Ole & Maguire: Every word from the press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and captain Harry Maguire faced a host of questions from journalists on Monday, ahead of the Champions League match with RB Leipzig.
The Reds head into the clash knowing a point will be enough to secure our passage to the last-16 of Europe's elite tournament.
Answering questions via video link, Ole was quizzed on how to approach a game where we only need a draw, our ability to come from behind, the Reds' history in the last game of the group stage and what to expect from Leipzig.
Meanwhile, Harry was asked about our recent form, the improvement during his time at the club and the difference between the Champions League and Europa League.
Below, we've typed up every word from the pair's press conference...
Watch Solskjaer and Maguire's press conferenceVideo
“David [De Gea] is back in. Luke [Shaw] is travelling. Edinson [Cavani] and Anthony [Martial], they’re only minor niggles but they won’t be making the trip. Of course, getting to the final game of the group stage, you’re in the next round if you go and win that game or get a draw, so it’s an important game, of course it is.”
Just on your character and comeback wins away from home in the league - you obviously don’t want to go behind but that character is going to be vital tomorrow, isn’t it?
“Yeah, we’ve shown great character obviously to come from behind in all these away games this season in the Premier League. We need the character, the spirit, the confidence going into the game tomorrow against Leipzig, a team that is very good at home, but we’ve got great belief in ourselves that we can go there and get the result required to go through to the knock-out stages. That’s what we’re aiming to do.”
Ole, can you just talk to us about Mason Greenwood, please? I mean, obviously, there was a lot said about him earlier in the season, for various reasons, but the goal that he got on Saturday was outstanding and a reminder of what he can do…
“Mason’s a very talented forward. He’s one of the best finishers I’ve worked with and, when we can provide chances for him, or when he creates chances for himself with his movement, of course, we’ve got to give him the chance of scoring goals. He’s still young, still learning and he’ll only improve with quality and experience and the characters we have around him, in and around the team. So it’s, of course, exciting to work with him.”
“The inconsistency? In terms of results in the Premier League, they have been consistent of late so we’re not really focused on the inconsistency. I think that obviously you might be talking about falling behind and coming from behind, but apart from the West Ham game, where, in the first half, we didn’t play well enough, we’ve actually started the games really well. If we look back at the Southampton and Everton games, we played well in the first moments of the game, we just conceded at bad times and conceded bad goals, really. Set-plays, a lot of set-plays, which we need to tighten up on and things but we’re working hard. The consistency has been a lot better of late. The PSG game, we took positives from that game; we felt we deserved something from the game and we go into the game tomorrow confident. We’re ready, we feel prepared and the boys are ready to go.”
Are these the kind of games where there’s so much at stake, you expect your big players to step up and show why they’re Manchester United players, and show that mentality to deliver on the biggest stage with so much at stake?
“Of course, knock-out games like these that mean if you can go through or not, they’re big. The players here are Man United players because they have got the quality that we have looked for and I’m sure tomorrow night we will prove that that’s the reason why they’re here. We’ll show it. I think the character in the group is getting better and better and we’re looking forward to the game. It’s something that we want, games like this. It’s a tradition for Man United. We never make it easy for ourselves. Of course, we look at the games, especially the away game against Istanbul, that we could have got three points but that’s just the way we do things. We do make it hard for ourselves, that’s been here even since I played and that’s a long, long time ago.”
“First and foremost, I joined this club to play in the biggest games possible, so, as you said, the big players step up in those pressured games. So, for sure, that’s a statement which shows, over the years, that the big players step up in the big games. It’s a bit similar to Leicester last year where we had to go and get a result to reach the Champions League and we managed to do that, so we’ll take great confidence from that. But like I said, we feel ready, prepared and we’re looking forward to it.”
A question for you both - when you’ve beaten Leipzig so convincingly do you draw from that? Or do you just put it out of your minds and think: we go from scratch here? What’s the value of that performance, or is it something that you just ignore?
“You can’t ignore it. Of course, it’s a game that we will remember fondly because we did many things right. We need to do lots of things right again, and we should also correct the few wrongs that we had, and we will. We’ve prepared well, we know Leipzig well enough to know that they’re unpredictable in their shape or systems. But we know the players and the style they play in. We know it will be a very difficult game, a tough game, that we need to be at our best to get a good result from.”
Highlights: United 5 RB Leipzig 0Video
“The more good opponents you play against… the better opponents, you get used to playing against good teams. When you get through those games it’ll give you confidence. It gives us the trust and belief that we’ve done something right along the way. We just have to do our jobs tomorrow first, and let’s just see after that.”
