Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pointing during a training session in Marbella

Ole exclusive: We're primed for an important period

It was straight back to business for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his return to Manchester United's Aon Training Complex from a week of working with the squad in Marbella.

After holding his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, he gave this exclusive pre-match interview to MUTV's Stewart Gardner in which he reflected on a successful trip to Spain and looked forward to our next game, tonight's Premier League clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. 

How was the break? 

“The break has been very good. It’s good to be back, but we had a good week out there. It was needed and I think we’ll see the benefit in the whole league, never mind just us. The whole Premier League will, I’m sure, benefit from having this break.”


In terms of the quality of the work you did out there, was it about that or was it more about everyone getting together? 
“We had to get together again, but we had to give them some days off first to refresh. When we got together, we had a good week training down there and worked hard. It had great facilities, they looked after us down there and the players enjoyed themselves. When you can do some coaching out in the sun, the one hour and 30 minutes becomes two hours 30 [minutes] instead because you stay there to play Teqball, for example. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the clips from all of the challenges the players put on themselves after training. It’s a fantastic way of getting the group gelling together.”

 
Video
Martial, Fernandes, Fred and Andreas Pereira play Teqball in the Marbella sunshine
Watch Martial, Fernandes, Fred and Andreas playing Teqball in Marbella
I suppose there was further integration of Bruno Fernandes in the group as well. How is he gelling with everybody?
“I’m not sure about his [initiation] singing, it wasn’t great! No, he did well, he was voted one of the better ones. He’s gelling really well, he’s getting to know the players and you can see what he’s going to give us both on and off the pitch.”


Scott [McTominay] and Axel [Tuanzebe] were there. How are they getting on?
“They won’t be ready for Chelsea, those two or Tim [Fosu-Mensah], but they’ve stepped up their recovery and they won’t be too far away.”


Is it similar for Marcus [Rashford] and Paul [Pogba]. Is it just a case of continuing along on their road?
“Yes, they’re professional and they want to get back as quick as they can. It’s a difficult period when you’re a player and you’re injured. I’m sure when we see them on the pitch, they will play with a smile again.”

Odion Ighalo has been carrying out his own programme so how is his [integration] going to work? Will he meet up with people this weekend?
“Yes, this weekend he will see the boys. Again, that’s going to be great for us, to not just add an extra body, but a personality, someone who can help and someone who scores goals. It gives the group a boost.”


If he is involved on Monday, I suppose it gives you a different option, a wildcard almost?
“As a striker you don’t need too much time to get involved in a group because your chance is there on the training field or in a game. If you come on and score a goal you’ve done it and you’ve proven to everyone what you’re about. So hopefully we can integrate Odhion into both training and a game as soon as we can and hopefully he’ll show what he can do.”


In the top-four battle,you just have to look at the table to see this is a real six-pointer don’t you?

“It’s a big game of course, Chelsea have been third or fourth nearly all season so for us and the chasing pack they are the ones to catch. Hopefully we can get three points that will make a big difference for us going forward.”

It’s always been difficult against Chelsea, we actually haven’t done the league double over them since 1988, but you’ve won there twice last year in the cups. Can those results give everybody belief? 
“Of course, both of those two cup games that you’re talking about, the league game that we had [at home against them] and the away games that we’ve had against [Manchester] City lately, they give us belief that we can go to difficult places and get results. I forgot about that FA Cup game last year, so let’s try and make it three in a row.”


United and Chelsea are actually the two youngest teams in the Premier League. Can you see similarities with what Frank Lampard has been doing?
“I think so, yes. Obviously he [Frank] was restrained because of the transfer ban during the summer window but I think we both believe if you give young players a chance, you know them and you know they will give you everything they’ve got and they might surprise other people. If you have a team full of energy and players who want to prove themselves it’s great and Frank’s done very well with the Chelsea team I think.”

90 in 20: Chelsea 1 United 2Video

In this next spell of the season up to the international break, six weeks or so, we’ve got the Europa League, the FA Cup, a derby and Tottenham. When you look at all that, how pivotal are these six weeks? 
“Hopefully we’ll go through against Club Brugge, a good team, and if we do, we will have 11 games in those six weeks. That’s possible. It’s another hard task for the boys and that’s why this week together and the week off before that, I’m sure we’ll be better off for it. It’s important of course, every game is important. There are only 13 [league] games left to claw back the points we need.”


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