Read every word from Ole's pre-West Brom press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised the impact of Scott McTominay during Friday's pre-match press conference.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Premier League encounter with West Bromwich Albion, the Manchester United boss was asked about Scott's impact in front of goal, after he netted for a third game in a row during the victory over West Ham United on Tuesday.
Ole was also quizzed about his squad, our league form, two-legged Europa League rounds, Fred's development and, sadly, had to field more question about online abuse.
Here's every word the manager had to say during the first part of Friday's briefing...
What sort of shape are you and your squad in after an attritional Tuesday night and, of course, with the Europa League coming up I guess you’ll have to be thinking about how you manage your resources even more carefully?
“Well, we’ve had a rare opportunity to do a bit of training and actually some recovery. You’ve got Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and not a game until Sunday, that has been a rarity for us really. Paul [Pogba] is still out. Eric [Bailly] has been training, so that’s a boost to us.”
In terms of training, it seems like you’ve got some of the young lads with you – are they going to be with you for the rest of the season or is that only short term? In terms of the Europa League, we’ve seen both of Arsenal’s fixtures moved to neutral territories, we’ve seen your first leg moved to neutral territories. Do you think this is sustainable?
“First of all, the young kids – yeah we’ve moved Shola [Shoretire] up with us. Hannibal will probably join us and and we’ll keep them with us for a while. I think it’s the next step in their development. We’ve just got to take the hit on them that when they play for the Reserves they have to travel by themselves. They’ve moved into our bubble. I think it’s a nice step for them; well deserved because they’ve done really well. With Europe, of course that’s what we hope, that it is going to be sustainable. The travel in Europe is difficult at the moment, as we all know. It’s not the decision that we made. When one game is at a neutral venue it’s a disadvantage, of course, for the team that doesn’t have the home game. That’s out of our hands, it’s nothing that we can say: ‘ok, we’ll meet in Turin and have one game’. I wouldn’t mind that at all, one game less.”
I know you’ve had some good results in the Cup against Liverpool and West Ham, and the Southampton game, but it’s one win in four in the league. How important is it to get that momentum again? Because the gap to Man City is getting bigger and the other teams are getting closer…
“Of course it’s an important game for us, this weekend. It’s an important spell. Every game, you tick one off and are there less possibilities to make up the points to the teams in front of you. That’s what we want to do; that’s what we’re here to do and Sunday’s a big one for us in that respect, to get back to winning ways. The two points dropped against Everton were disappointing when it’s the last kick off the ball. But we bounced back well in the Cup against West Ham; we’re through and we’re into the quarters. That was a good step in the right direction and another clean sheet.”
I know every press conference recently we’ve asked you about social media and racism, but every time we see you it seems to have escalated. Whether it’s male or female players at Man United, whether it’s managers or referees – is this a movement where something is going to change and are we getting some traction here where it’s going to be something constructive at the end of this process?
“Today with all the abuse and discrimination on social media – for me, it’s simple, if you don’t have proof of your identity you can’t open an account. That’s just as simple as. It would be be so much easier to punish the [people] who have nothing better to do.”
All eyes on Albion gallery
The Reds are looking focused in training ahead of this weekend's clash with West Brom.
You made a really good point there about the two legs – because there are no fans and because of this fixture congestion, would it not make sense to have a one-off knockout game instead of sticking to the two legs?
“Well, that’s what we did last season, we met somewhere neutral and made it a tournament. Of course, home and away, we have to keep that going. As I said, we do have a little advantage, it’s a disadvantage for Sociedad of course, to have their home game in Turin. For me, I wouldn’t stand in the way of that, but there are probably other reasons that we don’t."
Seven goals for Scott McTominay this season – is that something you thought coming into this season that you wanted to add to his game? If he gets double figures, do you think that could play a significant role in how the team do as a whole?
“To add goals from midfield is vital. We had last season, our three forwards were brilliant, were really efficient and scored goals, 60-odd. Bruno [Fernandes] came in and scored goals, we needed more goals from midfield. Scott has got that ability to do box to box. He’s a threat inside the box and he used to be a striker before. I think for us to move up the league and be successful in the cups we need our forwards to keep on firing and getting more goals, and then I wouldn’t mind our midfielders adding a few more. If Scott could get into double figures that would be a very good for a so called ‘defensive midfielder’.”
You always said you were following a plan, taking the right steps and that you always wanted to fight for glory. But what do you see as a successful season for Man United, and on your path of development, in your opinion, when does your success have to be measured in trophies?
“You go into every season trying to improve. If you improve, that’s a step forward. Is that a big enough step forward? We'll have to see at the end if we end up with trophies. We’re still in the cups – we lost in the semis in the Carabao Cup, we’re in the semis in the FA Cup and we’re still in Europe, and we're second in the league. At the moment, it looks like we've improved, but we’re going into the deciding period of the season, so its now that we have to kick on. It’s now that we have to keep our consistency, get the quality higher, eradicate some of the mistakes that we’re making and be more clinical in front of goal. I don’t want to say what would be a successful season at the moment, but we have the chance to end this season with the feeling that this season has been a success if we improve. I think we have shown qualities that can win us trophies.”
If Fred plays at the weekend, it will be his 100th appearance for Man United. He had a very difficult first season at Manchester United – what have you done to help him improve and what does he bring to your team that he now seems to be an important player? And how do you personally pronounce his name?
“Fred! It might be [incorrect], but I’m Norwegian. He's really done well and I have to say I have enjoyed working with him from the last few seasons. When I came he was a boy that was struggling a bit. The numerous questions I got about Fred in press conferences then! As I said then, players coming into a new country, it takes time to settle and it took some time for Fred to settle. Now that he has, he’s grown in confidence. There’s less time in the Premier League than what he’s used to; he's quickened up his game, he's not getting caught on the ball. I’m not going to take any credit for that, it's the coaches, Michael Carrick and Kieran [McKenna] have been brilliant with him. But it’s Fred himself that has had the hunger and the humility and wanted to learn and to stick at it and keep working. As you said, 100 games – there are not many people that can say they've played 100 games for Man United, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. Hopefully he'll score outside the box soon, although I’m not sure if it’s going to be with his right – I’ve tried to tell him!”
Just coming back to the social media aspect of the game, do you think the abuse that players are getting now is bearing on their mind when they go out onto the field because they might think: ‘if I make another mistake I’m going to get hammered, I’m going to potentially be racially abused when I come off the pitch? Is that making them a bit more scared when they are playing?
“I think that if it does then we've come too far. We’ve already come too far anyway with this concept and the abuse has gone overboard and it’s unacceptable. I would hope that we have educated our players enough to stay away from most of the criticism. To stop this, it would be for me, an easy solution. It should be so easy that people have to verify who they are to open an account. With all this with the fake names… that’s my wish, that we can go: ‘ok, if you want to have an account it has to be verified.”
The abuse of people on social media, is that something that you’ve experienced personally? And is it possible for the manager of Man United to have a social media account these day?
“I probably have been abused right left and centre, that's just the way it is. No, I don't know about that at all. It is possible, but it might not have to be in my name, as long as it’s verified that the account is me. I'm happy enough without it at the moment. I live in 2021. but I'm old school. I have kids who are on it, so that should be enough. Is there is anything they ask me.”