United v Chelsea: Your matchday Q&A with Ole

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer granted us an exclusive interview ahead of today's opening fixture of the Premier League season against Chelsea.

The boss sat down with us at the Aon Training Complex ahead of the big match to discuss a range of issues, including our business in the summer transfer window, the early influence of Harry Maguire, what the season might bring for Mason Greenwood, our crop of promising youngsters and, of course, how the Reds have prepared for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea…
 
Ole, it’s always exciting on the verge of a new season. What’s your overriding emotion as we go into this new campaign?
“Excited, as you are. Finally, the wait is over. It’s a long summer, with games that don’t matter. Internationals, you’re watching them [and] you don’t have that butterfly feeling flying around in your stomach. Pre-season’s great, because we need it, it’s valuable – we need to [do] team bonding, fitness work, tactical work, but this is when the going gets tough and when the good players step up, and this is my stage.”
 
The window’s closed, and three senior players have come in. Overall, are you satisfied?
“Delighted with the three that have come in. They’re players that we’ve been looking for, and looking at, and trying for for a long time and we’re 100 per cent sure that they will be part of this club for many years, and that’s key – that we do sign players that we’re sure of. Of course, there’s been discussions. I’ve seen in the press that we’ve been linked with so many other players. But when there’s that little bit of doubt: will he, [or] will he not be with us? Will he give us something? I think we’ve made the right decisions.”
Video
Watch our full interview with the manager ahead of kick-off.
One of those players, who we haven’t really spoken to you about, is Harry Maguire. He’s only been training for a few days, but what you’ve seen of him, has he impressed you?
“Yes, very much so. He’s come in as a presence. He’s taller and bigger than I thought! He’s come in as a real plus and he’ll have an impact on the rest of the boys.”
 
He’s had a pre-season with Leicester. Do you feel he is ready to play?
“Yes, Harry’s ready to play. I’m sure he’ll put himself up when I ask him Sunday morning, ‘Are you available?’, because he’s played many games for Leicester over pre-season, he’s trained well, and he’s looked sharp when he’s been here.”
 
I suppose it’ll be great for these guys to experience Old Trafford? Okay, a couple of them have played at Old Trafford, but it’s a bit different when you’re coming out here with a red shirt on in front of 75,000 people?
“Yeah, definitely, and you feel the passion, you feel that they want you to do well, that ball getting sucked in at the Stretford End. There’s no better feeling, and I’m sure they’ll remember that day for the rest of their lives.”
Romelu’s gone to Inter Milan but, from your experience as a great goalscorer, do you look at our squad and think there’s enough goals there?
“Yeah, I do feel [that]. But, of course, there’ll be more responsibility on players to get the goals, because Rom was a very good goalscorer, he is a very good goalscorer, and I’m sure he’ll score goals for Inter Milan [and] wherever he goes, because that’s what he does. For us, we’ve decided that we want to play in a certain way that I think will get players into different positions to finish, and I’m sure we’ll see more goals from the ones that we do play. But, as I said, they do have to take that responsibility, grab the chance, because it’s a great chance for some players to stake a claim in the team.”
 
It could mean, for instance, Mason possibly getting more opportunities..
“Absolutely. It’s one of the big decisions that you have to make when you’ve got such a talented player coming through. Are you going to get players in who are going to block his path, or are you going to trust him and give him the opportunity? And he’s one that we believe is going to be a big part of this club going forward, so we’ll see lots of him.”
 
We saw a lot of the youngsters on the tour in pre-season like, obviously, Mason, but also Angel [Gomes] and Chongy [Tahith Chong] as well. Are you looking at them thinking that they can be generally part of it, or are you considering a loan?
“No, to be honest, I can see them staying here, yes, and making a proper impact, because they have already in pre-season. They did so in February, March, April – they did well in training. We never gave them enough game time, but pre-season’s shown that they’ve grown over the last six months and they’re getting used to man’s football, and they’ll get opportunities.”

The 2019/20 season is about to begin!Video

The defence looks really strengthened with the signings you’ve made, and I think we only had two clean sheets at Old Trafford last season, conceding quite a few goals. Was that an area that you were really determined to strengthen over this summer?
“Any successful team will have to build from the back and have a foundation to play from. We always say ‘you have to earn the right to win a game of football’. You earn it by defending well, and you have a foundation and, hopefully, a settled team. Hopefully, we won’t have to make too many changes. Over the last few years, I’ve always had the feeling there’s been so many players with bad luck concerning injuries. Both Jose [Mourinho] and Louis [van Gaal], maybe even David [Moyes], had to chop and change the back four, especially the centre-backs. Hopefully we can get a settled line-up.”
 
In terms of the squad, Eric [Bailly] is out, but is the squad looking okay in terms of general fitness? Paul was not available last week – is he okay?
“Yeah, he joined in, actually, the day after. I wasn’t going to risk him, travelling down and the flight [to Cardiff], but he joined in the game against Blackburn the day after, behind closed doors here, and he’s available. All the boys are fit. It was always our aim to get to the starting line with as many players as fit as possible and, of course, Eric’s injury is bad news, but then the rest of them are available.”

Solskjaer backs Greenwood to score in 2019/20Video

You would have faced Frank [Lampard] many times on the pitch, of course. Is he someone you admired from afar as a player?
“We're lucky he won’t be playing! Of course, from afar, as an attacking midfielder he could go box to box, he could play a pass, he could run into the box, he could shoot – he could do absolutely everything as a midfielder needed to do.”
 
He’s probably going to have to play some youngsters, and we’ve now got a lot of youngsters. It should be quite a fascinating season for both teams?
“It should be, and I think it will be. I think this game will, of course, give us a good inkling of what we both are going to look like. Pre-season’s different. Now, let’s see what the intents are. Of course, we are at home, we have the advantage of our fans behind us and I’m sure we’ll go out on the front foot and try to make them happy.”

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