Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being interviewed by MUTV

Solskjaer exclusive: Why we're ready for LASK away

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained why his Manchester United players are fully prepared for the challenges that will be posed by this evening's Europa League last-16 match against LASK.

Following guidance from the Austrian Government, due to the current coronavirus pandemic, it has been confirmed that this evening’s first leg at Linzer Stadion will be played behind closed doors.

The venue normally holds up to 21,000 fans, yet there will be no noise when United walk out tonight and Solskjaer states his players must
“create our own atmosphere”
in the venue, while tapping into recent experiences of playing behind-closed-doors friendlies at the Aon Training Complex. 

As Ole explains in this exclusive interview with MUTV's Stewart Gardner in Austria, our preparation has also been helped by intelligence from January signing Bruno Fernandes, who faced LASK with his former club Sporting Lisbon earlier this season. Check out our Q&A in full…

Firstly, Ole, what will it be like to play behind closed doors?
“We just have to handle it and create our own atmosphere and make sure we don’t get distracted by that. It’s always miles better to play with fans. It’s how football should be played.”
Some things are bigger than football so we have to get on with the job in hand…
“I think so. You’ve got to just listen to the authorities, of course. This is bigger than just one game. It’s a difficult situation for everyone but we’ve got to go with what we’re told.”

Have you ever played in front of no supporters before?
“No, I don’t think so. I played in Norway for a while [laughs] and that’s the same! No, I played in front of 50 people when I was 21. These boys have had some other experiences.”

What sort of impact will it have – players sometimes respond to the fans so it will be very strange, won’t it?

“They’ve played in games on the training ground behind closed doors, when we invite different teams. We’ll make sure we’re ready and have the team spirit and atmosphere within the team, knowing it’s a very important game for us, and focus on playing football.”
What is the team news?
“I think it’s a strong squad, we’re coming here with a team that’s going to challenge. We know that we have three, maybe four cup finals, before the international break. We have one or two [players] out but that is how football is. We’re looking forward to the game. Some players are champing at the bit to get a chance because the team is in good form.”

How difficult is it to pick the right team when you’re looking ahead to a big game against Spurs on Sunday?
“It’s easier now when you have loads of players fit and playing well, having a squad full of players who work together. Of course, it’s difficult and you can’t plan three or four days ahead because, tomorrow, something might happen to some of the players. We’ve got to go with what we think is good enough to win this game.”

Solskjaer's fitness updateVideo

You won’t be treating LASK lightly, of course, will you?
“Absolutely no chance. They are ahead of Salzburg in the league. We’ve seen them knock out Alkmaar quite easily, really comfortably. This is a tough game. They play a certain style of football they are used to – high energy, high tempo, they’re very good at set-pieces and know the system. So this is going to be a challenge for our boys.”

Bruno knows all about them having played against them for Sporting Lisbon in the competition…
“To be fair, when we got the draw, it was useful that Bruno was there. He said it’s going to be a very tough game. They lost against them but won 2-1 at home. They lost away from home but obviously he mentioned he didn’t play in that one! He said it will be a hard game for us and the players must be ready.”

Finally, everyone must have been on a real high after the derby victory at the weekend…
“Yeah but then you don’t have time to be on a high for too long. You dust yourselves off and get ready for the next one. That’s the challenge, you have to kick on and treat this as the start of the season. Yes, it was a fantastic day with the fans and the team. We beat City again and it was a great atmosphere, seeing Scotty sliding on his knees in front of the Stretford End was unbelievable. [But] it’s gone. Nothing becomes history quicker than a football game. It’s not like we’re 1-0 or 2-0 up against LASK because of this. We’ve got to start well, play well and do our job.”

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