Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mason Greenwood.

Read every word from Ole and Mason's press confrence

Wednesday 17 February 2021 15:02

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mason Greenwood both fielded questions from journalists on Wednesday afternoon ahead of our return to European action this week.

Manchester United take on Real Sociedad in the first leg of our last-32 Europa League tie and the pair were asked a range of questions ahead of the clash.

Mason, who answered the first four questions, was quizzed on his reaction to signing a new contract, where he believes is his best position and what it's like to learn from Edinson Cavani.

Ole handled the majority of the press conference and was asked about our strikers' form, the latest team news, Juan Mata's fitness, what threats the Spanish side will pose, his defensive tactics and much more.

Below is every word from the briefing...

Watch the press conference in full Video

Watch the press conference in full

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mason Greenwood preview our Europa League last-32 tie with Real Sociedad…


Congratulations on the new contract. What does it mean to have the backing of a club like Manchester United if you've come through the ranks? And you were so fantastic last season, do you believe you're getting close to those levels again now?
"Yeah, 100 per cent. I feel like I'm getting back up to my stride from last season. Having been there from the age of seven, that thought will always be in the team when I play. Hopefully I can get back to the standards of last season and I'm working hard in training every day with all the coaches."

Congratulations on the contract. You played brilliantly as a centre-forward in the youth teams but you've probably played more off the right in the first team. Long term, where do you want to end up? Do you want to play more through the middle?
"I don't mind. I can play anywhere across the front three. I can play on the right, up front, even sometimes on the left. For me, it's about adapting to where I'm needed. If it's on the right, I don't mind, and I just take it as it comes."

After last season, how difficult or not have you found it to cope with the increased attention? You went a little bit below the radar when you started scoring goals last season, but now everybody know you...
"It's a challenge. I feel when you play in the first season, not many of the players know what you're going to do. Sometimes they analyse your performances, but in the second season you need to have a few more tricks up your sleeve and do as much as you can."

I was just wondering how it works among the strikers, do you work together on finishing? How much has Edinson Cavani brought to your game, and also the man on your right?
"Obviously, both were amazing players. Obviously, Edi is still playing and it's good to have both of them around you on the training pitch. I've been watching Edi; he's a top striker. I've been watching his movement, the way he heads the ball, the way he gets into the right positions. It's always good to have a player like that and it's good to listen to him and hear what he has to say about finishing."


What does the squad look like? Is there anyone not travelling? Can you give us some clarity on the nature of Paul Pogba's injury and when we can expect to see him again?
"Paul, he's recovering well. He's started the treatment. He'll still be a few weeks, so he won't be playing in February, that's for sure. Still a few weeks until we see Paul definitely. Apart from that, We have a few doubtful ones if they'll be fit enough: Anthony [Martial] and Scott [McTominay]. We'll have to check them about tomorrow. Donny [van de Beek] and Edinson are definitely not travelling."

Just coming back to Mason's position, where do you see him long term? Do you see him being more of a centre-forward leading the line?
"I think Mason was a bit shy there because he can play as a no.10 as well as one of two shadow strikers. He can play right, centre-forward, 10 and then at a stretch maybe on the left side. We just have to give him time to find his final position. He's a forward that moves really well along the line. At the moment, at his age and at his level physically, sometimes you don't want to be right in the mix, right in the middle with big brutal centre-backs next to you. I think we've found that he can play both really. That'll be in the next year or two we'll have to find out if he's going to be a forward or a no.10 drifting inside, or as a second shadow striker. But in and around the goal definitely, we need him there. His link-up play and his general play has improved a lot."

We've seen the progression of the team as a whole over the course of this season, but do you think you're getting enough goals from your four strikers? In the league, particularly, it's only 19 and that seems to be the missing link. We saw chances at West Brom where you could have won the game and is that happening quite often?
"We are the team that has scored the most goals in the league and you're right that our forwards haven't scored as much as we'd like. For me, that's a big positive that we are now into the final stretch of the season and if we can get them firing again, that will give us another edge in the games. We know in the last four or five games we haven't been at our best. We're waiting for them to show what they show in training. As Mason said, they're working hard, working well and they have got the class and the qualities but maybe the form hasn't been the best. But they will come, and that's a positive thing. That means we've had goals from other places and other positions which is an improvement on last season. If we can marry these two bits together and perhaps defend a bit better then we can be successful this season."

