Ole discusses cup draws, Andreas and Spurs
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his reaction to two important cup draws for his Manchester United side, while also focusing on what he believes will be a key game in the league on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.
The United manager sat down with MUTV's Stewart Gardner to reflect on us being paired with Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League group stages.
He also gave his reaction to our Carabao Cup quarter-final draw away to Everton, spoke about Andreas Pereira's loan move and provided his thoughts on the challenge the players face against Spurs this weekend...
Firstly Ole, what’s your reaction to the Champions League draw. We’re facing two of last season’s semi-finalists…
“Yes, semi-finalists in Leipzig and finalists in PSG. Of course, you know you’re going to play against good teams. It just shows the challenge we’re facing and how far we’ve come. Istanbul [Basaksehir] almost got to the quarter-finals in the Europa League as well. Now they’ve signed Rafael [da Silva] and it will be a nice little reunion with him.”
Indeed, we should be seeing both Rafael and Ander Herrera…
“Yes. I had another player at Istanbul, Freddie Gulbrandsen, too. In football you meet certain people back again and you share experiences. Ander has been a great servant of this club as well, so it will be good to see them.”
Naturally, going back to Paris will be special after that extraordinary night last time…
“A special, special night. Of course, it’s a different setting and everything will be different about it, but we’ve got that experience and you want to play against the best players in the world and they certainly have a few of them.”
It’s a good thing, isn’t it, that you’re playing these types of games again after a little break from the competition?
“Yes, we have always wanted to be in the Champions League. We’re known for playing really well against good teams so we’re looking forward to it.”
And what about the Carabao Cup quarter-finals in a couple of months? Everton away...
“I looked at the teams in there and you say, normally in the Carabao Cup, teams don’t always go strong, but many teams have wanted to go through in this competition and Everton have started the season fantastically with Carlo [Ancelotti], and in the league as well. That’s a few months away, so we can put that in the back of our heads for now.”
Lazio have announced that Andreas Pereira has arrived for a loan spell. Do you see it as a good move for him and a chance for him to get some playing time?
“Yes, definitely. They’re a big club, Lazio. Andreas needs to play regularly. He started last season really well, and played loads of games. You could see the confidence growing and see him developing, but after we signed Bruno that position that Andi played in was taken, because Bruno came in and had such an impact. We decided this is what was best for Andreas.”
Could it be a busy weekend, in terms of some players coming in and out?
“Football is always busy, but the end of transfer windows always has loads of speculation, of course. Obviously I’m not the one who is involved in all this, but in general we’re happy with what we’re doing. We’re looking forward to the game on Sunday; that’s the thing I’m focusing on.”
How is the squad looking ahead of the weekend?
“Good. [We've] no more injuries. It was a good exercise down at Brighton, it’s been a good week. Let’s make sure we get into the international break with a good result.”
You’ve got some nice competition for places, like you mentioned after the Brighton game, with a few players putting their hand up to say they want to play?
“[We've had] many good performances and that’s where we want to get to and need to get to, so there are players fighting for every position on the pitch. I think that drives people on and makes them improve and to be part of Man United you should be able to have competition and know that you have to perform. So I was very happy with what the lads did.”
Have you been impressed with Donny, who showed again the other night that he can play across the midfield in various areas?
“His versatility is going to be very useful, and his quality. I’ve spoken about him before – he’s very tidy, clever, intelligent… He’s not going to try the Hollywood pass if it’s not on. He’s going to make the right decision. He’s really come in and had a very good impact.”
Is Paul Pogba still definitely claiming that free-kick as his goal?
[Laughs] “I’m not sure! I’ve not seen it from behind but I think it was going wide. I’ll tell him that anyway next time I put Bruno and Marcus on free-kicks!”
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Does the game this weekend naturally have extra spice, with Jose coming back to Old Trafford?
“Probably, but then again it’s also because Tottenham are a very good team. I can’t recall now how many years they’ve been in the top four and the Champions League – not long ago they were in the Champions League final, so they’re a strong, strong team and we’ve had some fantastic games against Tottenham over the years. I’m looking forward to it.”
We’ve got good memories from last season against them when we beat them at Old Trafford and played well, and then the away match was our first game after lockdown and we could have won it there, as well…
“Yeah it was close. They were good games. We know it’s an important match. If you look at the league you can say we’ve only played two games, but a game against a potential top-four team this early might have an effect at the end of the season.”
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Do you see them as being a team who are going for the top four again?
“I think they should be, going by what they’ve done in the last few years and what they’ve done lately as well. I’ve been impressed by how they’ve played and it will be a very difficult game. There are top quality players there and they’re fit, but we’re ready as well.”
Is the international break possibly a good thing, because it will get some of the players more minutes?
“I think at this stage of the season it’s about as many games as possible to get that sharpness and fitness, and then you can start maybe resting players in a month or two months’ time, around Christmas time, when the sun is gone, it’s darker and you’ve played loads of games. So I think to have games at this stage is good.”