Ole: It's time to take the next step
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his Manchester United players are ready and focused to finish the job we started at Old Trafford against Roma last week, as the Reds look to secure a Europa League final place.
Ole's men currently hold a 6-2 lead from the first meeting last Thursday, but with the Serie A side in possession of two away goals, the United boss will be taking no chances whatsoever.
Ahead of the match, the boss spoke to club media's Adam Marshall and discussed his team's approach, his determination to reach a final and he also praised the resilience and strength his players have shown during a long, tough season...
Firstly Ole, it was difficult build-up to the game with the Liverpool match not taking place when you’re all keyed up and ready to go. How important is it that we maintain our focus?
"That's our job to do so and that's what we're trying to do. Of course, we spent days to prepare for the Liverpool game, we were ready for it and we'll have to do that again at some point. But, unfortunately, the game didn't go ahead. The players really wanted to play and we felt ready for it. Now all our focus is on this game and we've given ourselves a very good foundation with a good result from the first leg. But we go to this one wanting to win this one."
We know from previous selections you won’t be taking anything for granted, it’s a European semi-final and there is still work to do and a lot of football still to be played…
“Yes, of course. Roma are one of the teams that have really caused upsets and shockwaves in second legs. In fact, three years ago, when they came back against Barcelona. So we know what they’re capable of. But our focus is to go and win the game. We want to improve as a team and develop as a team and handle difficult situations, and the goal is to win the game of football and, if we do that, then we’ve done a good job.”
Do you feel reaching a final is the next step for this squad after going so close to doing this on several occasions?
“Of course. It’s been well-documented that this is the fifth time we’re at this stage in the last 15 months. The boys are ready, they’re motivated and we’ve given ourselves a good starting point, but we have to go there and play a good game again.”
We hear that Anthony Martial is on the road to recovery and possibly could return before the end of the season – is there any update on him?
“He [Anthony] is looking good. He’s just about started outside jogging which is the first step on the rehab of course. He’s done most of his work in the gym and to see him out getting some fresh air is good. And then hopefully we will see him. He’s supporting the team, he wants to be part of a final and he’s working hard to be available even before then.”
Is there any other team news leading into the game?
“We didn’t get any injuries at the weekend! We’ve trained well since then. Dan James is not available, he’s still out for a little while.”
Scott McTominay said he felt if we could win the Europa League it would be a reward for you and the coaching team and all the effort you put into planning for every single game. Would you suggest it’s a reward for the players for their endeavours throughout a difficult and unusual season as well?
“You know, it’s been a very difficult year and very hard for everyone and I think the players have been terrific. The work they’ve put in, the attitude and the spirit in the camp has been spot on. We are responsible for getting results at the club and we feel privileged and honoured to be here and the players have really taken on the challenge of the history and traditions of the club. Of course, we’ve had a couple of seasons where we’ve rebuilt and we’re building towards something, and hopefully we can take the next step now and get to the final.”
You suggested before the first leg it was very hard to leave Mason Greenwood out of the side – how difficult is it being a manager at this critical stage of the season and having to disappoint people?
“Every game is difficult because I’ve got players that I feel deserve game-time but that’s the privilege I’ve got because I’ve got many good players. But it’s also the downside for some of the players that are going to take a sidestep and wait for an opportunity. I think Mason’s attitude lately shows what a person he is and player he is. He’s never sulked when I’ve asked him to start of the bench. He’s come on – against Roma and Tottenham - and scored in both games and showed great attitude for the team.”
Finally, playing in Rome and striving to reach a European final is a very exciting prospect – what would it mean to end the campaign on a really positive note?
“I hope we can finish this season with a final and, preferably, win it. We want to take the next step now to get to the final and that would help with the five games we’ve got left in the league as well and we would have something to focus on at the end. Everyone is focused and we’re ready for Thursday.”