Solskjaer exclusive: Our players put the team first
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will steer his team into the penultimate home match of 2019/20 tonight, now knowing that victory over Southampton will lift us from fifth to third in the Premier League table.
Speaking to our reporter Mark Sullivan before a weekend in which our top-four rivals Chelsea and Leicester City both suffered heavy defeats - to Sheffield United (0-3) and Bournemouth (1-4) - the manager was already in his usual positive frame of mind, following our 3-0 win at Aston Villa on Thursday night.
After giving us his reaction to the draw for the Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals, here's what Ole said about facing Southampton, his team's impressive work ethic and a huge week in which we'll also travel to Crystal Palace and take on Chelsea for a place in the Emirates FA Cup final...
“They’ve done excellently. I watched the game against Man City which was an excellent 1-0 win against them. They’re a high energy, direct team… [they play] very physical and demanding football so it’ll be an exciting game. We drew 1-1 with them down there [at St Mary’s] and we know we have to play to our best to get results. Hopefully we can carry on what we’re doing.”
Any team needs a proven goalscorer and in Danny Ings they’ve got someone who is red-hot right now...
“Yes he’s done fantastic this season, the way he’s finishing chances… it just shows you a confident striker. He’s always been a very good footballer and I’m glad for him he’s back from injury but we’ll do our best to stop him.”
As you’ve said before, every team in this league is capable of causing problems…
“Yes and there are so many games in such a short space of time and anything can happen. You can have a bad day or a bad decision against you, so we have to be ready for everything and I feel our players are. We know that we have to earn the right to win, especially against teams that make it difficult for you with a fantastic shape and the way they’re working together. We’ll have to earn a good performances and hopefully that will get us a result.”
You were able to name the same starting XI for the fourth consecutive Premier League game, which hasn’t happened since 2006. I don’t want to pre-empt your team news but if everyone is fit, are you looking to keep this team together?
“I can’t really say at the moment if everyone is 100 per cent fit. There is a little bit of wear and tear when you play that many games but there are players there who come in and do well and want to play. So if we make one or two changes, I’m sure the ones who come in will have a point to prove, but then again in these last four games they’ve been excellent in the league and we want to keep that performance going. But we also know that the players who haven’t been involved this season are more than capable.”
It’s a big week ahead with Southampton, Crystal Palace and the FA Cup semi-final isn’t it?
“It is but we don’t want to think that far ahead. We just want to concentrate on Southampton, then when that game is over we focus on Palace, then we focus on Chelsea, then West Ham, then Leicester. Of course the scheduling could have been better for us, but what’s the reason for thinking about that? I think our boys are ready for that challenge. They’ve worked really hard over lockdown and will be ready to put a shift in when needed.”
Fit, sharp and raring to go! Gallery
Here's your exclusive access to Saturday's training session, showing how Ole's Reds are preparing for Southampton.
“Well, most of it has been said in such a short space of time. He’s made an impact since he’s come in but he’s a team player. That’s what you see with him, he plays for the team and plays to create chances, he works his socks off and he does everything a Man United player should be doing. He thinks about the team first, then his own performance, and I’m sure he’d change all these personal awards into trophies for the team and a Champions League position for next season.”
Do you think his qualities are rubbing off on other players? Everyone seems to be working so hard for each other…
“That’s due to the coaching as well and the culture we have in the group. I think what Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] are doing on the training pitch is fantastic. There's enthusiasm, players are enjoying training and enjoying playing and they enjoy working. Paul [Pogba] mentioned it in an interview last week as well, it’s not just the free-flowing football that is the reason for us being where we are and playing as we do, it’s the hard work. Anthony [Martial] from the front leading the line as a no.9, but he also wins the ball back with Marcus [Rashford] and Mason [Greenwood], and Bruno has got that enthusiasm and energy. I think that’s always been a part of Man United – you have to work hard, be humble and put the team in front of any individual awards because individuals never, ever win anything [on their own], unless you are called Diego Maradona!”
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