Ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League game against PSG, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Victor Lindelof spoke to the press.
What do you think it will take to overcome a 2-0 deficit and would that be one of United’s greatest achievements in Europe?
OGS: It’s a difficult task but we can do it. We need the first goal, we need to stay in the game until half hour left, if there’s one goal left, anything can happen. We need a good plan. It needs to be put in place. And we need to perform on the night because they’re a team full of quality.
You’re obviously speaking almost the same language as your manager. Has that made you feel more comfortable and what has he done to help you?
VL: It’s always nice to speak your own language. I communicate with him in Swedish and he speaks Norwegian to me, which is nice. From the start, he’s been helping me. He said to me ‘play your game, do the things you’re good at.’ He’s given me the confidence to do that and that has helped me a lot.
Sir Alex Ferguson has travelled, will he be speaking to the players?
OGS: No, he won’t.
How can you use your experience of playing in big game European games, like the Juventus semi-final in 1999, to inspire the players?
OGS: Everyone knows we can do it. The results in the Champions League the last few years, I don’t want to say strange, but last Juventus but lost 3-0 down at home against Real Madrid, but then were 3-0 up away. The year before that, PSG against Barcelona, we all remember those results. There are so many examples of teams who can change results like this. Us as a club have done it so many times. The players have been fantastic away from home. We’ve beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, which has given us belief we can do this as well.
You played at this stadium with Molde in 1995. What are your memories of that game?
OGSWe were without a chance really. We lost at home. I remember more my game at Clausenengen when I scored at PSG. They were a good team back then as well, but the way they have developed has been fantastic.
You’ve got to make history to win tomorrow night. Does that sense of making history appeal to you and the players?
OGS: Yes, of course. When no one believes in you, there’s that bit of character in yourself that means you have to show yourself. Making history is not really the motivation. The motivation is going through. These players are not used to losing. They’re not happy with the way they lost the first game but know that our best we can match them.
It looks like he might be out for four or six weeks. It was a bad knee injury. Hopefully he will recover quickly.
You’ve got 10 absentees. How much of a challenge is not going to be for tomorrow? And what about Brandon [Williams]?
OGS: It’s just one of those situations that we’ve come in to, that we’ve lost a few players. We’ll cope with that. We’ll have a good team out there. Alexis is the one we’ll struggle to get fit. Brandon, full-back, who can play both sides. He’s quick. It’s the first time he’s travelled with us. He didn’t expect to come. But that’s part of being here, that suddenly you’re called up. That’s why you’re in the academy, we believe in you, and you have to step up. We’ve got good coaches who make them ready.
You obviously know the club inside out but after these three months, how well do you think you know the players, in terms of their character and what they bring to the pitch?
OGS: I learn more and more about them. When you win games you learn things, when you lose games you learn different things. You speak to them individually, you develop a relationship. I want to help the club develop, I want to help the players develop. That’s the nice part of being a coach, you work with human beings, so when you get to know them you can give them that insight. I can tell them things I wish I knew 30 years ago.
What do you think wasn’t right during the first match against PSG?
OGS: When you concede a set piece, that’s always disappointing. The next 10 minutes were the biggest problem that we had. We opened ourselves up too much to get that equaliser. We know their quality is on the counter-attack. For that 10 minute period it looked like they were going to score every time they got the ball. We settled down after 2-0 but it was too late then.
Three years ago Marcus Rashford came from nowhere unannounced. You’ve brought lots of youngsters with you. Can they draw inspiration from what he’s achieved?
OGS: I think every young player who plays at this club is dreaming about coming on and having the impact Rash has had. There’s been so many examples of that and that’s the belief they must have to make it. Tomorrow night might be a chance for some of the young ‘uns.
You have a lot of missing players, you lost 2-0, is it mission impossible?
OGS: It’s never mission impossible. It’s more difficult but we’ve got to get the first goal, then anything can happen. Football is a technical and tactical game, but it’s also a mental game. Goals always change games. If we get the first one, we’ll be believing even more, and they might start doubting themselves.
It feels like we’re seeing the best out of you at Manchester United, but what is the experience like coming up against someone like Kylian Mbappe? Is there anything you can do when he gets going?
VL: Everyone here knows his qualities. He’s a world class player. I’m looking forward to the challenge. You have to be alert and ready for anything.
With so many injuries, trailing 2-0, and hardly anyone giving you a chance, do you agree there’s hardly any pressure on your players? They can go out and play with freedom because there’s such little expectation, with all the pressure on PSG?
OGS: You can say that because we’re 2-0 down after a home game, but we’ll never approach any game as a lost cause. We put the pressure on ourselves that we can do this. The outside pressure is off. Everyone expects us to go out, and go out easily, but that doesn’t happen with Manchester United. We’re hurt. Our pride was hurt. So we’re going to see players that will give their all. If we get nine or 10 playing to the top standards. We could carry one or two maybe.
Regarding PSG’s position in the French league and Manchester United’s in the Premier League, would you say it’s an advantage for PSG because Manchester United has to focus on the Premier League too?
OGS: Tomorrow doesn’t concern the league position. Of course, we’ve been focussed on our games in the league, while they’ve been able to… well, they’ve won the league already. But we’ve been playing good football. We’ve got players who’ve been playing at the top of their form. It’s improved all along in the season. Hopefully we can put that together tomorrow night. Let’s hope they underperform.
Was the defeat to PSG the unhappiest you’ve been with your players, because they let themselves down?
OGS: I was disappointed, yeh. Unhappy is not the word. I was disappointed. At half-time, 0-0, with the injuries we had, we talked about keeping a clean sheet because that would be important. So I was disappointed with the way we conceded the goal. We should not be conceding set pieces as easily as we did. And the next 10 minutes we looked all over the place. But the reaction has been really good. We went to Chelsea and won that game, we didn’t concede against them, or Liverpool, so we know we’re capable of keeping clean sheets.
When you watched the game back, did you get to analyse the mistakes again and what you should not reproduce during this game?
OGS: We do analyse games. It’s easy in hindsight. We should have done this, we should have done that. In the heat of the moment we made a couple of mistakes and at this level, when you make small mistakes, you get punished. Sometimes you get away with it in the Premier League but you don’t in the Champions League when you get to the latter stages.