Ole: This rivalry is a privilege to play in
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his Manchester United players should view it as a “privilege” and an “honour” to represent the club in the “fantastic rivalry” against Liverpool this weekend.
The boss explained that he always viewed the fixture as the biggest of the season when he was a player and that the current squad will do the same.
Ole also spoke to MUTV’s Stewart Gardner about the need for the fans to continue their fervent support at Old Trafford and Marcus Rashford’s development alongside the hard-working Cristiano Ronaldo.
Read our exclusive interview in full with the manager below…
Ole, first of all, just before we look ahead, a look back, where does Wednesday’s comeback rank among your most dramatic and exhilarating nights as manager?
“We tend to do, what do you call it, do it the hard way. But sometimes you have to do it the hard way, sometimes you have to find a way of getting back into the game. For us, half-time came at a good time, then we could align everyone’s mindsets, both crowd and players, and as staff we were very confident that we could just start the second half really well and then build on that one. Of course, we needed the first goal, but that came from the work the players put in in the second half. If you see the start we make, Luke presses, he’s in the box within five seconds and they had kick off, so we were on the front foot, they just kept on believing and of course some very good goals we scored.”
How do you possibly get to sleep after a game like that?
“You don’t! You fall asleep quite easily and sometimes you wake up and you toss and you turn. But that’s the beauty of football, you have to leave it in the past and look forward. But even though we’ve had a look at it, and there’s things to improve, and there’s things we can build on.”
What can you say about the character of this group, because a lot of the players who had been questioned rose to the forefront? Harry, Fred and even Cristiano of all people…
“Yeah, you know, football, Manchester United, pressure reveals character. I’ve never doubted the boys’ character, we’ve got a good group of players, good, strong mindset. Sometimes, you know, you need that little bit of back up as well. We got it from the crowd. Half-time was a big moment for us, we stuck together through it, and we’ve rescued the three points, put us in a great place in the group and of course we need a few more points, but halfway through we’re in a good place.”
We saw Cristiano sprinting back in the final minutes, putting in tackles and almost playing at centre-back to help the team, which rarely gets talked about…
“There’s no fun saying Cristiano works hard for the team, is it? That’s not gonna create the headlines. But you get used to that here, you have to do things better than anyone else. And I wouldn’t expect it any other way, and you wouldn’t want it any other way, because that’s what we’ve always done. That team out there, we know who we’re playing for, Man United, but the crowd want to see players work hard for each other. And they did.”
Everyone talks about the Anfield atmosphere, but we’ve seen this season there’s nothing quite like Old Trafford when it’s rocking. It clearly had an impact on Wednesday, does that show it can have impact an impact on Sunday?
“It does have an impact. Football in the previous 18 months during the pandemic, it was a different feel, a different way. And the way The Red Army sings throughout the whole game and back the team, that is massive for us. And we know we need every single one of them.”
How is the squad looking? We saw Fred and Marcus with knocks during the game…
“We’ve had some knocks, which you expect during games. That’s good, that we get some players giving everything, and then we just have to assess them. I’m not gonna rule anyone out from Sunday but I’m not sure if everyone’s going to be fit.”
We’ve seen Anthony re-joining training, how’s he getting on?
“He’s still working on his fitness, hopefully he’s come through today and let’s see how he is tomorrow.”
We saw Raphael Varane training alone earlier this week, so how’s he getting on?
“He’s working hard. As I said, it’s hard to put a time limit on players that you don’t really know, but he’s been on the grass and who knows?”
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Sunday's United Review has the headline 'This is the One', highlighting the fact it's our 100th home match with Liverpool. As a Red, is this still the fixture that excites you most?
“When you’re a player, and you’re able to, or given the responsibility of wearing that shirt at home against Liverpool, that is the one. It’s the best privilege and honour and responsibility you can have in your life, to give everything for your teammates, of your team, and there have been some fantastic games over the years. Even though we don’t like to say it, they’re a very, very good club. The history, the tradition, the way they’ve challenged us, and we’ve challenged them, it’s been a fantastic rivalry and hopefully we can come out on top this time.”
Both teams are scoring plenty, what sort of spectacle are you expecting?
“You never know, before a game you never know how the game is gonna turn out. Games are changed by goals, mistakes, good individual quality. I think everyone knows we’re gonna get 22 men giving everything for their team.”