What does Ole expect from Chelsea?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his Manchester United side are well prepared for the different threats posed by in-form Chelsea, ahead of today's clash between the teams at Stamford Bridge.
The Reds currently hold a six-point lead over the Blues who are hovering around the top four. Ole wants to extend that advantage this afternoon and ensure we keep up the pressure at the Premier League summit.
During his pre-match interview with Mark Sullivan for club media on Friday, his birthday, the boss also gave his reaction to the Europa League last-16 draw, which included his former team Molde, and he provided the latest update on his team news...
Firstly, what are your thoughts on the draw? It feels like a Champions League draw…
“Exactly. Nice birthday gift isn’t it! [Laughs] As you said we do have a tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws and it’s one of those draws again that you feel could have been a Champions League game. Good for us, good for this group of players to have these games to look forward to. We need challenges and we enjoy challenges, we embrace them.”
Of course we’ll see the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diogo Dalot too. There are so many subplots whenever big sides like these meet?
“Yeah and the history and tradition of AC Milan, it’s a great club that we welcome and a great stadium that we go to. We’re looking forward to it. Zlatan of course – I’ve got to say I’m so impressed with how his career has gone. He had a career-threatening injury when he was here, he came back from that one, then went to the MLS, then he’s really lifted AC Milan. They’re on the up and have done really well in the league this season, I'm so impressed by him. Of course Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he’s learnt a lot. He’s played a lot more games this season and has kept fit and hopefully we can give him some bother.”
Meanwhile, Molde face Granada which is a great tie and a tough match for Molde…
“Yes it will be. Looking towards the end [of the draw] Molde were still in the pot when we got drawn out, I almost wanted that one. They’ve got a chance, they’ve beaten Hoffenheim, they’ve got their pre-season in Spain so that’s a good one for them. They don’t have to travel too much because with the quarantine rules they’ll probably play in Spain. They’ve got a chance.”
Back to the Premier League and next up for us is Chelsea – always a big game between two big teams…
“Yes, Chelsea are always one of the favourites every season for the last 20 seasons. We’ve prepared well, we’ve managed to get a few players off [rested on Thursday night] so we should be ready for this game.”
Do you think Thomas Tuchel is beginning to stamp his identity of this team?
“Yeah, you can see a certain style he wants to play. He’s had fantastic results since he came and of course we know we’re playing against a team with confidence and they’re in form. He’s a manager who can do different things so we’ve just got to prepare for every scenario possible.”
He seems to have turned to some of the more experienced players – have you noticed that?
“I think he’s given most of the players a chance and been rotating. He knows what he wants and thankfully it’s none of my concern! [Smiles] We know whatever team he puts out it’s a good Chelsea team and it has been a good Chelsea team over the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been here. We’ve had some good results and some bad results and we’re looking forward to this one.”
With just six points between the two sides in the league, it underlines the importance once again of the game…
“We’re looking forward to it of course. We want to make sure Chelsea are behind us but we’re also looking ahead and above us so we need the points.”
You spoke after the game against Real Sociedad about the injuries in midfield – are there any further updates on anyone possibly returning?
“Donny trained [on Friday] and he felt okay after training so hopefully no reaction, so he should be with us. It was just a tweak [for Dan James]. I need to give him until Saturday or even Sunday so hopefully he can shake it off, but I’m not sure. They [Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay] are out. They’ve not trained, Edinson [Cavani] hasn’t trained yet, but miracles can happen. I wouldn’t be too optimistic about them.”