Every word from Ole's pre-Newcastle press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke to reporters ahead of Manchester United's home Premier League match against Newcastle United, and fielded questions on several subjects including the fitness and availability on Cristiano Ronaldo, Fred and Jadon Sancho.
The boss also spoke about the impact of Ronaldo on his squad and how he'll manage the forward.
Don't miss a word with our full transcript below...
Hello Ole, only one place to start. What’s it been like having Cristiano Ronaldo in training...
"He’s been good. Of course, we’ve followed his career from afar since he left here and everyone’s very happy to have him back. He can speak for himself, but it seems like he’s happy to be back as well. The mood has been very good, he’s worked well and we’re looking forward to Saturday of course."
He sounds happy to be back and says he’s putting you under pressure. Is he ready to start?
"He’s been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he’s played for the national team, he’s had a good week with us here. He’ll definitely be on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure."
Last time you spoke to us, you seemed a bit confused about where Cristiano would end up. How much of a lift can him being there give the rest of the squad?
"I wasn’t confused when I spoke to you. You were confused. I wasn’t. I was quite happy at that moment but couldn’t say everything, of course. Cristiano coming back in, just the way he’s conducted himself this week, he’s come in and we know what he’s achieved in his career, but he’s come in here to achieve more, and he’s come in here to put demands [on himself]; that’s what he does. He’s lived his life with the discipline of a top, top professional. Ever since he came here, I remember, he was the first one who did the prep really well. Every day, 45 minutes before the training session, you started looking at this kid doing this before training, and he’ll have the same effect with these players. Even though the group... we have grown as a group over the last few years, the determination, focus, desire has improved over time, bit by it. Even bringing Raphael [Varane] in, he’s come in with a winners’ mentality, an unbelievable focus, but of course Cristiano comes in and there’s no place to hide when you’ve got winners like them. You can’t go into training and give 95 per cent and not be focused and that’s what he demands from everyone else."
I’m sure you’ll be asked more about Cristiano but can I ask about Fred, the situation with the Brazilian players, and what your response is?
"I think it’s a lose, lose, lose situation for everyone, national teams, players, clubs. It’s been a farce really. The players want to play but we all know what kind of situation we find ourselves in over the last year and a half with the pandemic, the travel, everyone trying to limit the spread of the virus. Of course, we worked really hard before this to try to find a way, private jets, you know. There are ways to get them in and out but all the decisions have gone against the players, that’s for sure. They want to play for the national teams, they want to play for the clubs and they’re not allowed. For me, I’m disappointed with the whole thing; common sense might not be so common anymore. We need to prepare for the game without Fred but still [we have] fingers crossed that some sense can come into people’s minds and we can use him."
Ole, on the subject of availability for tomorrow, Dean Henderson, Scott McTominay, Alex Telles… obviously Jadon Sancho came back from England duty, will he be available?
"They’re all training. Dean has not got the after-effects of the tiredness anymore so that’s very positive. Telles is not 100 per cent, he’ll be still a few weeks. Scott has recovered very quickly from the operation, so if he’s going to play or not, I’m not sure, but probably not, depending on who we’ve got available as well, who we can use."
Jadon as well?
"Jadon has come back in with a minor knock but he’s trained the last couple of days. He’s disappointed he couldn’t play for England but determined to be fit and he’s available. So that’s a positive. Cristiano has trained all week so he’s available. The international break, we didn’t get anyone injured. Luke, Harry and Victor played late on Wednesday night so they’ve not had a lot of recovery but they will be available I think."
I just wanted to ask about Cristiano. Obviously he’s returning as a different player to the one that left. How do you see him in your system, is it fair to say he’s the set piece guy now?
"Everyone evolves and develops throughout their career. Of course Cristiano is a different player to the one who left but he’s in such good nick still, he’ll be looking at the next few years to play as much as he can, score as much as he can. He’s a threat from direct set plays himself but also to be on the end of crosses. He’s adding something extra that we haven’t got. His skillsets in the team, the mix of his skillsets, well, no one has [those] really, because he’s one of the best players that has ever played the game."
You used to be a team-mate with Cristiano and now you’re his manager. How do you handle that dynamic?
"Well, that’s fine, we’ve got mutual respect for each other, you can't not have respect for what he’s achieved but he knows I have got to make the decisions, when to play him, when not to. Any player wants to play as much as possible but it’s my job to manage him and get the best out of him. I want to see the best out of Cristiano, of course. That comes with communication with him because we have played together, as you said, we spent a few years together at the club and we know each other, so that’s no issue. He doesn’t need me to tell him what to do, he’s always had this determination, this desire to be the best. He still has that. He prepares… he’s probably the one I’ve seen in my career, the ones I’ve played with, that’s taken the steps that he needs to. Of course we’ve got Ryan Giggs who played until 40-odd and I’m not gonna be surprised if Cristiano ends up [playing] at the same age as Ryan."
Can you talk us through how the discussions with Edinson Cavani went about giving up his no.7 shirt for Cristiano Ronaldo?
"It’s one of those things. Edinson has been remarkable, he played really well last season. Cristiano rang Edinson and they spoke to each other and to pass off his shirt just shows the respect he’s got for Cristiano but also Cristiano speaking to Edinson shows the respect the other way. Two top, top professionals and players, and human beings."
Ole, I know how difficult it was first time around to play against Cristiano. What’s different about him this time?
"He’s developed, he’s evolved as a player, as age goes by you have to change your game. I don’t think you’re going to see 18, 19, 20 stepovers before he goes past you but he still has that stepover, shift and shoot. He’s developed into one of the most accurate finishers that I’ve seen. I did see part of that when he was here, of course, and he developed, but what he’s developed in these years at Real Madrid impresses us all. He’s one of the best in the air, his timing, desire to get on the end of crosses is second to none. He still hits the target 99 times out of 100 as well when he shoots outside of the box. He knows the game more, he knows which positions to drop into and when to run in behind and he’s still as quick, it looks like from the stats, and he’s a shining leading star, everyone’s going to look up to him. He’s going to be a leader in this dressing room."