Exclusive: Solskjaer calls for the spirit of Paris
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has compared today's Premier League match against Liverpool to last season’s UEFA Champions League tie at Paris Saint-Germain.
Undeterred, Solskjaer fielded a youthful team and watched with delight as his young charges secured a memorable 3-1 victory that shocked all of Europe.
The circumstances are not wildly different today as United prepare to face league leaders Liverpool without a similar amount of players and following a run of frustrating results.
However, as you can read in our exclusive interview, Ole has defiance running through his veins and the Old Trafford boss is adamant that a victory can be secured...
“It has and it hasn’t because I think the boys needed some time to clear their heads. I think, for me as well as, of course, I was disappointed. Sometimes, you get over a defeat quicker than other times. This time, we were just eager to get players back, to get some players we had out for the internationals, just to get some confidence back and we’re ready to go again. It’s the perfect game, for us, and, of course, this isn’t new. It’s the one we look for every year when the fixture list comes out. When is the Liverpool game? When is the chance? We’ve had a good build-up and a good couple of weeks’ training.”
“We can talk as much as we like. That’s no good but we can work within the building and we just know what we want to do. The answer is on the pitch and I’m sure we’ll get 11 players out there, giving absolutely everything they’ve got, plus the subs of course, to get three points in this game. It’s a massive game for the players and the supporters.”
What about player availability and unavailability? You said in midweek that David De Gea and Paul Pogba were out of the game, so is there anything else you can tell us?
“You know, injuries are part and parcel of the game. I can’t say who is going to be available but we’ll have 11 men out there and it reminds me a little bit of the PSG situation. We had loads of players out, everyone writes us off and are happy about that because, how can I say it, everyone doesn’t want us to win. But it’s Manchester United people, the Manchester United family, and we need to stick together because the 11 men out there will definitely give us what they have.”
Solskjaer's update on injuriesVideo
“The keeper situation is a different one to maybe other positions in the squad. We’ve got young Mason [Greenwood] coming in when Anthony [Martial] has been injured. Brandon Williams has played now when the full-backs are injured. We’ve got the most experienced goalkeeper department in the world, I think, and the best in the world, and a great coach. I have to say the atmosphere between the three of them is they back each other and the quality is there. I’m not worried if David doesn’t play, no.”
Whoever plays in goal has got a good defence in front of him. Everyone can see the improvement in the defence…
“We’ve felt the improvement and we’re feeling that we are going places. We’ve not really conceded many chances so, as a goalkeeper, you must be happy with the back four in front of you. That’s part of the pitch we’ve really improved and I think that’s only going to be improving as well. We’ll get Luke [Shaw] back soon, Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] hopefully coming back, Axel is growing, Harry is getting used to his team-mates and Victor signed a new contract, so we’ve got loads of good defenders in there.”
The latest news on PogbaVideo
“Which you want! You want competition all over the pitch. We’ve had loads of injuries to the midfielders and forwards at the moment but, at the back, we’ve looked solid.”
You’ve called this the perfect game in many ways, but what is it like to play in it?
“It’s great, of course, with the rivalry between the two teams and the history between the two teams. The two most successful teams in England and the headlines are on you building up to this game. When you’re at Manchester United, you get used to that but beating Liverpool is the best feeling. In the FA Cup, when I scored a winner, we just battled and battled and battled, and got two goals towards the end of the game in 1999. It was an unbelievable feeling and I hope these boys can get some of those feelings back on Sunday.”
Funnily enough, that goal is talked about as much as your most-famous goal - which shows you the importance of this fixture in a way…
“For me as well, it’s a moment I will always remember. It was my only three touches in the game. I took the ball, took it to the side and had a shot. That is how it is as a striker and that’s football for you – fine margins, a little bit of luck or quality will change the course of a season. For us, this is an opportunity now and we are not going to waste it.”
Old Trafford was amazing that day and we’re expecting the crowd to be at its defiant best on Sunday again. How important is that?
“They will be at their best. I know our fans. They will back our players and be out there cheering us on, especially if the players respond to what we’ve done this week and what we’re trying to do so they come out there fighting, which I know they will. There’s a great hunger and humility in the group, they work hard and are going to go out there and give their best.”
You touched on it there. It’s only one game but could it change the whole direction of the season if we manage to get a positive result…
“The feeling in a football club is always decided by results on the pitch and, of course, at the moment, we’re feeling a bit low. Can it change? Definitely with a win against Liverpool and then we’ve got games coming up we’re look forward to. That’s just the nature of a human being and a footballer. You get confidence through performances and results and they tip that margin that goes against you so it goes for us, so we’ll be there.”
MUTV's live coverage of United v Liverpool begins at 16:30 BST.