Solskjaer: Being a sub can change your life
In our exclusive interview to preview the Premier League match against Burnley, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stresses the importance of squad rotation at Manchester United and reiterates how his common role as a substitute changed his life forever.
The Norwegian club legend became known as the 'Super Sub' while playing at Old Trafford and famously scored the winning goal - as a replacement - in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
With Burnley visiting the Theatre of Dreams this evening and lots of matches to come across all competitions, Solskjaer is keen to stress how all of his players will have roles to play. Check out our interview here...
First of all, most people had Saturday off but you were watching Burnley in the FA Cup. Did you learn anything from the trip to Manchester City?
“Well, I think he [Sean Dyche] was thinking more about Tuesday night and getting through to that game with no injuries, and having fresh legs before he comes to Old Trafford. I enjoyed the day out, watching a game of football, but we know it’s going to be a tough game against Burnley. We know what we’re up against – they’ve turned a corner a little bit because their results have picked up and maybe they saw an away game against City as a chance to give someone else a run in the team. I didn’t get too much information about them, I felt.”
Obviously, a game against Burnley is a different sort of challenge than away to Arsenal or away to Tottenham. How much work goes into the tactical plan for facing Burnley?
“As much as [Arsenal or Tottenham] because every game you prepare the same. I think the analysis team, Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] are doing a fantastic job preparing for every single game. We’ve got a great team behind the team and, of course, they’ve got the job of looking at Burnley. I wanted to see them myself, just because there are always one or two things that you can spot that you can work on.
How important are set-pieces and not giving away free-kicks around the penalty area when you play a team like Burnley? That’s where they’re strong…
“Yes, they’re very strong and they’re a very physical team. You don’t want to give them chances to put you under pressure too often. Of course, we do look at that but teams do have different strengths. I think the front two – [Ashley] Barnes and [Chris] Wood – are a handful so, of course, we’ve got to be aware because we’re probably going to be the team who has the ball the most and, on the counter attack and set-pieces, we’ve really got to be aware.”
We’ve got four top-class strikers which mirrors the situation we were in 20 years ago when it was Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and yourself. Do you face the kind of dilemma that Sir Alex Ferguson had back then in trying to keep everyone happy and giving people enough minutes?
“Well, so far, there has been no problem because we’ve got so many games. As soon as it becomes just one game a week, it might be a problem but we rotate even during the games. When we can put Anthony [Martial] and 'Rashy' [Marcus Rashford] on for Alexis and Rom [Lukaku], who did a fantastic job [at Arsenal], it is only going to help us. The players have been very, very good at staying ready and being ready when they get on.”
You must have some sympathy with Sir Alex, trying to keep everyone happy as he did in those days…
“Yes, of course. There were so many times in his team talks when you could see that he didn’t enjoy leaving players out but that’s just the name of the game and you’ve got to be decisive – make decisions and stick with them. Of course, for the players who don’t start, you have to come on and make an impact as I’ve learnt quite often because it can change your life.”
What about team spirit? We’ve seen that video doing the rounds of the warm-up at Arsenal where Marcus Rashford nutmegs Fred and everyone goes mad. It perhaps shows the spirit that’s around the place…
“When you’re winning games of football, you’re always going to have a good team spirit around the place. But that doesn’t just apply to the players, it’s the staff as well. When you come in on Monday morning, it’s well done and on to the next one. It’s just don’t dwell too much on what’s happened because the focus is on the next one. I feel the whole club is thinking ‘next game, next game’ but of course you always enjoy winning.”
Over the weekend, the Under-18s came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Liverpool. Are some of those guys going to be knocking on your door before long?
“Yes, of course they are and that’s great – it’s what you want at a club like this. We are looking to give a few of them minutes on the pitch but then again, we’ve got so many first-team players now. We’ve got to make sure we give them the chance at the right moment because if you give it too early or in the wrong game, it might just ruin that experience for them.”
The forwards get a lot of publicity but just a word on the midfield players – Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera have played pretty much every game under you. Do they complement each other as a partnership in central midfield?
“When you pick a team, you look for balance in a team. It’s not just the midfielders or forwards or the defenders, you look at the whole team. But of course, those three midfielders – Paul [Pogba], Nemanja and Ander – have done really well. But then we’ve got Fred, Andreas [Pereira] and Scott [McTominay]. Felli [Marouane Fellaini] is out injured now but we’ve got loads of players who can fit into that. At the moment, those three have done really well.”
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