Every word from Ole's pre-Liverpool presser
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has faced the media ahead of this weekend's massive Premier League clash with Liverpool.
On Sunday, English football's most successful clubs go head to head in a blockbuster encounter at Old Trafford. The Reds are looking to close the gap to our arch-rivals in the league, with Jurgen Klopp's men currently four points better off in the table going into this weekend's meeting at the Theatre of Dreams.
As usual on a Friday, our manager has been taking questions from the media and the Norwegian was asked for injury updates and how big the match against Jurgen Klopp's side will be.
Without further ado, here's every word from Ole's pre-match press conference...
Well played on the comeback in the week, how's your team and squad looking injury-wise since then?
"It was a great effort and atmosphere towards the end, of course, one of the the great Champions League nights at Old Trafford. Great comeback, which will bring some knocks and bruises which you normally would expect. It’s still just Friday, game’s on Sunday. We will give everyone time. We might have the whole squad back fit and we may be two or three players down. Today, we weren’t everyone [in training]. Let’s see Sunday."
Liverpool are in tremendous form at the moment. Comparing to the second half in the week, how many levels do you need to go up defensively to match Liverpool, and offensively, will that be enough?
"You know, a performance needs to consist of 90 plus minutes of attacking and defending. When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool. At the moment, they’re in a great run of form and there's some individual skill you can almost not defend against. As a team, we have to be compact, aggressive, go out there and get every single dropped ball. Nose, knowledge, strong mindset, physical energy… It’s going to take everything to beat the best teams in Europe and the world and Liverpool are one of them at the moment. They’re one of the teams we’re chasing and we’re trying to chase. What they’ve done in the last four years is something that we’re striving towards, and [we want to] go past them. We ended ahead of them last season, they had a large spell of injuries, so now they’re back to their best."
Jurgen Klopp has been talking this morning about [Mohamed] Salah and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, comparing them, saying that Salah’s got the better left foot and Ronaldo’s got the better right foot but they’re both world class. There’s lot of talk saying Salah is the best player in the world on current form, would you subscribe to that? Or do you feel Ronaldo still has the edge?
"I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique. His goalscoring record is incredible and he just keeps on scoring. That being said, Salah, at the moment, he's on fire. You see some of the goals he’s scored lately. We know we have to be at our best to defend against him. You know, players like this don’t come around very often and we have to enjoy them from afar, not on Sunday, that’s too close for me. We have to do a good job, not just against him. I'm a big admirer of the front line they’ve had for many, many years now with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows? They are players we have to focus on, we have to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet."
"You know, games like Wednesday will always bring knocks and bruises. And yes, we do have two or three carrying knocks from that game, but I’ll give everyone time. I hope I can pick from a fully fit squad. It might be that I’m without two or three. Yes, Bruno might be one of them and might be a doubt but he's doing everything he can to be ready.”
Fred’s been an important player for you over the years and I know he came off with an injury the other night but why is it that, in certain games like against PSG, Manchester City, or Liverpool to a lesser extent, that he can be so important to the team? Is it the balance he provides? He seems to play well and make a difference against Atalanta...
"Fred’s good player, a regular for Brazil, which in itself is a mark of quality. He’s got an exceptional personality and attitude to football, such a big smile. At the present moment, I can't say if he'll be fit or not but he’ll do everything he can to be there for us. He’s sharp, he’s nimble, he gets to players, he tackles, he's never afraid. So, the development he's made over the three years I've been here is great to watch. It showed, for me, last season. It was supposed to be a six-to-eight-week injury and he was back the day before the Europa League final. He was fit, fully joined the training session and we had to strap him up for the game but If I’d have known [the result] before, maybe I would have played him. He would have put his hand up and sacrificed himself for the team, that's for sure."
There can’t be anybody who hasn’t had an opinion about you for months now. Steve Bruce put a very interesting interview out the other day after he left Newcastle, talking about the pressure and the criticism. How do you deal with that as a human being?
