Ole on Everton, training and two years in charge

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he is seeing “a team that I like” when asked to reflect on the progression his Manchester United players have made since he took charge two years ago.

The Norwegian managed his first game as United boss on 22 December 2018, a 5-1 win over Cardiff City, and he's delighted with the strides forward made by the side since then.

During his pre-match chat with club media reporter Mark Sullivan, the boss reflected on 24 months in charge at the Old Trafford helm and looked ahead to our latest test on the pitch - a quarter-final Carabao Cup trip to Goodison Park to face Everton...

Firstly Ole, what a terrific win it was against Leeds. It’s one that fans will look back on time and time again, and it was a great advert for football...
“Yes it was, I just wish the fans could have been there experiencing that one live because it was a great game of football. Two teams that wanted to attack and create chances. As I said they could have easily had four or five and we could have had 10 or 12. Pick the bones out of the one if you’re a coach! [Smiles] But there was effort, energy and enthusiasm, and the quality was really good as well. Some of the movements and combination play was really good.”

We’ve seen some great photos of training since and everyone seems to be bouncing and really going hard. The spirit seems to be amazing at the moment…
“Yes the spirit is very good and why shouldn’t it be. First of all we’ve won the last game but we’ve also had a few good results after the early setback in December. Everyone deserves credit. They’ve been focused and we know every three days we’ve got a game and they’ve recovered really well between matches. Every game is like a cup final – the one you have next is the most important one and let’s deal with any issues or injuries afterwards.”

Ole eyes Goodison repeatVideo

In the training pictures we’ve seen some of the players who haven’t had much football like Jesse Lingard and Axel Tuanzebe for example. They all seem to be working really hard to be ready if they get the chance…
“They have been working hard and all credit to them. We’ve been pushing for more subs and a bigger squad [for matchdays] because there is still a group training that isn’t in the matchday squad and that can be mentally difficult. But the attitude and the quality has been really good and they’re getting closer and closer.”

In terms of the squad, we understand there was a slight problem for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Scott McTominay had to come off towards the end of the Leeds game. How are they both?
“Those [two] will miss the game at Everton definitely. Hopefully it won’t be too long. They’ll be out, but apart from that I think everyone is more or less okay.”

There is so much football right now. You made five changes to the team that beat Sheffield United for the Leeds game – will you look to freshen things up again?
“I’m not going to give you the team! [Laughs] But we will make a few changes. There have been a few players playing in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season and some will need a rest after the Leeds game. So it will be a fresh team.”

We had a great win at Everton just before the international break…
“Yes it was a very good performance. We played some decent stuff in the beginning but with more or less their first attack there was a long ball and a flick-on by Calvert-Lewin, as he normally does, and they scored and that was a setback, especially after the long travel we’d had and the setback in Turkey. But the reaction was fantastic and the rest of the performance was really good. We defended really well and countered when we had a 2-1 lead and the first and second goals were two great team goals with good build-up play.”

Their form seems to have had an upturn since Richarlison returned after he missed the league game against us…
“He’s a top player and a difficult one to mark. Of course they missed him that day but then again all teams will miss players at certain points in the season anyway. We missed some players in that game, they might miss someone now and we’ll miss someone now, so that just swings and roundabouts.”

The Carabao Cup final has moved back to April to try to get supporters in attendance – are you happy about that?
“It’s probably the best decision for the two teams that get to the final, but for me now I don’t think that far ahead. We’ve just got to go one game at a time and now it’s the quarters and we’ve got a chance to get into the semis. Then again we’ve got a big league run coming up too. But all eyes are on this one and we’ll pick a team that we think is fresh and ready for this game.”

Finally, it was two years ago yesterday that you had your first match as United manager against Cardiff. That time has flown by – how happy are you with the progression the team has made?
“Well we had a 5-1 win then and a 6-2 win now so we’re scoring more and conceding more! [Laughs] I’m very pleased with everyone. The staff are great – fantastic energy and enthusiasm, and the workrate of them and the players as well. The players have bought into what we’re doing. We’re getting fitter and stronger and, for me, I see more and more of a team that I like.”