Read every word from Ole's pre-Southampton press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is expecting to face a strong Southampton side on Tuesday, despite the numerous injuries in the Saints' ranks.
Our midweek visitors have seen several key members of their squad suffer injuries in recent weeks, with Jannik Vestergaard and Kyle Walker-Peters set to miss out on the trip to M16. However, speaking in Monday's pre-match press conference, the boss outlined that Southampton will still carry a huge threat.
Ole also was quizzed about the latest transfer news, gave an update on defender Phil Jones, explained his opinion on the importance of footballers' mental wellbeing and, sadly, had to field yet more questions about online abuse directed at United players.
Below is every answer Ole gave in the first half of his media briefing...
“Apart from the wear and tear and the quick turnaround, everyone should be available. They’re not injured anyway. It’s just a matter of energy levels and see how they feel tomorrow. No new, fresh injures anyway.”
Have you had a chance to work on much in-between games, obviously, the critical thing, getting back to scoring again quickly?
“There’s not been time to do a lot on the training pitch. The boys that played are still on their recovery track from Saturday night, but then they also have to prepare for tomorrow night, so it’s right in between for them. So the session was light, but some of them scored a few goals. Of course, we want to get that mojo back. I think we’ve created enough chances to score the goals and now it’s just about feeling good and talking a deep breath and putting the ball between the posts.”
“I don’t think this is just a matter of footballers or famous people. That gets highlighted which is, in a sense, it’s good that we talk about it and we highlight it again, but it’s unacceptable behaviour. It happens all across society. We’ll work with the authorities and it has to be stopped. This way of discrimination, on social media, we can’t do a lot, can we? So we have to work with the platforms and have got to be stronger to make sure that we stop this.”
Do you think it is possible to stop it? Because social media companies would argue that there’s some sense of discretion, or hiding people’s identities has to happen because otherwise big corporations, even countries, can get hold hold of information. It seems like a vicious circle…
“Well, we all know life is freedom of speech, but this crosses the line of what is acceptable. It’s absolutely unacceptable in 2021, with the education. You feel the ignorance that they show, you feel sorry for them, I always say. We just have to help them and sometimes you help people by taking away the chance of expressing themselves, especially when they’re anonymous.”
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“We’ve made decisions that we feel have been good for individuals and for us as well. With the young players moving on - [James] Garner, [Tahith] Chong, [Teden] Mengi, [Facundo] Pellistri - getting the chance to play more football has been important for us. Our group is a tight-knit group, we don’t have too many players in excess, and hopefully Jesse [Lingard] can get going and do well at West Ham as well.”
The secret of doing well in the Premier League right now seems to be momentum. How many teams do you think are vying for this title? Is it the four that have broken away? Or because of momentum and the strange season can other clubs still win it?
“I think we should just focus on ourselves and take one game at a time, and not talk about any title. Just focus on playing well and keep improving, we have improved a lot. For us, it’s about getting the momentum back on and get performances and continue where we’ve been.”
Will there be any incomings today, or can you rule that out? With Phil Jones, you’ve said he’s been injured for a while now. He wasn’t included in the Premier League squad. What are your plans for him? Will he be included in the squad?
“I can confirm there will not be anyone coming in. Don’t stay up late! Phil has been recovering from an injury, a knee operation he had and he’s working hard to be available again. So, he will be included on the list and hopefully, he’ll get his fitness back sooner rather than later and be able to play.”
“I expect a similar team that we played against. It’s a strong XI - I know they have a lot of injuries, that’s to be expected over the course of the season with the football they play: high intensity, direct, loads of energy. They’ve just hit a moment with loads of injuries. When you get to that moment, with players coming back and there’s an injury in the squad and you have to come back too early. I’ve been lucky in that respect; I have a strong and healthy squad. I haven’t had to risk players and I’ve rotated when there have been risks. There have been a few times where I’ve had to leave players out. We’ve been lucky in that respect, we haven’t had injuries. Hopefully they can get theirs fit because this season is relentless.”
By your own high standards, it’s been two disappointing results now. What do you want to see against Southampton that has maybe been missing over those two games?
“We want to keep on trying to, of course, dominate games. We feel we’ve dominated them, but of course we need a bit of brightness and spark in the last third - take the chances. I don’t really like to bring these up, but the momentum shifted for us with the Sheffield United game, of course it did. I’ve got the delegate’s report through from the referee and both decisions were wrong. Their goal should have been disallowed and ours should have stood. That is a big momentum change for us. It’s more likely when you go 1-0 up than 1-0 down, that you can win that game. That’s fine margins. It has been the way this season: fine margins. You hit the post, it’s going to go in or go out. That’s the way it is all season. Sometimes you’re lucky decisions, sometimes you’re not. We just have to keep focusing on this game, do our job and I’m sure the results and performances will come.”
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“The mental side is vital in football. It is, for me, the be all and end all. Happy players, confident players will play better, of course they will. Life is as it is; the world is how it is. We know we’re privileged to be able to come and see each other every day in training and playing games. We’re lucky in that respect. The mood in the group is good, they’ve bonded really well in training and it’s a tight-knit group. We have 22/23 players who will rotate. Of course, everyone wants to play. The more we play well and perform, the more everyone will be happy. We’ll manage without. The sun will come out in Manchester one day, I’m sure.”
Amad Diallo really showed his qualities for the Under-23s and you’ve been talking about that he might get the chance to be included in the first-team squad in not too long. Just how impressed are you with him and how far is he now from a place in your squad?
“We’re going to give him the time to really settle in and keep showing his skills, improving and get time to adapt to England and our way. If we go from that game I would pick Joe Hugill. He scored four goals, he should have taken the penalty and got five, instead of giving it to Amad to get two. Amad has done well in training, he has good, close feet, he will open up defences. I don’t think it is going to be too long until he’s involved in a matchday squad.”