How much of a factor is it that you only need a point in this game? Obviously a point at Old Trafford against PSG would have done it - same situation here. How do you approach the game knowing that is the context?
“Well, I think you have to approach the game as a 90-minute game. You know that anything can happen in any moment, so you can’t sit back and hope for a 0-0 draw. That’s not in our genes. It’s not in the team’s genes, it’s not in the club’s genes. We want to go out and win the game of football. I think we showed that against PSG, that we wanted to go out and create chances. You have to create chances to score goals and we’ll do that again.”
“I can only reiterate what the manager said. We spoke about it this morning, we go to the game wanting to win the game. We went into the PSG game… on another day we win the PSG game. We had three very, very good chances to go on and win that game. It wasn’t to be, and we take ourselves into the final game of the group. We go there looking to win. We look to win every game we play. For sure, we won’t be sitting back.”
Ole, when you were a player, a great part of that team was knowing that nothing was ever over, no game was never lost. Do you see that now with this team because there have been so many comeback wins, so many late wins? Do you see the same traits?
“You can definitely see those traits coming back and the belief coming. It’s all got to do with that belief. I don’t know how many times we’ve come back and how many goals we’ve scored in the last 10/15 minutes, but it’s a lot. That’s a big difference from last season. We spoke about it at the start of the season that we needed to get those extra points that can give us. This season, that has proved very important so far.”
How much have you seen this team progress, Harry, from your time here? Those of us who watch regularly, who are on here, have seen this steady progression - do you see that?
“Yeah, as players, we feel that. From when I first joined the club, I felt the progression, like you say, has been steady. But we’re working up the ladder. I feel that we’re getting that consistency in games more. I think that belief in games, where I feel we can go and win games is a lot better than it was when I first joined. I have a belief, as a defender, that we’re always going to score goals and create chances because we have so much talent in the team and so many goalscorers in the team. You speak about the belief in turning games around when we’re going one goal down. It shows great belief and character. I think it’s really important as a defender that we don’t make mistakes to concede the goals and get done on the counter-attack. I think it’s important that we give our forwards the best possibility and the opportunity to turn the game around and they’ve done it really well in recent games.”
Do you think that comeback ability can actually get into the heads of opponents as well, knowing this lot will never give up? Also, there have been a few incidents when group stages have gone down to the final game before. You’ve faced tough games away at Benfica, Basel and Wolfsburg and went out every time. Does your away record give you that extra confidence that you can avoid that again this time around?
“Yeah, it gives us confidence. I remember I played in one where we had to go away to Rapid Vienna and we won 2-0 in that game, so there are always, through history, times where it goes down to the last game and we didn’t expect when you saw this group, to be through before the last game. Of course, we could have done it ourselves before. We’re pleased to get here now and have this chance. What anyone else thinks about us, what the opponents think about us, I’m not sure. But of course, with the fitness we’re getting, with the spirit we’re getting and with the pace we’ve got, it’s great for us that we don’t give up. The character is getting into the team. I think Man United has a tradition and history - probably opponents would know about that as well, but that’s for someone else to answer. We’re just working hard to get into people’s heads that can happen, so they can’t switch off.”
Two days, 12 United goalsVideo
“Well, you play better teams and better players. That’s just a fact that if you finish higher in your leagues you go onto a tournament with all the best teams in the world, with the best players in world. It’s a challenge that we all want to be involved in. We haven’t even thought about the Europa League, we’re just fully focused on the game tomorrow. As a bunch of players, as we’ve said, we want to get through to the knock-out stages.”
“I’ve got to say the same; you want to play the best. You need to play against the best to steadily improve. That was a challenge for these boys. For me, as a manager, last season I had a Europa League to give to the players who played less. We rotated more. Of course, that’s another challenge to the boys, they don’t get that rest. But, that’s what it is to be a Manchester United player. You don’t get a midweek; you don’t get Saturday to Saturday to play. You play at the weekend; you play midweek, that’s how it is to be a Manchester United player and that’s what these players need now. So far, we’re getting better and better through all the good opponents, the preparation is better, you can see everyone’s smiles are sharper. It’s all pluses of course at this moment in time.”
Harry, I know it is a difficult group, but considering the prestige of Manchester United, do you think it’s not acceptable for the club to not be getting out of the group stage?
“Of course, we expect to get out of the group. Whatever teams are in our group, we expect to go through. We expect to go into every game and win the game, that’s the tradition and that’s what this club does. No, I think as a group of players we fully look to go through this group. Like I say, this is the last game where we’re in a good position and are confident. We look forward to the game. The one thing we can do is look after the performance and the performance will look after the result. That’s what we’re looking to do.”