Every word from Ole before Wolves away
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken to the media ahead of our final Premier League game of the season, away at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.
The game at Molineux will be the final time Ole sees his team in match action before selecting his side to face Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final in Gdansk next Wednesday.
When speaking to the media for his usual pre-match press conference, the Norwegian provided fitness updates on Harry Maguire, Fred, Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial, assessed our performances in the Premier League this term and analysed what United need to do climb in order to top the table next campaign.
Here is every word from the manager...
Hi Ole, you’ve obviously guaranteed second spot and how would you sum up your season in the Premier League and what do you think you have to do to get closer next time?
“Of course, we’re not where we aim to be. We've got ambitions to move one place further up, of course. It’s been steady improvement, we’ve improved steadily, surely, third last season, second this season, some more points, done really well away from home, of course. We know we had a difficult start with the lack of pre-season and we lost three out of the first six games and loads of them were home games which put pressure on the team. But they've managed really well, the players have been very, very good.”
What do you hope to see from your players against Wolves on Sunday and what is the thinking behind the team, is it keeping everyone fresh and fit or what’s your thinking?
“You want to go in to the final with lots of energy but also confidence, so we will make changes, freshen up a few, rest a few that have really been playing and been regulars in the team. We want to go, as I said, go into the last game, we know that we have done really well away from home and go and enjoy it and get some minutes into a few who might need it before the final.”
There were pictures of Harry Maguire without crutches at the film premiere last night and fans got really excited. What is the latest with him? Do you think he’ll be fit to play in Gdansk?
“He's walking but it's a long way from walking to running. To be honest, I don't think we'll see him in Gdansk, no, but as I’ve said so many times, I’m going to give him until Tuesday night, the last training session to see if he can try to be out there. Steadily but surely he’s improving, but ligaments they take time to heal.”
Have you decided what’s happening with Juan Mata yet? Because it could, potentially, be his last game…
“We're talking to Juan, we’ve had good dialogue, good discussion. That dialogue will continue. Let's see what he wants to do at the end of the season. Of course, he’s such a top professional, very good player. It's hard for me not to play him more than I have done. Of course, there’s been circumstances this season, some personal issues that’s made him less available. He’s still a top player, so that decision will be made after the season has finished.”
Assuming Harry doesn’t make it, I guess he will still travel out to Gdansk with you. If he does that, what kind of role can he play? You’ve talked well about his leadership qualities, what kind of role can he play off the field and with the players if he doesn’t make it on the field?
“He's a very important person in the dressing room and a leader. I think, before the fans came in, you all heard him from the stands. He does still want the team to do well, he’s organising even from the stands which has been easy because it’s been so quiet. He'll come, he’ll be in the dressing room, he’ll make sure everyone is ready for the final.”
Just going back to what you were saying a little earlier Ole about your ambitions for next year. How much are you planning at this stage what your transfer strategy will be over the summer and do you expect Manchester United to have a big summer in terms of players in and out?
“Of course, we’re planning as we normally do. It’s not like at the end of the season let's see what we do, that's an ongoing process. We're looking at the squad, players who are going to stay, players who might be leaving. As I've said a couple of times lately, I hope that we're going to strengthen with a few, two or three players we definitely need to challenge higher up in the table. We're still too far behind to think that it's just going to come by itself.”
Just following up on that, do you know what the player turnover is going to be like this summer? I know you’ve said that Sergio's going to leave the club at the end of the season but roughly, how many more players could go in the summer?
“There might be… obviously we've had a few on loan who might come back in, there might be some interest in them, or there is interest in a few others maybe going out. You want to come out of the transfer window strengthened, that’s the thing. It might be that we allow some players to go out to gain experience and come back stronger for it. Apart from that, it’s difficult to say. I can't see too many outgoings.”
We talk about players improving, the team improving, I just wondered, in terms of your season, do you think you’ve improved as a manager this year?
“[Laughs.] It’s probably not up to me to say but you learn all the time, of course. We’ve had lots of ups and downs and you learn from your wins, you learn from your mistakes and defeats. The older you get, the more experience you've got, you’re probably a better leader for it. So, for me, I’m taking it in my stride but I’m used to everyone else judging how I do and how badly I do or how well I do, so it's not up to me to rate myself, no.”
Obviously Tuesday we had fans back and it all went off really smoothly, it was good to see them back and everything. I know the owners have arranged a chat with the Fans Forum at the start of June and, presumably, you hope that both sides can reach an understanding. Presumably, you don’t want the sort of problems we saw a couple of weeks ago hanging over you, potentially, next season?
“To be reunited with the fans again was great. I thought they supported the team really well. Of course, the meeting between the fans and the owners will, of course, be a step in the right direction. For me, we want to start next season on a high, we want to start well, we want to start with a good atmosphere in and around the club. The one day that really was a disappointing day was the first time with the Liverpool game but the other times… They’ve got the right to express their view and they’ve done it in the right ways after that.”
Can I just check on the fitness on Scott [McTominay], Fred and Anthony [Martial] ahead of the weekend and the final? Also, do you buy into the theory that you have to go into a major final with some momentum? Is it important that you win on Sunday so you go into that final with a win or does it not really matter?
“Every game matters, every game you play matters. For the players who are on the pitch, it's an important preparation for the final. Get confidence, get momentum, as you say. Of course, a final lives its own life. I know Anthony is not going to be available. Scott and Fred should be okay.”