Countdown to Basaksehir: Ole's matchday interview
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his Manchester United players are fully focused on maintaining our excellent Champions League momentum in Istanbul, but the boss admits it will be extra special to see a familiar face in the opposition's squad, in Rafael da Silva.
The former United defender joined Istanbul Basaksehir earlier this year and da Silva is over the moon to be facing the club he still openly has so much admiration and love for.
Those feelings are fully reciprocated by Ole, his former United team-mates and our fans and during our pre-match interview with the Reds' boss, he recalled training with a 15-year-old Rafael and his twin brother Fabio...
It’s another big week of games and a tough one with the travel to Turkey and a trip to Goodison Park, but presumably they’re two good tests you’re looking forward to?
“Definitely. It’s always important to bounce back and respond after a disappointing day. We’ve had some time to reflect over this [the Arsenal defeat] now and it’s gone, and we’ve got to get a performance in Istanbul and hopefully we’ll get three points and then we go to Everton. Of course we’ve not been helped by the schedule but it’s another challenge.”
As you say the fixtures have been a little unkind giving us an early Saturday kick-off after Wednesday's trip. Will this have any bearing on your plans for the travelling squad?
“It might have an impact on the team selection and subs we make depending on the game of course. 12.30 on a Saturday doesn’t help us but that’s what the Champions League gives to you, it gives you a challenge because you want to be in this competition playing in midweek and we’ve just got to take it as it comes. We asked for a Sunday game but there was absolutely no help to get that.”
Ole exclusive: We’ll win if we’re hard to beat
After taking six points from six in clashes with PSG and Leipzig, the manager is targeting further European success…
How is everybody looking after the weekend’s game?
“Apart from being a bit flat and disappointed as you’d expect there are no more injuries and I think the squad will look similar again.”
“He trained today [Monday]. We’ll see if there is any reaction. He might be able to travel to Istanbul but we’re not sure yet. It’s looking brighter.” [Jesse was ultimately not included in the travelling squad].
How is Alex Telles doing now?
“He needs to be negative on his next test so let’s hope we can get him back as soon as possible.”
Obviously Edinson Cavani is being eased in as he builds up his fitness - how would you assess how he’s doing with that and have you been pleased with what you’ve seen from him so far?
“He’s generally a fit man anyway and he’s getting his sharpness in training and he’s got some substitute appearances now. We haven’t managed to get him long enough yet to make a big impact but he’s looking sharper and sharper in training so it won’t be long.”
We've seen Facundo Pellistri training hard, he's been in the squad a few times and also made an encouraging Under-23s appearance - what's your impression of him so far?
“He’s a young boy coming over and it’s all new for him. He’ll need a few games in the Reserves of course to try to find his feet in a new country. It’s been very positive so far and he’s someone we’ll be patient with and we’ll give him time to settle in and get used to us. You’ll see him in the Reserves probably in the next game.”
On board with United gallery
We've got more exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of Ole's Reds journeying to Istanbul on Tuesday.
How pleased are you to have Anthony Martial fully available again after his suspension - we saw him open his account for the season in the Champions League last week of course...
“Anthony has been important for us last season and in the time I’ve been here. So of course to have him back is a boost. It gives us more options for up front and on either side, and we’ll look forward to seeing the best of Anthony. I thought towards the end of the Leipzig game you could see his sharpness getting there and he was really positive and bright which is good.”
What have you made of Istanbul Basaksehir so far and what threats do they pose?
“They’re a team of players who have been around a bit. They’ve got loads of experience with a few of their players, and of course it will be a great reunion with Rafa [da Silva] – I’ve only got fond memories of him and Fabio. Fantastic boys from a fantastic family and they’re people you look forward to seeing because they’re such positive boys. There is actually another ex-player of mine there too in Freddie Gulbrandsen who I had at Molde so that will be a nice reunion. They’re a team that has come up the last few seasons and, as I said before, you can see the experience they have and there are some skilful players there. We looked at them when we were in the Europa League as we could have played them or FC Copenhagen so we know quite a bit about them.”
You mentioned Rafa – what are your memories of him on and off the pitch at United?
“Both twins are great. Of course I signed Fabio for Cardiff, I drove up all the way to convince him and the two of them welcomed me into their house. I remember when they started training with us when they were 15 when I was still playing. I didn’t notice the difference between them back then but I do now! [Smiles] I got to know them both – they’re so enthusiastic, they have great energy, they’re passionate for football and they’re always positive and bright. And we’ll all always remember Rafa’s top corner strike [against Liverpool at Anfield], that’s the one!”
We’ve made a fantastic start to our Champions League campaign with two victories over PSG and RB Leipzig - what’s pleased you most about our performances in the competition so far?
“As you say they were two very good performances with energy, enthusiasm and good shape about us. We defended really well too and when we do that and we have the right attitude and work as a team out there then we’re hard to beat. That’s the key for this group of players, that we’re humble enough to work as hard as we have done in those two games against everyone. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, when you are so hard to beat we’ll win games.”
Finally, how important is it to keep the momentum going in the competition and get to 10 points in the group as quickly as possible?
“It’s massive. Of course if you can get four points or even six points in the next two games then the last two are a different scenario. The focus is just on the trip to Istanbul now.”