know these fans know what these players want to do. They are about hard work and desire. The commitment. They gave absolutely everything." (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)