Every word from Ole's pre-match press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been speaking to the media ahead of our Premier League trip to Fulham on Wednesday evening.
The Reds will play under the floodlights at Craven Cottage, just four days after Sunday's 0-0 stalemate at Anfield where United had the best chances of winning the game.
On the eve of our midweek away fixture, Solskjaer faced the media for his usual pre-match press conference and was quizzed about opponents Fulham, the form of Bruno Fernandes, and how Amad Diallo has been settling in. As well, the Norwegian also revealed the best and worst things about having his dream job as United manager.
Here’s every word from Ole's media briefing…
“I think they've had a very good turnaround from a slow start. I think they made very good signings towards the end of the [transfer] window, and you can see after that they're very well coached. Scott [Parker] and the team, they trust their own organisation, team shape and they're one of the hardest teams to break down. It’s hard enough to go to Craven Cottage anyway but at the moment they’re very well structured on and off the ball. They’ve got some fantastic players defensively, very quick and strong, good on the ball so individually, going forward, they have got players who can make a difference. So it’s another tough game in the Premier League.”
I’m going to take you back two years. You were asked in a press conference a couple of years ago where you see the team in two years' time and you said ”challenging for every trophy there is.
“ If you’re going to do that in the Premier League, Ole, is beating the top six teams an area you can improve? Is that the biggest thing you have to change in order to do that and be considered genuine title challengers?
“Of course we've had some tight games against the teams around us this season. It’s going to be tight anyway. I think only Tottenham, of the teams around us, have beaten us, we've not conceded many goals. Of course, we have not conceded to Chelsea, City and Liverpool which is also a strength to have. We've built some defensive momentum and if you keep on winning the games that we have done lately, I think we will have a good chance of staying competitive towards the end.”
How do you regard Bruno Fernandes's form at the moment? He's obviously played so well for so long but is he feeling a bit tired now?
“His form is very good, he was just voted the Player of the Month. He’s not tired, no. No chance. He’s one of the players who runs and covers the ground in every single game. He’s very good at recovery, very good at recharging his batteries. If he’d scored with his free-kick [a Anfield], if he’d just had a bit of air on the shot when Luke put the cross in, he’d have been lauded as the best player in the Premier League again. Since he came in he’s been absolutely immense. No, he’s not tired. If I ask him, there’s absolutely no chance he’ll say he’s tired.”
Is it that he's done so well for so long that everybody expects him to do it all the time?
“He’s expected to create goals, score goals and sometimes the margins are against him. That free-kick, and there were a couple of passes he plays through and it’s just marginal if it’s onside or off. So he’s always on the verge of creating something, even when he loses the ball. That’s the position I want him in and that’s what he’s been told to do. He has to be the creative one. I want him to play the passes he sees.”
Are there any absentees for tomorrow’s match? We’ve seen you rotate during this frantic period, can we expect the same tomorrow?
“Well, we've not got the COVID test results yet. It's almost 38 hours ago since we did the testing, so hopefully we will get them soon. No, everyone trained this morning, more or less. Brandon [Williams] and Phil Jones didn't train but the rest were on the pitch.”
Can I just ask you about outgoings? You mentioned in an interview with the club that you couldn’t say no to potentially more players going out. There’s lots of speculation around Jesse Lingard, seemingly by the day. Will he be here at the end of the month?
“I don't want to go into individuals. We can allow maybe one or two more to go out. But then, it’s one of the strengths we have, is that we have had a deep squad with strength and depth. We don't want to give our advantage away by easing off on our players, so I can't really give you a better answer than that.”
In terms of the time scale, will it be four or five weeks, that sort of thing? Or is it going to be a bit quicker than that?
“Very good. He can handle the ball. He’s enjoyed training and make a difference in training, which is quite remarkable at his age. Some adjustment to settle into the hustle and bustle of the physical part of the Premier League. I can’t see it being too long until he’s in the squad.”
“It might be quicker than that, who knows? He’s definitely settled down well. The players have taken to him and he’s a very good character. A very good, smiley boy who works really hard. He’s doing his sessions and getting used to us of course. There’s always a period of adjustment needed, but he’s settled in well.”
You spoke about defensive momentum but where do you feel the team is from an attacking point of view? It's just two goals from the last four games in all competitions. Are the forwards just a tiny bit off where they need to be at the moment?
“I think this season we've scored more goals and created more chances than before. It's only a matter of time before those, you know, margins that were against us at Liverpool tip our way again. We have players who can do individual bits but the team is gelling better, the relationships are working better. Of course, the foundation will always be the hard work and the shape and at Man United we're expected to create chances from everywhere. We have the players to do that.”
Ole, are you enjoying this job? If so, which part do you most enjoy and which part do you least enjoy?
“Of course I do! I wouldn't do it if I didn't, if I didn't feel up to it and if I didn't feel like I was giving something back to the club. I can't say there's a lot I don't enjoy. I don't enjoy leaving players out. I think it's hard for big games, you know, you have players who deserve to play. It's a difficult job to tell them they're not in a job on a Sunday afternoon but then Monday morning they're back in their job. The chats before, explaining why they don't play, that's never an easy one when I don't really have a good answer behind it, because I could give so many reasons for them to be playing. But that's a part of what I love with the job as well, working with human beings. That's the main job, getting the best out of individuals so we can get a strong team together.”
Going a bit off topic here but your former team-mate Phil Neville has left the England women's national team to coach in the U.S. and now the former player of the Norwegian national team, Hege Riise, is one of the favourites to take over as interim manager. So the question is really, Ole, have you started sort of a trend here with Norwegians being on top of the food chain of English football? How do you think Hege would suit a job like that?
“It's speculation again, but of course, I know Hege's done really well with Lillestrøm. She's had a fantastic career both as a coach and as a player. So, if that's the case, if England decide that, they have got a good coach there and a very good human being.”