Solskjaer talks Tuchel, centre-backs and the title race

Friday 26 February 2021 13:30

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken to the media to preview this Sunday’s Premier League match against Chelsea.

The boss answered questions via video link after Thursday night’s Europa League 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad, rather than holding his media briefing at the Aon Training Complex on Friday.

During the first half of the press conference, Solskjaer was asked for his opinion on our tough run of league fixtures coming up, the competition for places at centre-back, Thomas Tuchel’s start at Chelsea and he also gave an update on the fitness of Juan Mata.

Below is every word from the boss…
Watch Ole's full Chelsea press conference Video

Watch Ole's full Chelsea press conference

Ahead of our trip to Stamford Bridge, the boss gives his thoughts on Tuchel's impact, Martial's form and more...

Do you see the race for the top four going down to the wire, given there are so many teams fighting for it? 
“Yes, I think it is going to be a long-running [battle]. I don’t think the positions will be decided early. The season is unpredictable, we’ve seen teams go through bad phases and turn it around. Who knows what’s going to happen with injuries and with how players react to the circumstances because it is the shortest long season ever with the amount of games. For me, every game is massive, of course Chelsea, we know how difficult that’s going to be and how important that’s going to be.”

A big run of games coming up, does it feel like one of those crucial runs that can decide where you are going to finish?

“It is still 38 games for every team so if you get a run, either good or bad, it’s going to impact you. Of course, our group and the culture, bouncing back after a couple of setbacks we’ve had, going through now, it is an important period. Our group mentality is really good, and we look forward to these big games. Of course, Thomas [Tuchel] has come in now and has changed things at Chelsea and we know it is going to be a great challenge for us.”
What do you make of the job Thomas Tuchel has done so far, especially defensively?
“You can see in the results, stats and possession they’ve had, the ability to keep teams away from their own goal, he’s done really well. It is never easy coming into a season halfway through and he must be pleased as well, but hopefully we can stop that run. That’s my job now.”

What do you want to see from Anthony Martial going forward? 
“Anthony knows what we want, and he is working really hard to do well for the team and that’s what is pleasing me the most when I see him every day in training. He is not going to sit down and wait for things to happen, he knows he will have to make it happen himself and we encourage him, we coach him, and we know he has going this quality and class. Everyone goes through difficult patches from time to time and I think we saw again tonight, he is working hard and that is the main thing.”
Highlights: United 0 Real Sociedad 0 Video

Highlights: United 0 Real Sociedad 0

Okay, there are no goals, but our match-action video does feature a missed penalty and a disallowed header...

How would you compare the journeys that both Manchester United and Chelsea are on at the moment? 
 “I cannot really comment on Chelsea’s journey, that’s not any of business, I think every club will have to run their own race. We are on a good path, we feel we have improved but we are still not where we want to be which is higher up the table, winning trophies. The hunger and mentality within the group is good and the main thing now is that we keep on improving and hopefully we can get ready for Sunday now.”

Out of Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailey who’s looking the favourite to play alongside [Harry] Maguire?
“Both of them played really well tonight. We’ve got Eric, Victor and Harry, three very good centre-backs that I can rely on and Axel [Tuanzebe] as well, so I’ve got four to choose from. Axel played in midfield this evening but sometimes it’s the opposition and sometimes it’s the form. I think the two of them will keep on playing, maybe playing together as well.”
Any update on Juan Mata?
“Juan will unfortunately be out for a couple of weeks, so he missed tonight.”

You say you’re a long way from where you need to be, what will it take to get there? 
“Continual improvement and keep on moving in the right direction. We know that we have scored quite a few goals and of course we need to be a better team defensively. Certainly, the amount of goals we have conceded even though we had 11 in our first three games, those three games almost don’t count in my head at the start of the season because we were so far away from being a Manchester United team. We need to improve on that and win tighter games too. We’ve had many games against [Manchester] City and Chelsea, both 0-0, Liverpool 0-0, so we need to get the goals in those games.”
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The Making of Marcus

This amazing video chronicles how the Wythenshawe wonder hit the big time...

Do you have to win these next three games to keep yourself in the title race? 
“We just have to focus and tick one game off at a time and, as you say, the three games are massive. We’ve got Chelsea just behind us, we’ve got City away in front of us and of course we can’t let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can’t give Chelsea too much hope of catching us either. Every game is important and from now until the international break will be a big period. We always say, let’s look at April/May and see how we are then, so let’s get to the international break and then we can focus on the run-in.” 

Forty-five minutes for Bruno [Fernandes] and [Marcus] Rashford tonight, is that a case of keeping them fresh but with enough minutes in their legs to get going on Sunday and the rest of the week?

“Yes, I’ve got to say that they are very very fit athletes who recover well, normally they play every game for the full 90 minutes so today I was very pleased to get them 45 minutes each. Forty-five minutes on a Thursday is good preparation for a Sunday, definitely better than no minutes and then maybe training too much tomorrow because they are eager, and they might over-cook it. I am very pleased with the two of them not having any injuries because that’s the risk I always take with playing them, minutes is fine, but every tackle or sprint, you’re a bit worried.”