Read every word from Ole before United v Fulham
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Tuesday evening's fixture against Fulham is all about the fans getting back to Old Trafford and enjoying being together.
The visit of the Cottagers will see up to 10,000 Reds return to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 8 March 2020, after the UK G.overnment moved to the next step of relaxing coronavirus restrictions.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Ole hopes that the presence of fans will give his players a boost, as we aim to finish the Premier League season in strong fashion and rebuild momentum ahead of the Europa League final, after recent defeats.
Read the full transcript of the press conference, and watch the video, below...
I’d say we’ve all been waiting for this occasion for when fans come in but because of what’s happened over the past week or so, it’s slightly different in the mood and tone. I’m just wondering what your message would be to the Manchester United fans, because clearly it’s not the day we all hoped to see, it’s wrapped in different material, if you like…
“Well, we’ve been waiting for a long, long time to welcome the fans back and of course the last couple of home games – especially the Liverpool ones, with the protests… it’s never nice to see a club that is not united, the fans and the team. So of course, we’re hoping that Tuesday is going to be a positive day, that we move together, that we play a good game of football, because that’s my job – to prepare the team, to play well and that they enjoy the day. That’s important now, that we get back and enjoy being together.”
Hi Ole. It’s been a busy spell of fixtures what with back-to-back matches, but how have the team recovered from that defeat last week, both physically and mentally, ready for the final two games of the season?
“Well, I think the previous week, or the last week, has been draining. The season has been long enough so I gave them two days off: Friday, Saturday. They were bright and bubbly this morning, really sharp, and we’re looking forward to the end of the season. We’re looking forward to playing in front of our fans again. It’s a completely different matter and, of course, I think the fans coming in will give this game an extra lift and give the players an extra lift. And of course we’re very focused on securing the second place.”
What’s the difference between positivity from the fans and negativity? The fans could get behind you and equally they could disrupt you by protesting. What’s the difference?
“I think the mood in any club and the relationship between a team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch. We’re all human beings, we’ll react to getting our supporters back in a positive way. They’ve always been back there, giving us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer. That’s what we have to focus on. It’s a big game for us in that respect. Since the last time we had fans in, against Manchester City. Great game, the atmosphere was the best I’ve ever felt it at Old Trafford in a league game. The next time we can welcome the fans back in, [I hope] that it’s a positive one.”
When Jose Mourinho said coming second was one of his biggest achievements, he was slightly derided, but do you understand what he was saying given that the competition now is probably greater than when you were a player, amongst more clubs? Would you see it as a great achievement for yourself as well?
“The competition is a lot harder now than when I was a player, I’ve got to say. Of course, you have three, four, maybe five teams that challenge for the top two positions. The last few years, of course, the first two positions have been taken by two teams and for us to move into them and divide them, if you like, it’s a good performance but it’s not an achievement. You can’t say it’s an achievement. We’ve taken steps as a team, we’re not where we want to be. We know we have some deficiencies as a group. There are parts of the game we need to improve on but I’ve felt we’ve made strides in most places. I’ve been very pleased with the players this season, I’ve got to say. I’ve been impressed by them, but we want to take the next step as well.”
I know you said about how important second place is just now, but you’re four points clear of Leicester with a better goal difference and you’re just a week out from the Europa League final. Does it mean you’ve almost got to wrap a couple of players in cotton wool, especially when we saw what happened to Harry at Villa?
“You know whatever team I pick, it has to be a team and they have to be players that give everything. Because if you go into a game tentative, if you have something else in your mind, you don’t fly into the tackles as you should, you don’t sprint as normal, you don’t maybe focus as much. There’s more of a danger of getting hurt in that kind of position. We want to build momentum, we want to build confidence because of course we’ve lost the last two at Old Trafford. We don’t want to go into an important game with bad momentum or a bad feeling, so we use these two games to get results but also to get confidence.”
The Reds put in a shift as this season's final home game, against Fulham, draws closer.
“Yeah, surely. I just didn’t want to use that as an excuse. We lost the two games, but surely it’s reason behind the performances and the results we’ve had. Physically, it’s impossible for them to turn up and play at the intensity and the level that’s required because of the amount of games. Then you look at the preparation in-between. You haven’t had the recovery in-between, you haven’t had the same routine as you normally do. We haven’t done the tactical prep in the same way as we’ve had. Of course, I’m not saying that it didn’t affect them, but was impressed with how professional they were in the way they went about it. There was none of them who complained. That’s one of the big things, for me, that we never complain. We never look outwards, we just look at what we can do. How can we maximise the situation? We tried to do that but we couldn’t get the results. The players have been good as gold, now they’ve had a couple of days off to refresh and be ready and we prepare as normal for these last two games.”
“You know, you pick a team to win a game. We need to pick a team for the final. If you want to go to the final 10 days from now, you want players confident, you want players in form, you want players I know I can get everything from. These last two games, of course is a chance for everyone, if there’s any doubt in my head. I think everyone knows I feel I’ve got quite good competition in most areas and units. I don’t think you go into these last two games saving your energy for the final, no. You need to show, against Fulham, that ‘I’m ready to do my bit for the team’ and maybe the Fulham team will be the final team, maybe not. I’m hoping to get Anthony [Martial] and Dan [James] back involved in this game, which is a very good boost for us, and maybe they can start against Wolverhampton. Maybe they’re sensational. It’s hard to leave players out if they really perform at their highest, highest level.”
A couple of weeks ago you were quite critical of some media pundits, maybe you were referring to ex-teammates or ex-opponents of yours. I was just wondering, with Tuesday in mind, and the fact it has been quite a volatile situation, do you hope the media aspect is handled sensibly and have you spoken to any of those people, or your former teammates, about the way they approach their commentary and their observations on this game on Tuesday?
“No, I’ve not spoke to anyone, because I’ve been busy enough looking at the team and preparing the team. Of course, you hope that the game against Fulham is not going to be marred by any violent or over-the-top things because I know our fans. I know the Man United fans, they’re the best fans. I’ve had such a great relationship with them and they know how to support the team. I don’t expect any of the fans coming there and making any trouble.”
Has a decision been made on Juan’s contract yet, whether he’ll be leaving in the summer or whether he’ll be with you again next season?
“I’ve kept the dialogue with Juan and we’re due to speak again very soon. Of course, he’s not played as much as he’d like and that’s a decision that we’ll make with him. He’s in charge of his own future and he’s been such a good servant for the club. But of course, it’s hard, as I’ve said so many times, to leave good players out, good people out of the team. It’s about what does he want as his next step in his career? Is it still play out his career here, or is it going somewhere else? We haven’t made a final decision yet.”