Ole: You must earn the right to win games
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is delighted with his team's form, but says the Reds must continue to maintain recent high standards ahead of the visit to Villa Park on Thursday night.
United will be looking to build on three excellent league victories and a draw since football restarted as the race for a top-four spot intensifies.
The Reds will face an Aston Villa side desperately trying to hold on to their Premier League status and Ole hopes he can add Thursday's game to the many positive memories he already has of visits to Villa Park...
Some good news to come out of the club this week, Ole, with Nemanja Matic signing a new contract – what are your thoughts on that?
"I’m delighted that Nemanja wants to stay here. He’s really shown over the years he’s been here how important he is for us and of course his experience, he’s a Premier League winner. We need some experience as well with all the kids we’ve got running around! [Smiles] So I’m very, very happy that we could sort that out."
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It was another good performance against Bournemouth at the weekend although they did cause us a few problems on the counterattack?
"Yes they are that type of team, they’re well organised and were set out to counterattack, especially [Dominic] Solanke and Josh King with [Junior] Stanislas who caused us a few problems. All teams will have their own different ways of causing you problems and every game in the Premier League will cause you a challenge, but our lads stuck at it and never lost the belief that we could create chances and score goals."
On the injury front, Victor Lindelof came off against Bournemouth – is there any update on him?
"Not yet, no. It’s not too bad. He’ll play soon. I’m not sure if he’ll manage the Villa game, but he might do."
Another player you mentioned last week who is probably out until injured September is Axel Tuanzebe. It’s a shame for Axel not to be able to return to Villa Park where he did so well on loan…
"Yeah of course, he had a great spell there. He had a good start to the season then it’s been stop-start [for him]. He was really eager to come back really fit and gradually things got worse and worse and he had to take the big step and sit out for a little while."
Have you chatted to him to get the lowdown on some of the Villa players?!
"[Smiles] No! We’ve analysed them enough and played against them, we drew 2-2 at home so of course it’s another team who we know we’ll have to perform against because they’re well-organised. You can see that after lockdown, they’re drilled in their team shape, and they’re hard to create chances against. But we’ve just got to keep on playing the way we have done."
Villa seem to be playing better than their results suggest. Using that very controversial metric of expected goals and expected points, Villa are doing worse than they should be doing. Does that show that they’re a better side than perhaps some might think?
"Football is a game of small margins and maybe they’ve been a bit unlucky. They do have some quality players, they’re a very quick counterattacking team, physical and very good at set-plays, so of course we know we’ve got to play well and win the ball back quickly. Any game in the Premier League you need to earn the right to win and we’ll do that by turning up on the day."
They played well last time out against Liverpool and gave them a good run. They can acquit themselves well against any team in this division, can’t they?
"I don’t think any team will go into any game in the Premier League thinking this is an easy ride. We saw that against Bournemouth ourselves at Old Trafford. A team that are supposedly struggling came here with loads of belief and courage and they were brave, but thankfully we had some lads with some fantastic finishes. Anthony’s goal was top class, Mason’s two were very, very good goals, Bruno’s free-kick was great and then Marcus got one with the penalty. It’s not like you can just turn up and score five goals, you have to earn it both with your attitude and your quality."
They’ve got some very good players including the likes of Jack Grealish – how important is he for them?
"I think any team has a couple of players who they look to for creating chances, he’s one of them so we need to watch out for him. They have two quick wingers and a very strong, quick striker so it’s going to be a game in which we have to focus on our job, do well and try to get a performance that deserves a win."
Finally, Villa Park is a ground which has given us so many wonderful memories. What are yours?
"I’ve had some great memories and great games there. I scored against Peter Schmeichel [when he was at Villa] which was a nice one! [Smiles] I also had a headed goal around Christmas time in the last five minutes I think, it was a cross from Becks. But of course the ’99 FA Cup semi-final is a big, big highlight. It’s a proper football ground and I really enjoyed playing there."
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