Exclusive Q&A: Ole on Cavani, Herrera and FA Cup
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised the professionalism of Edinson Cavani and Ander Herrera, who could both face their former clubs when Manchester United host Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford.
Cavani is PSG's record goalscorer and hopes to appear against the Ligue 1 champions for the first time since leaving them last season, while Herrera is looking forward to his Threatre of Dreams return after departing in 2019.
In our pre-match interview, Ole reveals he keeps in touch with Ander and says Cavani is champing at the bit to face his former side, particularly on the back of his brilliant off-the-bench performance in the 3-2 victory over Southampton.
The boss also reflects on Monday night's Emirates FA Cup third-round cup draw, which paired us against Watford, declaring his delight at being handed a home tie...
Firstly Ole, it’s a home draw in the FA Cup against Watford after a very busy spell of fixtures – is that the main thing, to be at home?
“I think so. In the FA Cup, you can get drawn away from home in every single round, like we were last season, and it adds to the load for the players, so to get a home draw is always good. We know Watford are in a good moment. We’ve got Jimmy [Garner] there and he’s played well for them this season. We’ve been following him.”
Is there still a bit of magic about the competition with Marine getting a home draw with Tottenham?
“Yes, it’s brilliant. The third round, for me, is the most fantastic round because anything can happen in the draw. Of course, we could have had an easier draw, but we’ll take a home one.”
I’ve got a few players to ask you about – how is everyone and is David De Gea okay?
“You know it's going to be a challenge every time you have the Champions League nights to keep players away [who aren't fit] because they all want to be fit [and play] and everyone has been on the training pitch today. We're looking good. I think all of them are champing at the bit. David trained well today, as did the rest of the group. It was a good session.”
Has Anthony recovered from the illness that kept him out of the Southampton game?
“Anthony got through the session and felt okay, so he's also available for selection. Luke [Shaw] is probably the biggest doubt but the rest of them are holding their hands up saying: 'I'm ready'.
It sounds like Luke isn’t far away which is good ahead of a busy time?
“Luke isn't too far away so let's see what we do with him for tomorrow. Then, of course, Phil [Jones] has been away for a long time but now we're getting more and more players ready to participate in every game.”
When the draw was made, if someone had said you’ll have a chance to qualify with maybe one game to spare you’d have taken that?
“Yes. When you look at the fixture list anyway, you looked at this game at home as the possibility to. If you had to beat PSG to go through… we have to look at this game as a big one. If we beat them, we’ll win the group unless something unbelievable happens in Leipzig, so let’s make sure we get to the kick-off tonight in the same manner that we prepared for Southampton. I thought the lads were really focused and you know Champions League nights will always give us that focus.”
A draw is enough to qualify for the knock-out stages but I suppose you have to put that out of your mind because you never play for a draw?
“No, you never go for a draw in a game of football. You’ll always go for a win and always go out there to try to create chances, defend well and win.”
It’s almost two years since PSG were last here. Do you feel that this United side has developed?
“I feel we are ready for this game and I feel better prepared for the occasion. I think some of these boys learnt harsh lessons against PSG and then, home and away, against Barcelona that season. The Champions League is what we all want to be part of, playing against the best players in the world. You’ve got the likes of Mbappe, Neymar, Di Maria… class players, and we’ll welcome Ander [Herrera] back. Marquinhos is one of the best centre-backs in the world, so these are the games we look forward to, the real tests. We are more ready than before.”
In the last game, we welcomed Rafael da Silva back and now it’s Ander, who is someone who you admired as a player…
“Yes, a player and a person, and I’ve kept in touch with Ander [since he left]. He had some fantastic years here and some fantastic performances for the club. We all love Ander, he knows that. We keep in touch with him all the time. I spoke to him after the game in Paris and I’m sure we’ll have a chat after the game this time as well.”
Should he play, it will be special for Edinson Cavani against his old team, whom he scored 200 goals for and is their record scorer…
“It’s always special for players to see your old mates and friends and, of course, the career he had at PSG was fantastic. He’s so professional and he’s ready to participate and he’s another one who is holding his hand up, saying ‘I want to play this one’.
That must be a nice dilemma for you?
“Brilliant! [Smiles] That is the challenge that you want. I really dislike saying to someone you’re not starting or you take away the possibility of playing in big games. But they’re all big games. Every three days, there is another one and another one, so we’ve got plenty of games coming up.”