Every word from Ole's Palace press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has denied that his players have felt the pressure of being involved in a Premier League title race.
The Reds topped the table in January but a run of two wins in seven games, combined with the record-breaking form of this weekend's opponents Manchester City, has tempered expectations a little, although Ole suggested that this is down to the overall quality of the top-flight and the strange nature of the season, more than anything else.
In his pre-match press conference, prior to Wednesday's clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, the boss also stressed that he wanted to move on from the VAR penalty review at Chelsea and answered a question on Aaron Wan-Bissaka's international prospects, ahead of the European Championship this summer.
Read every word from Ole's pre-match briefing below...
Hi there Ole. Just a quick update on the fitness of the squad?
“Yeah, we've had a training session this morning. Of course, it was a light one. We're looking okay. There are a couple of doubts for tomorrow that we have to give as much time as possible. Edinson trained, he's joined in, that's good. Let's hope there's no reaction after the session. Hopefully, he will travel with the squad.”
Now the dust has settled on that handball incident on Sunday, I just wondered: have you spoken to PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the refereeing standards group] about that decision? Are you any clearer now as to why that decision was made?
“That's water under the bridge. You move on, on to the next one. We all know it's a high-pressure situation and we have to accept the decisions when they’re made. We move on. All my focus after the game has just been on Palace. I’ve not looked back on that.”
Just on that, I know you don’t want to get into the incident but what happened was the players all gathered round the referee as he’s looking at the monitor which is not supposed to happen. What’s your view on that?
“I think the refs have a difficult enough job without extra pressure. We should just leave them to it, to make as many good decisions as they can.”
Can you give an update on when Paul Pogba will be back? With Phil Jones, I know he’s been dealing with this injury all season. Will we see him this season?
“With Phil obviously we hope so. He's working really hard. He’s had a couple of setbacks. It's just that kind of injury where you have to be patient and give him time. I know all about knee injuries. I'm not sure. How long is a piece of rope? That's how I felt as well when I came back. [We’ll] give him absolutely every chance to get back this season. If not, hopefully for the start of next. Paul is still not ready for us, no. He's feeling better. He's not been training with the team yet, so he’s definitely not travelling down to London, no.”
Tomorrow marks 100 days to go until the Euros. Do you feel like Aaron Wan-Bissaka has done enough over the last few months and developed enough to put himself right in contention?
“I don't want to do Gareth [Southgate]'s job. I feel both my full-backs have done really well. I’ve been very pleased with them. The development of the two of them, the improvement has been there to see. Gareth has got good options, if he fancies. I'm not going to say that he should or shouldn't.”
After new year, there was some talk about United as a title contender, and you were top of the league at some points. But you have dropped points recently, with only two wins in the last seven games. Is it the pressure of being top of the table and being in that spot? Has that reached your players?
“Not at all. That's the Premier League. The pressure has not been there at all. Of course, we enjoyed being as close to the top as possible. That’s the Premier League for you. That's the quality in the opposition, the quality of the tactics, the standards, the demands of the season. We've played I don’t know how many games, we're in the Europa League, we’re in the FA Cup, the Premier League and it's the strangest year of all for everyone. So, pressure? No. That's the Premier League.”
“No. I don't think anyone has surprised me, because we know what they're capable of. I think surprised or not surprised? Impressed. The way they handled the whole situation, the whole season, the whole pandemic and not being able to have your social life and have the time to switch off from football… normally, you go and meet your friends, you go to the cinema, you go out for a meal, you go to a concert. Now it's relentless. It’s Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday. I've been impressed. That's the biggest message I've got out there, that this year has been the strangest of all our lives. We didn't live in the Second World War, thankfully, but these times and the restrictions have been almost as harsh. The way they've dealt with it? Absolutely brilliant.”