Ole: We've got a score to settle
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting the usual tricky test that a visit to Selhurst Park always seems to pose, but he insisted his Manchester United players will be especially spurred on by settling a score against Crystal Palace from the opening day of the season.
The Eagles ran out 3-1 winners at Old Trafford back in September when the delayed 2020/21 campaign began. The Reds had had minimal preparation for the game compared to Palace due to the almost-instant turnaround, from finishing the previous season to beginning the current one.
During his pre-match chat with club media's Mark Sullivan, Ole said that loss still rankles and he insists he and his players are determined to get back to winning ways away from home in the league...
Do you think you’ll look back on that point at Stamford Bridge as a good point come the end of the season?
“Let’s see at the end. It might end up being a good point. Obviously the defensive attitude and the pressing and the aggression and being on the front foot… the boys did everything we wanted. We never really had to defend deep for too long and we got loads of counterattacking opportunities for all our work, but we didn’t get the goal. We always want to win the game, but we just lacked that little bit of edge to win it.”
It’s another trip down south in quick succession, how is the squad looking?
“Edi [Cavani] has trained this morning and hopefully there is no reaction. There are another couple of knocks that we have to look at from after the [Chelsea] game and from season wear and tear. It looks good. Edi has got the desire and hunger and of course he wants to join in, even if it’s from the bench. Hopefully he’ll say tomorrow that there’s been no reaction.”
Crystal Palace are very tough to beat under Roy Hodgson. Do you think this is another game where patience could be key with regard to breaking Palace down?
“You could say patience but also you need the quality because he does have a great record of organising his teams. They have some very experienced players that know the game. We felt that early on in the first game of the season of course. They counterattacked a few times against us and scored. So we’ve got a score to settle to be honest.”
Yes we didn’t have the preparation we wanted before that game did we but, as you say, there is a score to settle for us…
“Of course. We need to get back to winning ways. We want three points. We know it’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to be really precise and show high quality in the last third because they’re not going to give you both, you have to earn them and we’ve got to defend well against their set-plays and counterattacks.”
There are some question marks over the fitness of Wilf Zaha - do you prepare differently for Palace if they don't have him?
“You know Wilf is a top-quality player but we have players who can deal with whether or not Wilf is fit. They also have other great individuals, tricky players who can cause you bother. I don’t think it’s any different with or without Wilf. When you’re in the Premier League, you always have top players against you.”
Their game against Brighton last week was a pretty incredible - Brighton had 25 shots and Palace had three, but they ended up winning on the counterattack. Does this give an indication of how they'll set up against us?
“I don’t know! Roy might have something up his sleeve, but of course if we manage to press them back and dominate the game you know that there’s always going to be a chance of them counterattacking and breaking. As I said, Roy’s teams have always had that stubbornness and resilience. We just have to, as you said, be patient, but we also want to start quickly and play with tempo, quality and lots of movement. It’s a good challenge for us.
Weirdly, even pre-lockdown the away record was better than the home record against Palace, for both teams, which is a bit of an anomaly?
“Yeah. It is strange to be fair, but now of course with no fans I don’t think home or away makes too much difference. They had a game on Sunday as did we so we’re on equal terms.”
“It helps of course. It brings new faces, fresh ideas. Alan Fettis [goalkeeping coach] has helped out with the keepers as well. Nicky and Demps have vast experience, playing and coaching so it was great for me to have them. Now this period of isolation has gone it’s back to a little bit of normality for everyone.”