What does Ole think of Leeds?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been impressed with what he's seen from Marcelo Bielsa and his Leeds United team this season as we prepare to travel to Elland Road in the Premier League for the first time in 18 years.
The Whites currently sit 10th in the table after an impressive run of form which has seen them beat Manchester City and earn draws against Chelsea and Liverpool.
United, of course, saw off their threat at Old Trafford in style thanks to a 6-2 victory back in December, but Ole admits the way that game unfolded meant the result wasn't as cut and dry as it may seem on paper. And he's expecting another tough battle on Sunday afternoon...
Ole can you believe it’s 18 years since we played Leeds at Elland Road in the league?
“Is it? I can’t really [believe] that. I remember those games fondly and the rivalry of course. They were a top team, they challenged us and it was games where you had the crowds against you. Eighteen years, okay.”
You scored a few goals against them and clearly enjoyed playing them. What was it like to score against a big rival like that?
“Of course every goal you score for this club is fantastic. They were big games and important games and I remember I think I scored two in a 4-3 win. I scored one here at Old Trafford too… I scored a few. The thing is I don’t look back too much which is why I probably can’t remember it’s 18 years ago. I always look forward and of course this game has been something to look forward to amidst all the other things we’ve spoken about this week.”
How’s the squad looking?
“Good. Marcus hasn’t trained but I hope that he will join us. Apart from that everyone – of course Anthony is injured still - has had a couple of days of recovery and a week of preparation and training. You need that against these. They make you go to the edge physically and mentally. They have a unique style of play and it’s a game we’re looking forward to.”
And Eric Bailly is okay too?
“Yes Eric is back and has been training this week. It’s been a good week.”
It’s not often you’ve had a full week to prepare during this busy schedule, this is unbelievable to get this amount of time!
“[Laughs] We had a tactical meeting with the players [on Friday] and they asked when was the last time we thought we had a free midweek. Of course we’ve had a winter break [in 2020] and went to Marbella and we had Project Restart in the summer, but before then our only midweek without a game was in August 2019, so it’s been relentless.”
What are your thoughts on this current Leeds team who apart from an indifferent February and early March have found form again and produced some big results?
“They’re a very good team as I said, with a unique style of play. The manager is one of the more interesting coaches. He’s had some exciting teams and they go all the way [in games]. Last time we were winning 4-0 after about 40 minutes or whatever it was, but you didn’t feel safe because they never stop. They’ve got a great mentality and a great work rate and we know we’re going to be tested.”
They’ve got some really exciting attacking players, particularly Rodrigo and Raphinha, and the latter has been a joy to watch…
“I think the whole team since they came up in the first game showed their intention of playing their style and that’s what we want as managers. You want your players to stick to your plan and they’ve done that to a tee.”
And just finally it’s another chance for you to lock horns with the man you mentioned earlier, Marcelo Bielsa, after getting the upper hand against him at Old Trafford in that thriller earlier in the season…
“You can say it was a thriller, but even though you were 4-0 up they got it back to 4-1 just before half-time and they had another big chance where it could have easily been 4-2, and they had early chances in the second half. So it’s a game you never feel safe in. I don’t expect the same start that we had – we were electric to start with in that game, but we’ve prepared well and we’re ready for them.”