Every word from Ole's press conference

Tuesday 28 September 2021 15:30

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer met with the media on the eve of our Champions League group-stage tie against Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Off the back of defeat to Young Boys on matchday one of this season's competition, the Reds are keen to get off the mark in Group F during the Spaniards' visit to M16 this midweek, and that is a message that Ole emphasised during his pre-match press conference. 

The boss spoke about the squad's desire to make a winning return to European action come Wednesday evening, while providing the latest team news and more, when talking to journalists via video link. 

We've got every word for you, from the call, below...

Hi Ole, what’s the situation with the team and in particular Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire?
“Luke has been in today, so I'll give him a chance to be involved tomorrow. He didn't train with the team. Harry is more or less definitely out, it doesn’t look good. Apart from that, from the bruised pride from the [Aston Villa] result, we should be ready to go.”

Press Conference: Villarreal (H) Video

Press Conference: Villarreal (H)

See Ole Gunnar Solskjaer field questions from journalists ahead of the Villarreal encounter...

What exactly is the situation with Harry then, how long are you expecting him to be out? Your defence is obviously looking a bit weakened tomorrow with Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] also suspended…
“Yeah, it's his calf, that might take a few weeks. So, let's see how quickly he recovers, of course he was hoping to play against Villarreal, he missed the last game we played against them, then again that’s football for you. With [Aaron] suspended, we'll have to make a few changes.”

Scott [McTominay] and Fred have got a very good record together, in terms of winning games, not lost many games, but there seems to be from some fans a sense of uproar that they do start together. From your perspective, why do you play them as often as you do?
“First of all, the stats for them two together, we've had many good results. The energy they give us, the way they broke up play against Villa. I think they're very instrumental in that respect, [they have] energy and desire too. There's two I can trust that can always give you what they've got. Fans will always have an opinion on any team selection. When you’ve got good players, like me, it’s easy to say who should be playing, it’s harder to leave players out.”
What do you expect from Villarreal and the game tomorrow?
“Well, you expect what you have learned about Villarreal, the last few seasons and of course, we had a final against them not long ago, which we remember not too fondly. As clubs, we've played each other five times and every game has been a draw, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0 and 1-1, and unfortunately, they win the penalty shoot-out, they’re very well organised, [they’ve got] very good individual players, tactically, or technically, very good. You see so many times that they play from the back, play with the technically gifted players they have, it's hard to press against them which I thought we did well against them in the final – pressed up against them quite well, won the ball a few times. Difficult to create chances against them of course and we have to be better than we were in the final. We have to be better on the decisions, better on the passing, better on the quality, maybe more tempo to create chances. It was a very even final.”

I don’t think it’s the time for knee-jerk reactions but the fact that you lost your first game, does that increase the pressure on you to get a positive result tomorrow? Even though it’s just one game and very early, if you end up with one point or no points from two games, suddenly it becomes very difficult…

“Yeah, you're right. It's a group stage, there’s only six games, you need 10, maybe 12 points to go through most likely and we lost three points last time. Atalanta and Villarreal drew last time too, Villarreal [getting] one point at home maybe isn’t enough for them to say a draw [on Wednesday] is good enough for them either. It's two teams that will be going for three points. If you end up with zero or one point from the first two games, you need to win the last four, probably. It's still not a must-win game but it's a very important game definitely. As I said after Young Boys, home games, if you get three wins at home and you win one away game, you should be through. The focus is on three points, we've been looking at Villarreal again of course, looking at the final, looking at what we can do better, what was good in that game and we’ll get a good response from the weekend of course.”
Varane faces the media Video

Varane faces the media

French centre-back Raphael Varane spoke Spanish at the press conference but no problem, we have English subtitles...

You talked about the injury to Harry Maguire and Villarreal went to a five at the back against Real Madrid at the weekend, would that be something that you would maybe think about changing the system to play against them?
“Well, you always look at the opposition, and sometimes you have to make adjustments because of them, bigger adjustments, sometimes you just tweak it. For us, we always look at ourselves though, probably 80-20 ourselves and make sure we play better. But of course, the more injuries you get in defence, you might have to do tactical changes, formations – that can happen. I've got Eric [Bailly], Raphael [Varane], Victor [Lindelof] – three very good centre-backs that I can chose from and still Alex [Telles] and Diogo [Dalot] are not 100 per cent fit. Hopefully, Luke can be involved but we’re not sure yet.”

