What does Ole want United to be better at?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is urging his Manchester United side to start games better and ensure we get the first goal.
United have been in scintillating form on the road this term, but have had to come from behind to win in every away league match so far.
Next up for the Reds is a trip to Bramall Lane to take on struggling Sheffield United and, in his exclusive interview with club media reporter Mark Sullivan, Ole spoke of the need for United to begin matches on the front foot and take control from the off...
How have preparations been going ahead of Thursday’s visit to Sheffield United?
“Well, we’ve had a longer spell preparing for this game than we usually have had this season, so I think the boys have enjoyed the couple of extra days of training.”
How is the squad shaping up?
“Of course, we're going into a very, very tight schedule now with six games in less than 16 days. We know we can't take any risks if there are any niggles. There are a couple of little things that we're waiting to see how they react before we pick the squad.”
What are your thoughts on Sheffield United and the difficult season they’re enduring?
“I think they’ve been unlucky. There have been so many tight games and they’ve missed a few chances – sometimes when you’re at the bottom of the league, that happens. As I’ve said so many times, this is a game of fine margins. Sometimes you play a game and it can go either way, and if you’re in the flow and feeling great then you win 1-0 or 2-0. When you’re struggling further down in the table, then you’re conceding instead of scoring. I think they’ve been unlucky but they still remind me of the team we saw last season.”
People often talk about second-season syndrome – is that a thing?
“It’s much deeper than that. Of course, this season and this year, 2020, has been difficult for all of us. How you react to this is different so I can’t really put my finger on why Sheffield United are where they are. But we’ve shown the boys what we expect [from them].”
It was a cracking game there last season…
“Yes. It showed their qualities and it showed our qualities when we blitzed them for about 15/20 minutes and got it back to a 3-2 lead. Then they showed their qualities and mental strength and came back, although it was a goal I think should have maybe have been, with the existing handball rules, disallowed. Then again, it was a fantastic game, and, at home against them, we played some great stuff and Anthony [Martial] scored a hat-trick.”
In the away game last season, we came from behind and that’s something we’ve had to do in all five away games so far. How are you trying to fix that?
“We’ve got to start better, of course. We know that we have to go all out to get the first goal because, when you give teams something to hang on to, it makes it so much more difficult for you. We’ll aim for a fast and quick start and, hopefully, that will give us the first goal in the game.”
There are just three games left before Christmas now, but it’s three games in nine days…
“Yeah, it’s going to be relentless. Of course this year, with COVID, there is less to do for players and I think we will be able to recover quickly between games, so hopefully we’re ready for a tight schedule.”
Finally, the Premier League has lost a manager in Slaven Bilic – what are your thoughts?
“Well, I’m a good friend of Slaven’s and you’re always sad when someone loses their job. That’s not nice to see. His team played for him, you saw that the other night when they got a draw with [Manchester] City away from home which is a fantastic result. It just shows what fine margins there are in football and I just wish him all the best. And I’m sure someone will take him when he wants to.”
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