You've been frustrating and brilliant in Europe this season, how good are you going to have to be to beat Sociedad and how dangerous are they, bearing in mind their form coming into this tie?
"You've got to be very good against Sociedad. As I said when the draw was made, it's probably the hardest you could pick from our unseeded group. They were top of La Liga for a while, now they're still in the hunt for the Champions League for next year. They have got some top players, some very experienced players and some very good ones. So we have to play at a high level to get a good result, of course we do because the Spanish league is also a quality one."

Man United haven't managed to win the last nine European meetings against Spanish opposition, losing in six of them. Do you think this is just a coincidence or is this something for you to worry about, and the Man United supporters to worry about as well?
"It's probably down to the level of team we've played against, the quality of teams. Spanish teams are good, make no mistake about that, they are good teams and we haven't performed well enough, that's for sure. We have to perform very well to beat a Sociedad team who are aggressive defensively, they're very good on the ball, have got good pace. They have loads of the ingredients of a top team. We don't go into games worrying, but we know we need to play well to get a result."

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The club shared that Juan Mata was back in training yesterday and he's not been involved for a few weeks. Has he been ok and has he still got a big role to play in the next few months?
"He’s been away for a little while. Of course, against West Brom you’re thinking can we have someone to unlock the door. If we had Juan there, to create that pass, because he has done well in the earlier part of the season, Juan. Now he’s back, he’s travelling with us. He’s been bright in training, so if we see Juan on the pitch he’ll want to prove to his Spanish fans as well what a quality player he is."

Going back on Cavani and van de Beek, why are they not travelling? Also, it's been another weekend where Anthony Martial has been abused. Do you have to talk to him about it? How does he deal with that situation?
"Donny and Edinson are injured, unfortunately. Muscle injures, so they won't travel. Anthony, I've spoken to him this morning. Yeah, he's mentally strong and of course, it's not something that anyone should have to go through. He's not checking all the Instagram or social media. But it's disgusting and we've talked about in every press conference for the last three or four weeks, or every time now, so there's something we have to do about it."

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You've attracted some of the biggest talents in the world recently in Amad Diallo and the contract with Mason. Can you explain your role in convincing those players to come to Man United and that is the best place to develop into a superstar and a very good player?
"We give them the chance to come to Man United and have a successful career. Us as a club, we've proven over the years that's something we take seriously and it's something we are good at. We are a club that like to give chances to young players and develop and find a talent. Our fans, our history has always been about attacking players, skilful players that you play with no fear. These are players that we have identified to carry that tradition. My role is to speak and put a clear pathway for them to say this is what we did. We've shown over the years with the previous managers - Sir Alex [Ferguson] was the best with producing the best players in the world, bringing them [in]. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were young. Of course we developed [Ryan] Giggs, [David] Beckham, [Gary] Neville and that group ourselves. We have still got Marcus Rashford, we have Mason coming through. All these experiences help me as a manager when I want to try and convince players that here is the future for you. I like to give them a chance. If you follow my career as a coach, that is one of the biggest enjoyments, seeing a player as a young man and then seeing him successful at the highest level, both Norwegians that you work with and here."

I'd like to pick up on something you said earlier that you'd like to defend better. You used the term recently 'layer by layer' which is your process of getting your team to build new processes and get better over time. Could you share a little bit of the layers that you're starting to use for defence?
"Yeah, of course. In periods we've been a very good counter-attacking team. We've had good results and good performances with defending deeper. I think the last year and a half we have worked on getting the ball higher up, giving the opposition less time to peg us back. That's something we've improved on as another layer. Now can we find the balance? Can we marry the two, the high press, the low press and the mid block and being more dangerous at the counter-attacking, by winning the ball in good positions? Not just to defend, but to win them in good positions to attack from. That's always been part of Man United to be able to attack quickly. Then if you can't finish, you need to keep the ball up there."

When you talk about winning the ball high up, is that harder to do in a COVID-affected season where you have less time on the training pitch?
"One hundred per cent, of course. It's about freshness, about energy. We can see in our stats that we have improved immensely on our fitness, but the relentlessness of the season has given us a challenge to recover between every single game. I think you see teams that if you have a week or 10 days between games, then you have a rest and you'll see the benefits of it. We'll see the benefits of it at one point."