Every word from Ole's Granada press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United have to play well, dominate and score goals in Thursday night's second leg against Granada, despite already holding a two-goal advantage.
The boss also gave his thoughts on Jesse Lingard's stunning form on loan at West Ham and on leadership within the squad.
Watch the press conference in full below, or scroll down for the transcript...
It's reassuring to know that your son is always being fed but that's not what I want to ask about! You've got 3 players suspended, is that enforced rest a positive thing?
“No, it's never a positive thing to not have every player available but we've got players ready to deputise and come into the team of course. It was amnesty [on yellow cards previously picked up] after this quarter-final so we hoped to get them through but it was some easy yellow cards, should we say, that the referee handed out.”
Obviously the Real Sociedad game was more sorted for the second leg [United had won the first game 4-0], you named a strong side but are you going to rotate a bit more now? Will Axel Tuanzebe get a chance?
“We have to make sure that we go through. I always pick a team that I think will win a game and I will. We will go into this game wanting to win this. I know Granada will want to come and give it their all but we want to improve on our performances, build on the momentum that we're on and have a good performance. There'll be a few changes, of course; some of them are forced, some of them are maybe rotation.”
Hi Ole, you mentioned easy yellow cards last week, would you look at leaving people like Paul Pogba out because a booking would see him miss the semi-final?
“We're not looking at consequences of that, no. We go into the game having to do everything we need to do to win. If there's a tackle there to be won, a tackle is there to be won. We don't want any lazy yellow cards; just play the game properly, no token gestures and you'll be fine.”
Obviously simulation was a topic of the weekend... I just wonder if managers are in danger of laying themselves open to hypocrisy because, like it or not, every squad has a player that will simulate, and you've had accusations of that towards Bruno, so is it incumbent on managers to tell their players not to dive?
“Every manager has certain values. When I got sent off against Newcastle a few years ago - many, many years ago, many moons ago - and I thought I did the right thing for the club or the team and Sir Alex absolutely lambasted me after the game, called me into the office and said 'we don't win that way at Man United'. I've lived by that ever since. We want to win, we want to win in the right manner. It doesn't matter who we're playing against, I want to win playing by the book. I'm not saying someone else doesn't, I'm just saying that I think every manager wants to win in a fair way.”
Hi Ole, just with regard to Jesse Lingard. I believe he's now scored 8 goals in 9 Premier League appearances which is a decent record by any standards. When he comes back to the club, does he have a future at Manchester United, would you like to offer him a new contract, and also, related to that, why do you think it has worked so well at West Ham?
“Jesse has been brilliant since he left and I've answered this quite a few times. Selfishly we could have kept him because he's always got a part to play. Jesse is a fantastic lad around the place, Man United through and through. Never once did he moan or cause me a problem, he just came in and worked really hard. He deserved a chance to play for more football - that's why we let him go to West Ham because he deserves a chance for what he's done throughout his life for Man United. Of course we [will] welcome him back. I hope he will go to the Euros because with his performances now, with the confidence he's got, I don't think that's beyond him. I hope he's got a strong finish to the league. It was different here because Bruno [Fernandes], the form he's played in, arguably in Jesse's favourite position, and that was just a decision that we've made. Delighted though for Jess and just wish him all the best for the rest of the season until he comes back.”
Is Eric Bailly back in the country and is he available for tomorrow night's game?
“Eric's not available for tomorrow, no. He's travelled back, yeah.”
You go into this game as huge favourites after the 2-0 win last week but with your experience going into second legs as favourites having a comfortable lead, what is going to be the biggest challenge tomorrow and what things do you have to be aware of?
“You know, we've got a great foundation to play from and a good result but we go into this game wanting to win the game. We want to play a good game and perform well. We know that Granada will come here and give it everything they've got so we have to go out there, try to dominate the ball, score goals like we always want to do and keep carrying on. The momentum is big in football and if it goes for you, it goes for you so we just want to carry on there and hopefully the players will enjoy the game.”
I wanted to ask about what sort of game you expect from Granada. In the first leg they sat back a little bit, they didn't try and push but now in the state of the tie, they have to score goals. What do you expect from them?
“Well, it's a quarter-final in Europe so of course they need to score goals. The way they want to create chances and score goals, I cannot predict, of course, but we've seen them against Barcelona and Real Madrid and seen how dangerous they have been. We have to play a very good game. If they come and press us, we have to be ready for that. If they sit back and it's more counter-attack, we have to play a good game and not give them those opportunities. It's all up for grabs.”
