Read every word of the boss's press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer addressed the national media on Friday morning, ahead of this weekend's Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur.
With the Norwegian set to face his predecessor at Old Trafford, Ole was inevitably asked about his relationship with Jose Mourinho, via video link on Friday morning.
The boss was also quizzed about transfers, given that Monday's deadline is fast approaching, while other questions ranged from the fitness of the squad, to his thoughts on the Reds' improvement in recent weeks.
Read every word of the press conference below...
You got the result against Brighton in the end. How important is it that you start to see an improvement in performances, starting on Sunday?
“A result will always be a consequence of the performance you put in. The more we improve our performances, the better our chances of winning [become]. The players are getting fitter and getting sharper and stronger, even though we’re a few games behind the rest of them. In that respect, we hope to see an improvement and we probably need to, especially from the league games.”
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“I think every coach, when you play against a team with the quality that they have, but also Harry Kane, you prepare really well. Harry’s one of the top strikers in the world and you’re just happy that he’s back fit after the injury he had last year. We’ll do our best to keep him quiet. We have a Harry [Maguire] back there that is looking forward to playing against his international mate.”
Monday’s deadline is something I’m sure you know all about. I know you won’t speak about other teams’ players or name names, but how confident are you that you’ll get a new face, or faces, to strengthen your squad?
“Well, I’m not going to go into the transfer window now. Of course, all my focus is on Sunday’s game. The club is always working hard to strengthen the squad. If something happens - in or out - you’ll get to know.”
“We are in strange times at the moment and you’ve got to have a bit of fun as well. It’s just a couple of innocent comments. Jose is a very charismatic coach and you’ve enjoyed, in the media, talking to him. I’ve enjoyed watching him and he’s a winner. I’m not really one of these that really goes into all these mind games. I have got ultimate respect for him as a coach and, of course, his results and everything he has given football.”
This will be 95 games since you replaced him - how much progress do you think you’ve made in that time?
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m the best one to talk about progress or where we’re at. I’ve had my view on what I wanted to do and I’ve had the backing from the club to go with my plan and vision. I think that we’re all different. We’ve given young players a go and have also let many good players go. Other people can probably assess that progress. I’m enjoying working in this environment.”
“You know… Mason is one of the top strikers of the future for England and I am sure he’s going to play many games for England. This has been a learning curve for him. He has to reflect on where he’s at, what he needs to do and how he gets to where he wants to get. I had a very nice chat with Gareth about our players, the England possibles. As I said earlier on, I think games, at this point, are important for players to get some minutes and we will get training into Mason. I respect Gareth’s decision.”
Can you just update us on whether there are any injuries for Sunday’s game? There have been reports of one or two minor niggles in the squad?
“Harry [Maguire] had a little knock after the league game, I think a hole in his ankle, but he should be okay. I think, apart from that, we’re okay. There are no more injuries from the cup game.”
This transfer window has been 10 weeks’ long. Your rivals, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and even Everton have made multiple signings in that time. How is it acceptable that a club of Manchester United’s wealth, stature and ambition have only made one signing with four days to go in this window?
“Well, when we’re planning you’ve got players here that we believe in. Of course, the transfer window is still open for a while and the club has been working, and they know my view. We’re here to strengthen in the long term and I’m not going to say what is acceptable or not for other clubs or teams in this difficult period. We’ll tell you when, and if, something happens.”
“I think my wording during lockdown ‘exploit’ was a bad word by me. I didn’t mean it in that respect. I meant there might be clubs out there, and players out there, that have to move because of the situation, and that might be something of interest for us. At the moment, we’ve not had those situations. We’ve lost loads of money, as the other clubs have as well. When I talk about the squad depth, we’ve got a big squad and, of course, the performances last year didn’t warrant me giving too many of them more options. I think the 11,12,13 players who really played, and really played well, they deserve to play more. That means when you don’t play you don’t get the fitness and sharpness to knock on the door. I think it’s a different situation now and already I’ve seen many of the players I didn’t see too much last season, performing really well.”
I know you've said you've got ultimate respect for Jose, but he was saying the other day that you would prefer to play with a 22-yard box rather than an 18-yard one. Obviously the inference there was that you are over-reliant on penalties. Is that unfair on you?
“The rules are as they are in football, aren't they? I didn't really think more about that one. It's more you and the media [making something out of it]. I think it's important that we have a bit of entertainment as well, and Jose's always, throughout the years, given us all some fantastic moments in football. All through his press conferences and on the pitch. But, as a striker, I didn't mind how big the box was when I got in there. It was just [about getting] a strike on goal.”
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“You know, the main thing now, obviously, is to get results on the pitch. We need to get results, and how we're going to get results on the pitch. There are many ways of improving a team. We're working now here, inside the four walls and on the pitch, to get better on the pitch. We need to get better. The players we've got... I keep reading about players that should be playing instead of the ones that are playing, because they're performing well in the games that they get chances. So that tells me I've got a strong squad as well, and there are players out there that warrant more [playing time]. Of course we need to keep fit, and to keep injury free, but I feel there's more and more competition for places here now. Yeah, there might be some players that haven't played as much as they'd like, because of the form of the front four, but we need results. That's the only way to effect the mood in a club [among] players, the staff. All the other [things], they are just short-term moves.”
A lot of your ex-team-mates have been very vocal in the media - Patrice Evra on the way the club approach negotiations, Gary Neville said it's appalling they haven't done more for you to get players in, Darren Fletcher's been critical, Rio Ferdinand's been critical. Do you feel, given what you did last year - three semi-finals, getting the team into third - that there is a grave danger that if more players aren't coming in of the right quality, that you miss a massive opportunity during what is a clear rebuilding process?
“As I said here, we have players to get results as well. Patrice, Rio, Gary, Fletch... they've always been welcome here to talk to me. It's their jobs, so we can allow them to do their jobs, but we're all wanting Man United as high as possible, and it's my job. So that's what I'm working with.”