The pressure almost rises when you lose a couple of games and your former team-mate Gary Neville has called for a clearer style of playing and claims that you’re not playing well enough as a team to, for example, win the league. What’s your comment on his comment?
“I've not read that and not heard it but of course you're working on your style of play, you’re working on patterns, your in-possession game, your out-of-possession game. The Aston Villa game, we broke up play really well defensively, maybe attacked too fast. We want fast attacking play. Gary [Neville] knows that and everyone that has been associated with Man United know we want to keep the tempo up and attack quickly when we can. Maybe we did it too fast because if you look at the stats, I don’t think I’ve seen any games with less efficient playing time. Forty-five minutes effective playing time the ref gave us, probably one of the lowest I’ve seen. Normally you’re up to 55 or 60 but that’s maybe because we finished the attacks too quickly. Same with Villa, they did. [We need] more control. If you slow it down too much, it might be against a low block again defending. We know Villarreal will definitely defend well and be hard to play against. We need to play quickly. Gary knows the DNA here at the club and what we are trying to do.”

Solskjaer backs midfield pairing


The boss has explained why he trusts the Fred and Scott McTominay partnership.

Just following on from that last question, you more than anyone know about the pressure and expectation at Manchester United both as a player and now a manager, and that scrutiny of course intensifies when you go through a sticky patch like you have been with three defeats in four. But what makes you convinced that you’re on the right path? You’ve made progress season-on-season since you’ve been here, but what makes you convinced that you’re on the right track and why should supporters continue to have faith, despite this sticky period you’re going through?
“Of course, my focus is always to win the next game, short term and also think long term about squad building, keep improving, keep getting better. My focus now has just been on winning these games, getting back on track in the group because we didn’t start well enough with the defeat away from home, and then we focus on the league again from Thursday morning. The position in the league, we would have loved to have got one or three points [on Saturday] and go top of the league, but we’re still up there. The season so far has started okay in the league, Champions League we know we need to do better. With the squad, the coaches I’ve got, I still believe we can improve, and we will get that consistency.”

You have spoken about Villarreal and Manchester United always drawing in their games, 0-0, 1-1. But now you have Cristiano [Ronaldo], who was the best weapon when he was at Real Madrid, he scored 13 goals against Villarreal. Do you think he can be the key to finally win against Villarreal?
“Yes, of course, Cristiano, you can almost say when you start with Cristiano, it's almost one guaranteed goal. He has that record in his career that he will score goals, 13 goals against Villarreal in 14 or 15 games against Villarreal means he enjoys playing against them. Of course, now, he knows [Raul] Albiol from Real Madrid, [Pau] Torres, they’re top, top defenders. So, it’s not going to be easy but it’s not going to be easy to play against Cristiano either, he’s determined to score goals every time he goes on the pitch. For us, I know we will improve with Cristiano. The more he gets to know the team, and the way we play, the better we will become and the more goals and chances he will get as well but we have to play well to create chances.”
Champions League ready Video

Champions League ready

See how the Reds are preparing for Wednesday's key tie with Villarreal...

Sorry to throw in another few comments from your old team-mate Gary Neville, but he’s had quite a lot to say the last week or so… 
“He always has! He’s always got loads to say, Gary, I’m used to Gary, he’s always said a lot when I was sat next to him in the dressing room as well so fire away…”

What he’s said this time is that you and Manchester United have to win a trophy this season or next because of the backing you’ve had from the board and the strengthening you’ve had in the squad via the transfer window. That heaps the pressure on you, what do you want to say to your old team-mate about that idea?
“That pressure is a privilege. To work in this environment, you have to embrace that pressure. If he says we need to win a trophy this season or next, well because of the backing, I have to say yes, I have been backed and the progress and the process has worked well. With the backing I've got, it seems to me that we're sticking to that plan. But we’re in a results business, we're here to win, to get up there. Clearly, we've improved, expectations have improved with the signings, with the better performances. I'm here to win, don't think twice about that and Gary knows that, of course I speak to Gary as well. Here at this club, we have an obligation to win and we have an obligation to win in a certain style of play and the way we want. Sometimes, that’s risky and you lose one or two. Lately, maybe we've lost one or two games, changed the team in the Carabao Cup, that's the consequences, you’re out of the cup. But that’s the way to do things and we’ll get there. Hopefully, we’ll get there around April, May, challenging for these trophies we’d like to see back at Old Trafford.”