Axel had such a good start to the season, particularly the game against PSG. Over the last couple of months, there's been abuse on social media, has that affected his confidence? Have you had to put your arm round him?
“Axel has always been a very positive boy and hard-working. Victor and Harry have played [and] they've formed a very good partnership. Eric's come in and played really well when he's played so his [Axel's] chances have been limited, but he's been training well and he's ready for this opportunity. I don't think it affected him back when it happened, no.”
You're missing two key leaders in Harry and Scott McTominay. How do you feel about the leaders coming through at United and a word on the team spirit as well having gained 28 points from losing positions this season and the incredible turn-around after half-time at Spurs?
“We are a group of young players who want to improve, want to learn and we know that we'll have to lead at some point, everyone had to lead at some point. We've got different ways of promoting leaders. Of course you've still got a few leaders here with those players out, so I'm not worried about that. The team spirit always goes in front of any individual. I've not seen many teams [where that is not true]. I'm sure the team spirit in the Argentina World Cup 1990 was good as well but they had one superstar in Maradona who was better than everyone else. But for us it's a group working together, knowing that we need everyone to be on board on our values, on our set behaviours. Man United have always got humble, hard-working players who stick together and never, ever give in, in any game. As you said, 28 points from losing positions is fantastic. On the other hand, it's worrying we have to do that.”
With the Euros coming up this summer, potentially it could be a little bit more complicated transfer window because of the Euros. Do you see any business being done before the Euros kick-off, either in or out?
“Well, the transfer window will come when it comes. I'm just focusing on finishing the league strong. We have too many important games to finish and to win but, of course, I think everyone in this job would like to do deals as soon as possible but at the moment my sole focus is on winning games.”
Hi Ole, I believe you're the only team in the Premier League to have a fixture every midweek basically all season and obviously this is another midweek where you're playing. How difficult is that to manage in terms of fitness of players and obviously selections? Does that put you at a disadvantage at all or do you just accept that's what life is like at Man United?
“You have to accept that at Man United. We've not been in a position or situation where we could think about this game as a given and maybe take a risk. We've needed results in more or less every game. Which is a good way because then your coaching sessions are in the games really. What we've lacked and missed out on is the hours on the training ground. We haven't had that because we've had injuries, sometimes you haven't had the squad fully fit, so that's made it more difficult but as a Man United player you need to be able to play around about, well, I think we've played 50 games now this season and it's something you want to and have to get used to. Maybe the biggest challenge was the lack of pre-season because normally you'd practise a few different ways of playing in pre-season but we only had one game against Aston Villa and we needed to get the fitness. Since we played West Brom just before the Project Restart [in a friendly], that's the last time we could play a game and try something different, you know tactics without thinking about the result. So of course that's been a challenge but I can't complain because I think the players have been fantastic and I'm so impressed by them.”
After Sunday's memorable win at Spurs, our attention is now fully on Granada's visit.
Do you feel the players' mentality has changed in many ways since you took charge and if so, what ways have you worked to do that?
“It's not up to me to say if their mentality has changed. My job, or our job, has been to get the best out of the players and that's how you do that, it's different in every coaching style, management style. I can feel change in the belief and the confidence because, say two years back when we started this project, rebuilding the squad, we knew we had a few months or seasons to learn. And they've learned on the job many of them, but now you can see the focus going on. We want to win a trophy, we want to go as far as we can. The disappointment of last year's semi-final defeats have done something to the mentality of the group, definitely.”
You've won all three matches away in the competition, have yet to win at home in it and away form in the PL is better than the home form. Why is this happening?
“You'll see a change now, we've changed. If you see the banners round the club, it's not red anymore. And you know, we've looked into this and it shouldn't be any reason, really. But some of the players have mentioned that that split-second decision that you have to make - look over your shoulder, if your teammate is there or not - and the red shirt is on the red background just with the red seats [makes it difficult] and so we've, of course, tried to change that along with the campaign, the anti-racism campaign, so of course that was important that it wasn't red anymore. But then again, there shouldn't be any reason. And then again if you've got a 4-0 advantage [vs Real Sociedad], you don't have to win that game, 0-0 was a good result. Then the first game against Milan, that's still a draw, we conceded in the last minute. So I still think we've played some good football at home. We started off badly with the three defeats, with Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal early on. So we've improved.”