Following our 3-1 win over PSG, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoken to the press ahead of our next big game, this time against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Have you come down from cloud nine from the other night and how do you get the players to refocus so quickly?
OGS: No problem whatsoever. We’ve gone through to the quarter-finals, which is what we expect at Man United, but the way that it happened, the celebrations at the end, just happen when you win a game like we did. But then again, no problem – we’ve got Arsenal, a fantastic game to get yourself ready for again.
Will you have any players back for that match and what’s the situation with Eric Bailly?
OGS: Eric’s fine. Anthony will be available and hopefully we’ll have Nemanja and/or Ander ready as well, so we’re looking better for it. They just need to have another couple of days training with the team, they’ve done well in their recovery work.
Does it bother you that people are constantly talking about when you’re going to be announced as manager?
OGS: No, that’s just the media isn’t it. I am not here to get excited, I am here to do my job. And of course, that contract issue there, you cannot have two contracts when you’re a manager, so that contract was terminated. I am contracted to Man United until the end of June.
How far are you helping to plan beyond the end of June, in terms of pre-season, and all that kind of stuff?
OGS: As far as you need to look. We have looked into pre-season. We have also looked into players and hopefully the players that the club will sign will stay for many, many years.
Two or more of your players have said this week that they expect you to get the job. Does their opinion matter most in your own thought process?
OGS: I love managing these boys and I love working here. As I’ve said so many times I am just doing the best I can every single day, then if and when a decision is to be made, then we’ve got to think about that.
What sort of decisions do you have to make this weekend, remembering Arsenal in the FA Cup? Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, both scored. You mentioned they might be coming back. You’ve got Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku have been in fantastic form recently.
OGS: It’s the same decisions that you always have when you go in to the game. One, you’ve got to consider their approach, which system do you think they will play, which is impossible to predict because they change a lot. But then you need to look at who is fit and how we want to approach the game as well. It might be different kind of systems or is it a counter-attacking game you want – it’s all sorts. But now of course the fitness issue plays in more than ever because we’ve got players coming back, we’ve got players who put a proper shift in. It was one of the hardest nights we’ve had, physically. Probably this one and the Arsenal cup game are the two hardest games we’ve had. It was great to have fresh legs – Scott, Fred – they do cover the ground so much so it’s something we have to consider this time.
Before Wednesday you were positive, even though you had 10 players unavailable. How important has that positive mindset in those circumstances, but also during this incredible run you’ve been on? Other managers don’t always have that positive outlook and they complain a lot.
OGS: I don’t know any other way to approach things. Every single time I’ve been injured when I played, you have to look at it and say ‘what opportunities does this give you?’ When players are injured, that gives me great opportunities to play the likes of Scott, Fred, Andreas. It was hard to leave Ander, Paul and Nemanja out, because those three midfielders have played fantastic. But now, that gave me the perfect chance to see them. That’s always been me. I’ve always been that way. I can’t control how many players are out and you can’t do anything about it.
You seem to see the glass as being half full rather than half empty.
OGS: That’s always been me. That’s in my upbringing, where I come from. I remember I smashed my cheekbone, playing a reserve team game, and I’ve got my diary back home. Two days after, I did the operation the next morning, I wrote: ‘What opportunities does this give me?’ That’s because I couldn’t do any physical contact, but I could do loads of physical work, fitness work, running, finishing work, all those little things that have always been with me.
Is it impossible to manage this club unless you’ve got an affinity with it? You said you feel this is right for you. There have been three managers before that perhaps didn’t get it, but Wednesday night was pure United. Do you have to have that to be a success here?
OGS: Sir Alex came here without having any ties to the club and he put his life into it. Of course, you have to put your life into it but it helps that I know the club.
It’s pretty much three years since Rashford scored twice against Arsenal on his debut and it was obviously another huge night for him on Wednesday. Do you see a player who could stay here for 10-12 years and potentially threaten Rooney’s goalscoring record. Is he the sort of player who could do that? You have a reputation as a club for having players who stay here for a long time and become one-club men.
OGS: That would be fantastic. We all know the legends we’ve had at this club that have stayed here for so long and have been one-club players. We hope Rashy is going to be one of them. It’s both up to him and us, of course. If he keeps producing he’ll stay in the team. That’s up to him to stay in the team.
What you’ve seen from him over three months are you seeing a far better player than the one you inherited?
OGS: You don’t see too much of a change in a player in three months. He’s only 21 so you’re excused if sometimes you hit the highs and sometimes you’re off the pace. To be fair to Rashy, you don’t expect the consistency yet in all the play, but he’s always got that quality. His finishing, his striking of the ball, his attitude, that’s always going to be with him.
Can he be prolific? Can he be a goal machine?
OGS: Yeh. I keep battering him with it that he should also score as many goals as Rom after training sessions finished. He should always get those simple tap-ins, finishes – like Rom’s scored in the last few games. Rashy’s goals sometimes are worldies and he does have a sensational strike of the ball. But you see improvement, maturity and the change in Cristiano’s goals from when he was young to now. He scores more from inside the box and that’s what Rashy has to improve on as well. His tap-ins, his movement in the box, staying inside the box. He’ll get five to 10 extra goals from staying in the box, and he’s been told that!
In terms of your feeling on the street, the media has been very positive about you, everyone has been positive about you, how do you deal with all the attention you’re getting now, with fans on the street and everything else?
OGS: No problem. Of course, everyone likes getting complimented. But doesn’t change my approach. I am good at focusing on what I should be focusing on.
With Lukaku scoring six goals in his past three games, what’s changed in his game to bring that about?
OGS: I don’t think a lot has changed. He’s been asked to play wide a few times earlier on and provide more chances, but now he’s more in and around the box. We played with two up front against PSG, with him and Rashy, and they might form a nice partnership. I wouldn’t like to be a defender with those two running at me. We need Rom facing the goal, not with his back to goal.