Ole exclusive: This is an occasion to enjoy
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says a semi-final is always
“an occasion to enjoy” and he believes Manchester United's last-four Emirates FA Cup clash against Chelsea at Wembley will provide some light relief from the current Premier League battle for a top-four spot.
Both United and Chelsea are heavily involved, alongside Leicester City, in the race for a Champions League place, with a crucial week ahead for all three teams.
Before that, however, the Reds and Blues will meet at Wembley today, with an FA Cup final slot opposite Arsenal up for grabs when the game kicks off at 18:00 BST. Ole spoke to our reporter Mark Sullivan ahead of the clash and insisted he and his players are ready for the cup test...
Firstly Ole, I know the schedule has been unkind to us and you haven’t had much time to recover since the last game. How are the lads and how’s the recovery been?
“We’ve not seen a lot of them because we’re just coming up to a training session now. But I’d rather have this game than not have it. We can’t say it’s been unkind, it is what it is and when you get the opportunity to play a semi-final you’ll squeeze that in even if you have to play on the same day.”
You know all about an intense run-in and playing a lot of games in a short space of time. How can your experience of being in this position as a player help this young team?
“I think a semi-final is a one-off. We’ve just got to find the right temperament going into the game because it’s an occasion to enjoy and it’s a chance to go to a final. We’ve done well to get this far and we’ve got nothing to lose really. I just want them to go out there and enjoy the game. Of course, it’s going to be a tight game, we know all about Chelsea. We’ve played them so many times this season and they’re a good team. But we’re so close now to the final and I know that the boys are looking forward to it.”
It’s a game at Wembley but without the fans which is a real shame. How do you think that will affect the game, if at all?
“From my experience now of the last few weeks that we’ve been playing, it’s more of a tactical game, there’s less emotion in it than there is with the fans. It’s probably easier to focus on your jobs, you don’t get affected by the noise. Obviously, Wembley is a fantastic stadium to play at when there is a crowd there, it’s the same as Old Trafford, but I think the boys have coped with the situation really well and they would have preferred to have fans, but I’m sure they’ll be alright.”
Both teams come into the game in good form so the ingredients are there for it to be a really good cup tie?
“It’s the fourth year running now that we’ve played Chelsea in the FA Cup so we know it’s going to be a tight game. There have been some classic games over the years with some good experiences and some bad experiences for the boys. This is a one-off. Get your mind off the league because that will take care of itself on Wednesday and Sunday next week, and we’re ready for this one.”
Solskjaer's semi-final press conferenceVideo
How are Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams doing?
“Luke will be out, I can't see him recovering. Brandon will hopefully be okay, he'll try to join in training today, [despite] his eye. We'll see if he can see the ball when he comes in! He should be fine.”
Is the mentality now to look at each game you have left as a cup final?
“Yeah, it is. You can’t focus on the one after, this is the one. You can’t think I’ll save something in the tank for Wednesday because suddenly that momentum you have might swing against us. Of course, we felt disappointed after the Southampton equaliser in the 96th minute, but they reacted well and got back on their feet and got a great result against [Crystal] Palace]. And this is one to take your mind off the league and just go and enjoy it.”
What Ole told the Sunday papers before WembleyVideo
Finally, how much would you love to be playing with this kind of run-in to come?
“The semi-final against Arsenal in ’99 is one of the great occasions in the FA Cup that I experienced. You see the margins there when Phil [Neville] hacks down the Arsenal lad and Peter [Schmeichel] saves the penalty in injury time and then we go and win it in extra time. So it’s a great opportunity for the boys to go to the final and have a good go at it.”