Exclusive: Ole on Rooney, Cocu's Derby & injuries
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he is looking forward to facing Wayne Rooney during Manchester United's Emirates FA Cup fifth-round tie at Derby County on Thursday with the manager heaping praise on our all-time leading goalscorer, while also aiming to get one over on him.
Rooney returned from a stint in MLS earlier this season to join the Rams and has impressed for Phillip Cocu's side, who host United at Pride Park. In an exclusive pre-match chat with MUTV's Mark Sullivan, Ole looks ahead to the cup test and reflects on Rooney's incredible United career...
Ole, it’s been an entertaining FA Cup week so far. Firstly, what have you made of having a midweek round of the cup?
“Well I think with the floodlights, then the atmospheres are good and, of course, it’s a knock-out competition and it’s decided there and then. So the passion is there to be seen. Everyone dreams about playing in an FA Cup final so they’re big games.”
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Much will be made about us facing a certain Wayne Rooney in our match against Derby County on Thursday night. How good will it be to see him?
“It will be good to beat him! [Laughs] Of course, it will be good to see him and Wayne is a very, very good lad and a legend of Man United. I think he should thank me because my injury many years ago meant we needed to sign someone, although I think we would have signed him anyway! He’s an absolutely fantastic human being and a top lad to have around. Of course, a lot has been said about him being my son Noah’s favourite player when he was younger. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
What did it take for Wayne to eclipse the great Sir Bobby Charlton to become our leading goalscorer of all time?
“When he came in with his talent and his personality and he scored a hat-trick in his first game, it was like everything was there for him. He played in a fantastic team I have to say, you look back at that team with Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs… that team had flair and pace and everything. For Wayne to be the club’s top goalscorer… all you can say is what an achievement.”
As you’ve said though, friendship goes out the window on matchday doesn’t it because we want to get through…
“Well, any goal he scores against us should be chalked off on his United goals! [Laughs] Of course friendship, is out the window for 90 minutes and, before and after, we’re good friends.”
We’ve played Derby a few times in the cup in recent times and they’ve always been tough games…
“Yes. And, of course, Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] were part of the coaching staff when we got beaten [in the Carabao Cup]. They’ve warned me about them, not that they had to, and we’ve watched them live as well, so we know all about them and their quality, if you give them time on the ball. And Wayne should not be allowed any time in and around the box.”
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It seems like Derby are still finding their way a bit under Phillip Cocu…
“Well it takes time for any manager in a new country and a new club. Last year, they had a lot of loan players from Chelsea and other clubs, with Frank [Lampard], so it takes time. But I think they’re looking very good.”
You played against Phillip in the Treble season, what do you remember about him as a player?
“He was a difficult player to play against. He played for Barcelona and I played in the 3-3 at home [in 1999] and, technically and tactically, he was very, very good. Great left foot, correct me if I’m wrong, and he played at centre-back but used to be a midfielder. I thought maybe I’ll have a chance against him, but he was very clever in his positioning.”
He was the classic Barcelona defender wasn’t he and you can see the way he wants his team to play…
“Yes I’m sure he’s influenced by Barcelona and the Dutch philosophy so we’re going to have to work hard to get the ball. That’s the one thing I know we’ll get from our players though, I know they’ll work hard and run around and chase after things because it’s a place in the quarters we’re playing for and we’re looking towards the business end of the FA Cup.”
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How’s the squad looking ahead of the match?
“Still, of course, Paul [Pogba] and Marcus [Rashford] are out. Dan James and [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka have got little niggles. I think they might not make this game.”
Gareth Southgate has said that he really wants Marcus fit for the Euros but he’s suggested, of course, his first priority is to get fit for us…
“As for any player, he wants to be fit as quick as possible and play as soon as possible. If that means playing in April, if he’ll be fit for us towards the end of the season, then fantastic. If it takes longer, it takes longer. We just have to be sensible with it and clever with it because we’re going to have Marcus playing here for many, many years.
Is there still no timescale on his return?
“It’s difficult to say. The scans were encouraging. He’s now working in the gym and in the pool, and he’s moving around better. He’s in and around the place. It’s like how long is a piece of rope? It’s difficult.”
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