Ole's opening-day Q&A!
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he and his Manchester United side are eager for the new season to start, especially after the disappointing end to the last campaign.
The Reds were denied Europa League final success in a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out with Villarreal, but those memories will fade at Old Trafford on Saturday when 75,000 fans are allowed back in to watch our clash with Leeds United.
We sat down with the boss before the season's big kick-off, discussing the impact of having a full attendance again, while Ole also gave fitness updates on several Reds, including new signing Jadon Sancho...
Ole first of all, always excitement on the eve of a new season. How are you feeling about it?
“Finally here, eh? You know it’s been a long summer. When you end the season like we did you can’t wait for the next game. Every time you lose a game you want to play again. For us it felt like we lost the last one and now finally we’re here.”
Obviously there are some exciting additions to the squad over the summer, but can you say when we’ll be likely to see the new players?
“Tom [Heaton] has done well. Jadon [Sancho] has come in and done very good this week. Maybe a little bit too early, I’ll see how he is. I’d say you’ll see him. He’s definitely involved in the squad.”
The players, I suppose, after a long summer at the Euros, some have been injured as well… I suppose they’ll inevitably take a bit of time to get up to full speed?
“There are different stages and players who have played a long season and then a tournament need time off as well. They’ve had between three and five weeks off, most of them. The last two weeks have been really good with more or less the whole group, so everyone’s more or less ready to contribute and play. Some have had great summers with football, getting to tournament finals. We’re a lot better equipped now than what I felt we were last season when we started.”
We spoke to Anthony this week and he said he might need a little bit of time to get to full speed after four or five months. Are there signs he’s coming back?
“Yes. I’ve seen that interview as well. He’s right. He seems very happy to be back. He’s really showing in training his determination. He’s played 45 minutes against Everton and he needed the first 10-15 minutes to get going. It was always the plan to play him for 45 and then now he’s ready for tomorrow.”
Some of the other players who’ve been away – Cavani of course and the lads in the Olympics – what’s their situation?
“Edi is in the country. He’s just finishing off his isolation period. He’s had a little bit extra time for personal reasons. Eric [Bailly] and Amad, they’re also in the country waiting to get the all-clear to join the team again. They’ve had a very exciting summer of course, been in the Olympics, played games before that as well, so they should be fit when they come.”
Jesse [Lingard] and Dean [Henderson] have been ill, of course, so how are they at this point?
“Jesse should be [doing a] test to release very soon, hopefully he’s got rid of the virus. Dean is still feeling a little bit the after effects, so we’ve had to shut him down a little bit and he’ll get going very soon.”
You mentioned in the summer as well, Phil Jones had been training and he might need to build up slowly in the Under-23s and all that. How’s he coming along after a long-term injury?
“I’m impressed by his resilience in training. We have to manage the workload early on. I’ve been part of that myself after being out for the best part of a year and a little bit more than that. He’s been so determined and worked so hard. Now is not the time to rush things; now is the time to really do the last bit perfectly. As I said, Reserve games, Under-23s, maybe behind closed doors. He’s already had in-house games against the 23s so it’s looking good.”
A lot of young lads were involved in pre-season. When do you decide what might happen with them? Whether some might go out on loan or whether you’re going to keep them…
“It’s a dynamic process. You’ve got to plan. We’ve said to many teams we’ve got to get through pre-season, get to the season when it starts and see how we look fitness-wise and injury-wise. Of course there’s still a chance one or two will be going on loan. There will be one or two going on loan.”
We're back to 75,000 [fans] for the first time in 17 months. Do you think that’s going to make a difference to our home record?
“100 per cent. I’m sure there will be books written and stats about this period without fans. but I think we see how much they mean. It’s not a cliché that they are the 12th man, and they are because how can you go an away season undefeated and lose six games at home, at Old Trafford? We’ve got the best fans. And they will give us energy definitely tomorrow. When you see the first tackle, shot or corner, our fans have always given us energy.”
This fixture last season finished 6-2. There weren’t any fans for that, but what do you expect in this one?
“You can never expect any game to be as they were, but of course that 6-2 game was an exciting game. Unfortunately no fans were there to see it. The away game [0-0] was still a game with exciting football, two good teams. It’ll live its own life, it always will. Who starts the best, how do we get going, margins. We can't wait to get going.”
We’ve been strengthened, our main rivals have been strengthened. When you look at the league overall, do you think it might end up being a title race with three or four in it? Could it be one of those seasons where there’s plenty of people involved?
“100 per cent. The league has strengthened. I think the Premier League always shows it strength and [you can see] how much interest there is, and everything about the Premier League… it is the best league in the world. You have two finalists in the Champions League last year, we end above the winners. Liverpool have had a great year and you’ve got teams underneath who have spent well and wisely, so when you start the Premier League it’s about building momentum, consistency and hopefully getting results early on.”