Q&A: Solskjaer previews our FA Cup tie at Arsenal
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken exclusively to us to preview our Emirates FA Cup fourth-round tie at Arsenal this evening.
In our sit-down interview, the Norwegian discussed our intense rivalry with the Gunners during his playing days, the FA Cup, Alexis Sanchez and our opponents. Here's what Ole had to say...
A Friday night game under the lights between two of the most famous teams in FA Cup history. Is that something to really relish?
“Yes, of course it is. When you get the draw and you see that it’s Arsenal, it’s one of those ‘wow’ moments. It’s a tough one but it’s a fantastic challenge. We’ve played Arsenal so many times in the FA Cup. I’ve actually played in two semi-finals against them in 1999 and 2004 and we won both of them, so let’s hope that’s a good sign.”
You played 19 times against Arsenal in your playing career – more than against any other team – when the rivalry was at its height when Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were in charge. How intense was it to be right at the sharp end of that rivalry?
“I have to say that those were the games that you looked forward to because, as you said, it was between the two of us [United and Arsenal] to win the league and the Double. We won the Treble one year, of course. You looked at them, they had great players. It was a great team with that famous back four and David Seaman [in goal]. I think I only scored one goal against David Seaman and it wasn’t easy to go past that back four. The games were really, really fierce – there were some tackles flying in. We had so much respect for each other – they had it for us too. There were a couple of fights in the dressing rooms and stuff, so that’s what the rivalry was about but it was all good.
Those two semi-finals you mentioned in 1999 and 2004 were both magical, weren’t they?
“I have to say the 2004 one was when I came back from injury and I played up front on my own. It was at Villa Park, wasn’t it? I was happy with my contribution but of course the 1999 one with Giggsy’s fantastic goal was at Villa Park as well when Peter [Schmeichel] saved that penalty which I think tipped the balance in our favour. They would have probably won the Double if it wasn’t for that save, but then we won the Treble!”
Is the FA Cup still magic as far as you’re concerned?
“I think so. It [the final] is the one big game I looked forward to every year as a youngster back in Norway. It’s the last game after the [league] season is done, seeing the teams walk out at Wembley. We’ve got a chance [to win the competition] but it’s a tough, tough challenge and we are looking forward to it.”
This will be Alexis Sanchez’s first return to Arsenal since he joined us a year ago. He might get a bit of a hot reception…
“He’ll be involved. I think he’ll love it if the crowd turn against him. As a player, pride kicks in and you think ‘I’ll show all of you’. He’s been fantastic in training, his attitude has been spot on so hopefully he’ll enjoy the game.”
Do you think he’s got the personality to relish that reception he might get?
“I think you will do when you’re a Man United player because, if you don’t have that mentality, I don’t think you’re at the right club.”
Finally, Arsenal played really well in their 2-0 win over Chelsea. They pressed really well and swarmed all over them. Are you expecting the same from them on Friday?
“Yes, you have to say that the game against Chelsea was impressive. They really took control of that game and pressed high as you said. They scored two goals and they have got counter-attacking threat as well but it’s not just that part of it – they’ve got pace up front so we know we’ve got to be on song.”
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