Exclusive: Solskjaer previews Basaksehir visit
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggests Manchester United have learned from the defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey earlier this month, ahead of the rematch at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
While United still sit top of Group H, and likely only need four points from our remaining three fixtures to qualify for the knockout stages, the memory of being caught twice on the counter by the Owls in losing 2-1 is still fresh and something Ole was keen to point out in his exclusive pre-match interview with Stewart Gardner.
The manager also discussed what should be an emotional return to Old Trafford, even without fans, for former Red Rafael da Silva and answered questions on Paul Pogba's fitness, his rotation plans and how United go about securing victory at home...
Ole, I will start with the team news. Firstly, anything from the weekend of concern?
“We hope that the lads will recover quickly. Luke [Shaw] is out, Phil Jones is obviously out still. Jesse [Lingard] is still self-isolating because he’s been in contact with a COVID positive [person]. He’ll be back soon. Apart from that we have one or two little niggles that we’ll have to make a decision on towards the end. I hope Paul is going to be available.”
Good, so that's nothing too serious?
“He trained this morning. [He was] still a little bit uncomfortable and [there was] some pain so we’ll make a decision on that in the morning.”
Not asking for your selection and whether you’ll shuffle your pack, but with the run of fixtures do you have to make some changes?
“If you think long term, throughout the season, you have to make sensible rotations now. Short term who’s got niggles and illnesses, of course you’ve got to take them into consideration. Then again we need points. We’ve won two league games now on the bounce after the disappointment of the last Istanbul game, so we want to carry on winning. We’ve had a good start in the group, six points, top of the group so far but the next two games obviously will be very important for us in the group. We’ll make a decision in the morning but we need to have a better performance than last time.”
What did you learn from that first game?
“We learned a few things. Obviously that Istanbul are a good team. The Turkish champions away from home is never an easy game. We’ve experienced that many times at Man United. So many times we’ve had their fans as well to contend with. This time we didn’t have the fans but it was just a contest between two teams and they caught us on the break too many times, especially first half where they had two goals we should have avoided. They had one or two other moments as well.”
They’ve got a bit of Premier League know-how as well. I’ll talk about Rafael specifically in a moment, but they have got Premier League experience…
“Yeah, Demba Ba played really well and Martin Skrtel as well. The two of them showed their experience and their value to the team. We knew about them, we knew that they are seasoned professionals who have been around the block and they showed their quality. In the rest of the team there are Turkish internationals, Bosnian internationals, Norwegian internationals. There’s good players there and of course it’s always good to see Rafa. He’s such a fantastic boy, but I want to see a smile on my face rather than his face after the game this time.”
He loves United still and he always strikes me as such an infectious character. Is that what you think too?
“Oh yeah, he’s a Red through and through. I was disappointed when we let him go because he’s such a valuable player and person to have in and around the group. He’s just one of those players with Man United DNA so he knows what we feel about him and what I feel about him. We’ll have a good conversation after the game. It’s a fantastic family and of course I signed Fabio for Cardiff, so I’ve enjoyed their company many times.”
Could you always tell them apart, or not?
“Actually, to be fair, I did, yeah. Obviously their playing style was similar and the resemblance is there. We always spoke about why don’t we play one of them in the first half and one of them in the second half, and no-one will notice! But they have their unique traits, both of them.”
It wasn’t the result you wanted in Istanbul but it’s still a very strong position in what is a really hard group, isn’t it?
“If you say six points after three games, halfway through, you’re more than halfway to getting the points tally you need normally. It’s a good start, but we know this one is an important game. We have to perform better than we did last time. It’s not good enough for us as one point would have made a difference for us in that game as well. We go into this and we have to attack at home, put them under pressure and create chances. Get crosses in or get men in the box, we need to go about them.”