Ole: The boys look bright in training
Club football resumes today and a refreshed Manchester United have sights set on building a good run of form, starting with a Premier League trip to Watford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a few injuries to deal with, but the manager has been pleased with his squad’s work and attitude over the last few days.
While some players were training at Carrington during the recent international break, many were away with their national teams.
Here's what Ole had to say in his club media interview with Stewart Gardner ahead of the return to action…
Ole, first of all, has it been good to get away after a tough spell?
"Of course, times like this when there is an international break, we always use it in the best possible way. This time, we had a few players that were injured and had to pull out of their games, and they’ve been working on their rehab and recovery. Some have been working on their fitness here, some have been allowed to go back home, to see their families with the staff working closely with them, of course. That’s one of the things we learnt through the pandemic; we can still keep in touch through Zoom and all the technology. And this week, they’ve come back bright. It’s been a very, very good week so far and we’re well prepared for Saturday."
And ahead of such a busy schedule, has it been useful to reset and refresh minds?
"You know, when you lose games, as we did the last game, sometimes you want the next game straight away. For us, I think this break came at a good time now to come back fresh, look at things, make some minor adjustments, get back to who we know we are, make sure we come out on Saturday on the front foot with lots of belief and trust in ourselves."
If I can just go through some of the possible injuries, Marcus and Luke didn’t play for England. How are they now?
"They’ve been part of the last couple of days of training. They had different sets of protocols to follow and they have to tick them off before the doctor sends them to me."
Paul Pogba was injured in training with France and now he's out in the Middle East. And Raphael Varane is still missing?
"Yeah, Raphael's improving, but he’s still a few weeks away. He’s working hard on his fitness and unfortunately, he got this injury now and it’s never a good time to get one, but after just coming back into the team, he was hoping to stay there. But he’ll work diligently, and he does work diligently and he’ll be back soon."
Is there a timescale on Paul?
"It’s one of those injuries… how long is a piece of rope? I know that Paul, he’s working really hard, he’s determined to come back, he’s already started on the rehab and he wants to come back fresh and ready. If it’s two months, or six weeks or twelve weeks, I’ve got to tell you in a few weeks, when we can see how he’s healing."
And Edi Cavani?
"He’s one of the doubts as well. Unfortunately before the City game, he had to pull out after more or less the last training session, and he didn’t feel right. He’s one that we assess every single day, he’ll contribute when he gets back in. If it’s this weekend or not, I can’t tell you."
What about Scott McTominay?
"Scott has had a bad illness and a throat infection, he’s also trained the last couple of days. He’s looked bright and fit, to be fair."
There are 11 games left in 2021 and obviously a lot can change in the next few weeks…
"The good thing about this period now is that we have no international break, no distractions; it’s us, we’re here together for four months until the next international break. We know we need to do better, we know we’ve not been playing as well as we can, we should do better, we can do better, I’m sure we will do better. Everything I’ve seen this week in training bodes very well; they’ve been bright, they’ve looked after themselves when they’ve been away and it’s important now that the Watford game is the start of what’s to come."
Because of the sheer number of games over the next six weeks or so, can the whole squad play a part?
"Yeah, they will be. The players know that. I know some have been disappointed with the amount of playing time, but they know when you’ve got a game every three days, there’s only two days recovery in between. We value them and we need them and to be a successful team at the end of the season, everyone’s going to play their part at different periods of the season, some more than others."
We saw in the international break, Harry Maguire scored a couple of headed goals, and now has the most goals for an England defender. Do you want to see him more from set-pieces?
"He’s a threat. You do all these stats and analysis and we’re the team with the highest first-contact [numbers] on our set-plays. We just need that quality, a little bit of luck and we know Harry’s one of them who can score goals for us. We’ve got loads of players who can and that’s an area we’re working on. I’m sure we’ll see the benefit very soon."
This weekend we’re going to see Foster, Cleverley, Fletcher, Cathcart and King, that’s at least five ex-United players in the Watford team. I suppose you know pretty much all of those guys?
"Yeah, we do know them really well. I think I had nearly all of them with me when I was with the Reserves. They're good boys, very good professionals, and I'm very happy that they’ve had the careers they’ve had. Let’s make sure they remember Man United fondly when they come off and think, ‘yep, that’s why I’m not there now’."