Read every word of Ole's pre-Leeds media briefing

Friday 13 August 2021 14:48

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his first Premier League press conference of the season, ahead of our much-anticipated season-opener against Leeds United.

We'll meet our Yorkshire rivals at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon (12:30 BST), and there's plenty of intrigue around which players might be involved.
Ole opened up on that subject and plenty more in his media briefing. Read on for the full transcript, which includes updates on Sancho, Varane, plus the Norwegian's thoughts on Martial, Pogba, the return of fans and why making a good start is so important...

What are you expecting from Marcelo Bielsa’s men in front of a packed out Old Trafford tomorrow?
“The important thing is what I expect from my team. The opposition you can prepare for but for us it’s about ourselves. We’ve had a good pre-season; the last couple of weeks have been really good with everyone back in. Even though we’re still missing a few players through injury and through Covid, we’re still feeling confident ahead of the game.”
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Are you ready for the new season?

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What’s the team news ahead of the game: is Jadon Sancho likely to start?
“Jadon is going to be involved, definitely. He’s had a good week. Unfortunately he was ill after his holiday and we’ve lost out a few days of training with him, but he’s gelled really well with the group and he’s looked sharper than expected. So he’ll be involved, but I can’t tell you if he’s going to start or not.”
What’s the latest with Raphael Varane and is he available for the Leeds game?
“He’s not trained with us. All the dots are over the Is and we haven’t crossed the Ts yet. Things happen, things take time, and unfortunately with the isolation and the delay, these things [can happen]. It’s not 100 per cent done yet. I can’t say that he will be involved tomorrow. I can probably say that he won’t be, because he’s not trained with us.”
What has been the hold up? And there isn’t any doubt that this move won’t go through, is there?
“It always happens that there’s little things in there. The big hold up was the isolation and quarantine of course. He's been in Manchester and here’s he now, so hopefully it will be done soon.”
Ole, you were the runners-up in the Europa League last season and runners-up in the Premier League – what’s it going to take to get to that next level this season? 
“It’s always pressure before every season, you know that. When you finish with pre-season, that’s one chunk of work gone. We have to get a good start, of course. We have expectations ourselves. This club is about trophies, about good football, and my expectations are that we keep developing, keep developing our style and play good football. You never know with results in football but hopefully when we get to March, April, May we’re there, thereabouts. The team looks hungry and we’ve done good business so I feel confident. Then again, the first couple of games are unknown. As you say, it’s a rivalry between the sides and it’s a one-off game when you play against Marcelo’s team anyway; he’s got a unique style, and I can’t wait to keep going.”
How poignant is the atmosphere going to be tomorrow in front of a packed out crowd?
“Brilliant. It’s fantastic. First game of the season anyway, whoever we play against would be fantastic. Our fans have been great against Brentford and Everton in the pre-season matches. They’ve been very good. The last time we were all together was against City and we had a decent end to that game. That roar when Scott scored that goal is I think the loudest I’ve ever heard Old Trafford. It’ll be amazing. We’ve waited long enough. Hopefully we can play the football that our fans can enjoy. That’s going to be important for us to get a good start.”
Must-watch: Jadon Sancho x Rio Ferdinand Video

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There have been a lot of rumours this week that Anthony Martial has been a target for lots of clubs. Do you still see him as an integral part of your team?
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other teams targeted Anthony because he’s a very, very good player. I’ve got no plans for him to play against us. He’s coming back strong, hungry with a determination to prove his fitness and his quality. Last season was a disappointing one for him and you can see that little bit of grit between his teeth again. He’s up for the challenge, he’s a Man United player and we’re happy that we have him. He’s proven doubters wrong so many times.”
Is there any concerns you have on an individual level over the safety concerns, going from empty stadiums to now back at full capacity? 
“I don’t have any safety or security worries, no. I know the club have the safety measures and everything will be sorted. It’s just great to be able to share the game again with the fans live. We’ve done it through the media and TV but nothing can replace being there with the energy of the fans. I’m sure the fans are so happy to be back in as well, they will stick to the rules and regulations, of course. It’s just good before the game when you drive in on the coach, you see fans, you see kids again seeing their idols and role models. It’s been exciting even in the couple of pre-season games we’ve had.”
What is the current state of play with Paul Pogba and his contract situation? 
“He’s a Man United player; he’s got one year left on his contract. It’s been spoken about so often. Every conversation I have with Paul is a positive one. Hopefully it keeps on in the background and we’ll make decisions whenever, Paul and us together. It’ll always be like this with Paul. He’s a media magnet.”
Is this team good enough to challenge for the title with two recent world-class additions? Is the gap closing in on Manchester City, or is it still too big? 
“Well we’ve gradually closed the gaps. Of course, as I said, nothing is beyond these players. I wouldn’t put it past them. Of course, it’ll need a very good season; a very disciplined season with some margins and some luck. But you know, you want to come to April and May and be in and around. To do that, we’ve put the first chunk of work away and now it’s about getting results. The first game is obviously a big one –it decides the mood in the club with the fans and the players. Then we’ve got two more before the international break and we’ll probably review then if we are where we want to be. We have to start better than we did last season if we want to mount a challenge.”