Solskjaer: We'll have the fresher legs
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the extra time Manchester United have had to prepare for the Carabao Cup semi-final may help to swing the tie in our favour.
United beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Friday to move level on points with Liverpool at the summit of the Premier League, whereas Manchester City had to wait until Sunday afternoon for their fixture against Chelsea.
The 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge was the Blues’ first game in over a week - with the trip to Goodison Park postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests in the City camp.
Pep Guardiola’s side impressed in the capital, racing into a three-goal lead and looking particularly threatening on the break, and Ole believes that proves just how vital having more time on the training pitch is.
“Well, you have two teams who want to get to the final. We’ve had four days now after Villa so, hopefully, we’ve got more fresh legs,” Solskjaer said on Tuesday morning.
“It’s a difficult season, but I think we’ll benefit from the rotation we’ve made. I thought it was going to be important anyway this season, having fresh legs. You could see that with City against Chelsea: the amount of fresh legs, intensity and sharpness, after the break, they had.
“It showed, and that was a quality game - physically, one of the more intense games there's been in the league this season. I don’t think that’s a surprise there because they had a few extra days to prepare for that one.
“[These are] two teams that want to go through. I think the last game [December's Manchester derby, which ended 0-0] showed two teams with respect for each other. They weren’t as much possession-based against Chelsea, they were more counter-attacking. They’ve got quick players on the break - of course, we have to be aware of that, as well as their possession game.”
Memories are still fresh of the league double Solskjaer’s men clinched over City last season, although the Norwegian conceded those games were won with a different, more backs-to-the-wall style.
“I’ve seen progress and sometimes the results don’t show the whole picture of the game,” Ole added. “Some of our counter-attacking goals in the wins that we’ve had have been brilliant.
“Away in the league, when we won, we could have scored four or five in a 10-15-minute period. The counter-attacks were just out of this world. But we’ve had less control of the ball and defended fantastically.”
When the teams walk out at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, it will have been just 25 days since the last meeting.
United and City played out the goalless Premier League draw which Solskjaer said better exemplifies how he wants his side to play against the 2018 and 2019 champions.
While no goals were forthcoming that day, the boss believes that with a touch more risk in possession and individual attacking endeavour, the Reds could once again claim the derby bragging rights.
“I think the last game [the 0-0] was more or less 50-50 in terms of possession and maybe more cagey from both teams.
“Still, I felt that was a progression, staying more in the game. You never know what kind of system he [Guardiola] is going to come up with, but you know you have to defend really well against Man City.
“It’s hard to keep the ball in their half when they’re got it because they can find a way of overloading. So you have to be brave and be compact and trust your players. Then again, when we get the ball, we need to keep it and play out of their press.
“They’re one of the quickest ones to put the counter-pressure on and want to win it high up. It’s a balance that I think we’ve found, but we didn’t have that X-Factor the last game. Maybe because they were a little bit more cagey and set up to counter-attack more as well.
“There have been some fascinating games and I feel we’ve got closer and closer and results, sometimes you can’t control.”