"We all have our own ways of dealing with criticism. We're in a high-profiled position. You'll always get good and bad comments. You cannot let yourself be too affected. I think it may, as Steve alluded to as well, it might be affecting others around you more than yourself, which then again in the end filters through to you. We know we are high-profiled. Performances are, sometimes, not really good or really bad but the result decides the narrative of what people like to think about you. I enjoy managing, I enjoy this life. I don’t think anyone of us would be in this occupation we didn’t believe in ourselves, have a strong mindset but also love what we’re doing."
"It's something we've done plenty of times at the club. It's in our DNA, it’s never give in, Sir Alex’s documentary. That's what our fans expect from us, to give everything we have, give our best all the time. If we do that with the quality that the players have here, you can win games. You can sometimes even lose games but you come out of it having given everything and we know that 'yeah, that’s a team out there'. I saw a team in the first half as well [against Atalanta] that gave everything for each other but we need half-time to maybe push that belief a little bit more. We kept on believing in what we’re doing. Hopefully, it’s the end of a bad period for us, a bad spell. Teams always go through bad spells and good teams come together and hopefully this can be a start of something big. That’s what we hope. The focus and determination has been really, really good since the bad performance we had against Leicester."
Just going back to last season and the matches against the so-called big six, there was only two victories, five draws and three of them goalless draws. I was just wondering what you learned from those matches and how you look approach these types of games? You’ve got three coming up in a short period of time...
"What's the big six? That's just a made-up band of brothers, if you like. Every game is so important and so difficult. We have absolutely no right to go onto the pitch in the Premier League thinking we can give less than our best to win a game. We have not won the league in the last three or four years. Maybe you can understand Liverpool and City sometimes as they’ve been so dominant the last few years to walk onto the pitch and think quality will be enough. We have a team of players that we have to keep on developing, keep on improving. Going to the games you're talking about, we had a lot of clean sheets and there’s been a lot of talk for the lack of clean sheets recently. That’s a big thing for us, that we’re solid and difficult to play against.
You were mentioning the lack of clean sheets but David De Gea is having a very good season in goal. Do you think we are we seeing the best of him now? And where does he rank among the best goalkeepers in the world at moment?
"David is up there for sure. He'll play against one of the top ones on Sunday, Alisson is one of the top ones, to be fair. I’ve seen the mindset, how focused and determined David has been since he came back early in the summer. He’s got his tail up again. He's a joy to work with. Keepers like that sometimes dig up big saves to win games and he has done. He did against Villarreal, he did against Atalanta and, for all the goals we’ve scored, he has played really, really well."
"It’s a fact, the history between the clubs, the rivalry and all the trophies these two teams have won... It’s a massive game. A local rivalry. I always say, every time you're a United player, when you’re given the privilege, honour and responsibility to wear the shirt and step on to that pitch at Old Trafford against Liverpool, you give everything you have. We know that these games don't need any bigging up. It’s a massive game."
Would you agree that, if you had a first half like you did on Wednesday, that there won’t be any coming back against this Liverpool team as it has such a a high standard?
"We can't give them chances. We gave Atalanta two and they scored two. If we give Liverpool two, they’ll score two. In football, you know, teams are going to create chances. That’s just the nature of the game. I do not agree with everyone when you say we were really, really bad against Atalanta, they were realty clinical. But so is Liverpool, they will be. We cannot give them an inch, any centimetre, anything in our box, that’s for sure.
With a win against Liverpool on Sunday, you will only be one point behind them while a loss could potentially send you seven points behind Liverpool and eight behind Chelsea. With those numbers in mind, is this a 'do-or-die' game for Man United in terms of being title contenders?
"Every time you play for Man United, you play for three points. Of course, to be seven points will be a big distance, one point between is close but it's still so early in the season. Every game matters just as much. Every team is going to go through a bad spell and this early you can’t talk about title contending. We are chasing them. Liverpool are one of the teams we are trying to catch up on. The last four years we’ve had too many points to catch up on them. Even though last season we were ahead of them because they had lots of bad luck with injuries. We still know we have to improve to get to their level where they’ve been over the last four years."