Q&A: Solskjaer calls for courage against Reading
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken exclusively to us ahead of today's Emirates FA Cup third-round tie against Reading at Old Trafford.
In our latest sit-down interview, the Norwegian reflects on Wednesday's 2-0 win at Newcastle and discusses coming up against the Royals, being reunited with his former team-mate John O'Shea and his memories of the FA Cup...
On reflection, was the win at Newcastle the best of the four victories so far?
“It depends on how you look at it but the first three maybe was the honeymoon if you like and it was three games you expect to win – you’re at home for two of them. Then you go up there, it’s a difficult place to go. I thought in the second half we played some fantastic stuff. All in all, it was a first clean sheet and to come away from there with three points [was] brilliant but I must say I’ve enjoyed the home games more.”
Did you learn more about your players in that tough game at St James’ Park?
“Yes, definitely. That was one of the things I was thinking about before the game – this might be a tough one or it will be a tough one and you’ll get to learn how they react if we make the first mistake or they score the first goal. I felt we were a bit safer in the way we played, maybe because we were away from home. But in the second half I thought you could see the pace, the power, the counter-attacking, the forward thinking again and we were solid at the back.”
Looking ahead to the tie against Reading, what dangers are there in playing a team from the Championship?
“Well, I was in the Championship with Cardiff and the tempo, the enthusiasm and energy of those players and teams is incredible. So, of course, there’s complacency – you can’t go into a game complacent. With confidence? Yes. With courage? Yes. But never anything but 100 per cent work ethic and I think that’s been one of the big pluses. We’ve started to outrun teams again, working harder than teams but with the quality we’ve got we’ll get results.”
Reading might be struggling in the Championship but does their league form matter when coming into a big game like this for them?
“I think when you go to Old Trafford, league form doesn’t matter at all. It’s something they will look forward to and they have got nothing to lose. The FA Cup is fantastic and the players we put on the pitch will have nothing to lose too. They’ll go out there and they’ve got their careers ahead of them. Hopefully we can produce a couple of scary moments for Mr John O’Shea!”
Hopefully! Of course, John is someone you know very well and I’m sure you still keep in touch with him?
“Yes, it’s fantastic that he’s still playing – I think he’s 37 or 38 now. He’s professional, he loves football and of course hopefully he won’t love this game! [laughs] I hope he’ll enjoy the build-up to the game but not during [the game].”
The FA Cup is very special to everyone at Manchester United – how special is it for you in particular?
“Very special because, ever since I was back home when I was a young kid, that was the last game of the season, it was always on television and you looked forward to the FA Cup final. I still remember Norman’s curled goal towards the far end against Everton. I’ve played in three finals – in 1999, 2004 and 2007 – and won two of them. The one at Wembley in ’99 [when we beat Newcastle 2-0] was one of the highlights. In that 10-day period [when we won the Treble], I knew I wasn’t going to start against Bayern Munich [in the Champions League final] anyway but the manager trusted me to play in that ’99 final and it was one of the biggest moments [in my playing career].”
What’s your fondest memory in the FA Cup – is it that one in ’99?
“Yes, definitely. Obviously Roy [Keane] got injured and I got moved over to the right-hand side but the manager trusted us. He put me in, he put David May in, he put loads of squad players in for the FA Cup final. It showed everything that he was about. Even though it’s maybe the second biggest game of the season, he trusted some of us to do the business.”
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