Ole on Diallo, the FA Cup and reunions
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking forward to seeing his Manchester United players competing in the FA Cup this weekend, as the Reds aim to bounce back from the disappointment of losing out in English football's other domestic cup competition.
The Reds went down 2-0 at Old Trafford to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final, but attentions swiftly turned to the meeting with Watford on Saturday evening, where United will look to begin another strong cup run.
The boss spoke to club media's Stewart Gardner ahead of the tie and discussed new signing Amad Diallo, the magic of the cup and the return to OT of some familiar faces within the Hornets' squad...
Amad Diallo is now a Red – can you tell us a bit more about him and why we signed him?
“He’s a young boy who we’ve watched for a few years. We’ve seen him here play in the UEFA Youth League for the kids. He’s got special abilities of course. Very good balance, reads the game really well and for a young boy he seems very mature in his decision-making. A boy that we’re excited to develop further. Of course we know he’s a young boy who’s going to learn his trade and come into a new country and new style of football, so we’ve got to be patient with him.”
He’s played on the right and the left for Atalanta. Does he have a best position or is it too early to say?
“I think he’s comfortable in many positions. Right wing is probably the position he’s played the most, with his left foot coming inside. Then again, in the Champions League for Atalanta he played on the left – he cut inside and he went outside, so he can play different positions for us. Let’s give him time to find his feet here in England and we’ll hopefully see him soon.”
A bit like Facundo Pellistri, would he have any involvement with the U23s to start with, or will he be straight into training with the first team?
“We’ll do the same as we did with Facundo. He joins in the training with the first team and gets settled in. Then we need to give him match time – first team or 23s, we’re not going to be able to say now. Let’s see how he takes to it. You’ve got kids who just come in and tell us as staff that they’re ready for the difficult games.”
There are players who have played a lot of football, particularly in the last month or so, and some who will feel they need some minutes, so what’s your thinking for the squad for this weekend?
“When you go into a new competition you always want to win it. We’ve got a good tradition and history in the FA Cup and of course we want to keep that going. We want to bounce back after the disappointment of Wednesday but there are some players that got knocks from the game on Wednesday so they’ll be left out. Of course some players will come in and there will be some changes definitely. We’ve just got to respect the schedule and the situation everyone is in.”
You said you might need to have a word with Bruno [Fernandes] who wants to play every game – have you had the chance?!
“[Laughs] Everyone wants to play every game and that’s the hard bit: when you have to tell them ‘Today you’re going to rest' or 'Today you’re going to be on the bench'. It’s very difficult and Bruno isn’t different to anyone in that respect.”
I’m not trying to get your team from you!
“No, you’re not going to get the team! [Laughs]”
But I just wondered if there were any specific players who might need minutes? I’m sure Odion Ighalo would love to play against the team he did so well for, or the likes of Jesse or Tim or others – are there any in particular you feel need some action?
“Odion, of course, it’s special for him because it’s Watford. He’s been training really hard and it’s one of those decisions which is always difficult. He’s come in and done really well until last summer and then he’s not really had his chances. He will be involved against Watford. Actually, yesterday in the round-robin tournament he was the top scorer, so he hasn’t lost his finishing touch. I don’t know how many goals he ended up with, but he’s still as sharp and he’s in the squad. There will be changes.”
Jimmy Garner isn’t able to play because the game is against his parent club, but given he’s on loan there presumably you’ve had to monitor him and Watford?
“Yes, of course, and Jimmy has done really well. Then there was a change of manager and the new manager has had only two games and Jimmy hasn’t really had a look-in. The first four or five months have been really positive for Jimmy and he’s a boy that we really believe in. Of course he needs that game time and exposure and the Championship is a very good level of football, so it’s been really good for Jimmy and hopefully he can fight his way back in the team again.”
It’s a bit like friends reunited isn’t it with Tom Cleverley there, who you worked with, and then former players Craig Cathcart and Ben Foster as well?
“Yes, I had all of them in the Reserves a few times. They’re great boys, all of them, and they’ve had good careers and we’re proud of all the players we’ve had in the Academy that have made such good careers as these boys have. But let’s hope it’s not a good reunion for them at Old Trafford.”
We might also see a player who has been tearing it up in Norway, Philip Zinckernagel, for Bodo Glimt. He might be involved…
“Yes, he might be involved and he has done exceptionally well for Bodo Glimt. He’s been really impressive with his goals and assists this season. He’s a player I know about and hopefully if he comes on or he starts then we can stop him. He’s an exciting player.”
Finally Ole, we talk about this most years, but the FA Cup still has that magic doesn’t it?
“Yes, of course it does. It’s a special trophy to lift. I’ve had that pleasure a few times and it’s hopefully one we can do again. We’ve won it so many times. As a kid in Norway you always looked forward to the FA Cup final on TV – it was the last game of the season. I’ve said it many times before, but when Norman Whiteside curled that ball in the far corner with his left foot [in 1985, to win the cup for United] – that is still a vivid memory that I’ve got of United, after playing with 10 men when Kevin Moran was sent off.”