Solskjaer expects a fresher and sharper United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fully expects his Manchester United side to be fresher and sharper for today's match against Brighton and Hove Albion, following the disappointment of the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace.
The Reds went down 3-1 to the Eagles at Old Trafford last Saturday, but followed that up with a 3-0 win over Luton Town in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
The match proved to be another useful work-out for a number of players who needed game-time and during an interview with MUTV’s Stewart Gardner, Ole says his players will be in good shape for Saturday’s visit to the South Coast, the first of two trips in five days to the Amex…
Firstly, Ole we’re all going to have to get used to journeys to the South Coast over the next few days…
“It looks like it yes! [Smiles] I thought maybe we should just go all in for both games and just play one and it counts for both! That’s fine, we’ll have to make some changes for the cup game. This is sometimes how it pans out.”
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I know it’s not the ideal distance for a match, but is it actually quite useful to have these cup games in terms of getting players up to speed like we saw with Aaron and Mason in the week, and to give players some game-time?
“Definitely. We’re still very early on in the season. We’ve not been together for too long and that was the first 90 minutes for a few. We want to go as far as we can to get as many games as we can. We do have a big and strong squad and the players need games to perform at their best.”
We’ve had another week’s training and some of the players played in midweek so do you expect the team to look fresher and sharper this weekend?
“Yes definitely. And we have to be. It was clear already after 10 minutes [last weekend] that it seemed like we weren’t up to speed and not ready for the Premier League. Some of them hadn’t played and of course it’s a shock if you’re not ready for the Premier League because it’s high intensity. Fair play to Palace, they played really well and the intensity in their game was high.”
Do you have any new fitness or injury concerns going into the weekend?
“No, not concerns. They’re getting better and fitter and sharper. We will get better and better and fitter and fitter. But we can’t wait and say ‘well, we’ll get fit in three weeks’ time’. We need to get going straight away.”
We saw shots of Axel Tuanzebe training this week – how’s he doing?
“He’s getting closer to training with the team. He’s on the grass and after the international break he should be fine to join us.”
It’s been a tough year for him hasn’t it…
“Definitely. During lockdown he was working hard, then as soon as we got going after the restart his foot was sore so he had to have an operation. Now he’s really raring to go again. I’m looking forward to getting him back.”
We saw James Garner go out on loan, Tahith Chong as well and Dylan Levitt and some others – how much of a close eye do you and the club keep on them and how important are these moves for them?
“Very important. For some of these lads it’s a first loan which is a daunting experience because you go straight into a different environment and you’ve got to perform straightaway. It’s not like the U23s where if you don’t win you’re not going to lose your job if you lose a game or two, but in the Championship and League One you’ve got to have results. It’ll help them a lot in their development and to get that maturity that they’ll need because the talent is there.”
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It’s been a year since Brandon Williams made his debut. How pleased have you been with his development in the last 12 months and what’s to come for him?
“You’ve said it, it’s 12 months since he made his debut and came on at half-time and made an impact straightaway in that game [against Rochdale]. I don’t think anyone now thinks of him being a young boy. He’s had a good season. He’s been in the [England] U21s and he’s played a semi-final in the Europa League, he’s played well against some big teams in Premier League as well. Fantastic development and we want him to kick on and take the next step and make it even harder to leave him out.”
You mentioned to us last week that it could be a big season for Eric Bailly. Now he’s fully fit at the start of a campaign, did we see a bit of that at Luton Town? It was a real rugged performance at centre-back…
“Eric’s had so many niggly injuries but also serious ones because of his playing style. He’s now getting to the age where he’s maturing, he’s getting more experience and I think we saw a more experienced Eric and a confident Eric. Of course it was his first 90 minutes but he’ll be strong this season hopefully.”
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We played at Brighton during Project Restart at the end of the June and won 3-0. Was that vibrant display the kind of template for what you want to see from your team?
“Yeah that’s right. We played really well off the ball, I think our pressing was great and we had energy and we kept making it difficult for a good Brighton side – they do play some lovely football and we stopped them. We scored some fantastic counter-attacking goals and skilful goals, and we created chance after chance. That and the Sheffield United game, those two games, we played really well in and hopefully we can see some of this again.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter of course made his name in Scandinavia and is now transferring that to here. Have you been quite impressed with what you’ve seen?
“Very. I said it before that game as well. He took Östersund from the fourth or fifth division in Sweden up to beating Arsenal at the Emirates. He’s worked the long way to where he has got now and you can see his clear ideas in football. It’s difficult to predict what tactics he’s going to use against you because he has a few systems in his locker, and the playing style is really good.”
That game at Brighton was one of four successive away wins at the end of last season and we had clean sheets in all them. Does that give us confidence going into a game like this?
“Yes of course. Results and previous performances do help you. We know that we’ve done well and the players must have some good memories from that game. Then again now it’s a new season and it’s a different part of the season. We know that we didn’t do particularly well last week and we need to kick on and go there and stamp our authority on the game. Every game lives its own life and I think the first goal is always vital. If you get the first one you feel confident and dominate, if not you have to chase the game and against Palace last week we had to chase the game and we made some sloppy mistakes that led to counterattacks and you can’t have that in the Premier League.”