Solskjaer exclusive: How we must play at Anfield
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants his players to perform with confidence, courage and arrogance in today's Premier League blockbuster against Liverpool at Anfield.
That is the message the boss delivers in our exclusive pre-match interview, conducted at the Aon Training Complex on Friday, when quizzed on the plan that he has formulated for the trip to Merseyside.
As you can read in the Q&A below, Solskjaer began by discussing Ashley Young's transfer to Internazionale, Harry Maguire's appointment as club captain and the latest injury updates...
Ole, what can you say about Ashley Young joining Inter Milan?
“Yeah, I think so. When this situation came up, and the options we’ve got at full-back - you’ve got Brandon Williams who has really come through and developed. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been fantastic. Luke Shaw is potentially one of the best left-backs in England, for me. Then we’ve got Diogo Dalot and Tim Fosu-Mensah, they’re both fit. You’ve got loads of full-backs.
“Ashley’s mindset was that he wanted to try a new adventure and he he’s approaching 35 now. He’s done a fantastic job and he’s served this club fantastically. I think it was an opportunity for him that we had to say yes to. We got a transfer fee for someone who’s been so loyal to the club. Good luck. That’s what Manchester United do, you have players for a long time and then they move on and someone else steps in.”
“He’s had a great impact and he’s a great personality. He’s a leader - we’ve got leaders in the group, different types of leaders. We’ve got Marcus Rashford, who’s a young boy showing leadership skills. We’ve got Scott McTominay, David De Gea and Juan Mata, they’ve been around for so long now. Harry has come in and he’s playing every game, he’s fit and he’s leading that dressing room.”
You’ve said you don’t know if Marcus Rashford is going to be fit, but you’ll want him playing a lot in the months to come. Do you have to balance getting him ready and keeping him for other games?
“We’ve got so many games to come. We’ll give him the time he needs to give him a chance for Liverpool because it’s a big game and Marcus wants to play in the big games. Let’s see.”
The guys who have been out for a while - Eric Bailly, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, how are they getting on?
“Axel had a setback but he’s working his way towards fitness. Eric and Tim are fit and available. Luke is on the training pitch today [Friday] to see how he is. He’s been ill and he’s had a little issue. Diogo is back and Marcos is still not ready. He had a bad calf injury that took longer than we expected.”
“For me, first home game at Old Trafford is the one I always look for. But Liverpool and City are the two games that you really look for and ask when they are. Now it’s come and it’s here. It’s a great challenge for us, a fantastic challenge for the boys to check where we’re at against the league leaders. They’ve done so well, Liverpool, to stay consistent. Away at Anfield, it’s a great opportunity for the boys.”
What was your experience at Anfield as a player? Even when we were far superior we still found it difficult there…
“It’s a difficult place to go and get a result. I’ve not been there for a few years, but we beat them there a few times, I think we won 2-0, 3-1 and maybe a draw. I think I’ve lost there as well, but all the defeats are forgotten.”
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Gary Neville has always said it’s the hardest place for a United player to go…
“It is a difficult place to go to and you’ve got to respect the atmosphere, but none of them are on the pitch, so it’s still 11v11. We, mentally, have to prepare for all the noise around and we’ve got to there and have a plan. How do we manage this game? The best we can and we have a plan.”
The plan did work at Old Trafford this season and we’re the only team to get a point this season against Liverpool. Do you have to come up with a plan beforehand?
“That was one way we played and then we played differently last year. As a manager, I’ve had Liverpool on the opposite side twice and we’ve had different ways of approaching it. Just go there and have the confidence, the courage and the arrogance - in a good way. Go there and believe in yourself.
“Handle the crowd, handle your team-mates. There are going to be tackles flying in - it’s a local derby. Just win your individual battles and stay emotionally in the game. Control yourselves and just play the game.”
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“Yeah. They played against Liverpool before, in the Academy, growing up and they know what it’s about. I’ve got no fear playing them.”
The front three of Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford has scored more goals than Liverpool’s front three. That must give you optimism?
“For sure. They’re exciting and they’re very good players. They’re very good people who want to improve. As Manchester United manager and a supporter, it’s exciting to know we’ve got these players tied down to long contracts and we can build on something there and then add with one or two. That’s what Manchester United is about, we’ve got players to excite the crowd, to get them off their feet and to impress. They’re still young and in the next few years I think we’ll see more and more of them.”
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“He’s a great manager and he’s done a great job. He did a rebuilding job and he started almost from scratch. We’ve started something, we want to get back to challenging for the league. They are now challenging for the league, so well done. He’s a very nice man, as well. He’s a good manager and, of course, we do respect them. They have proven with their results and performances that they do deserve that respect. I think we’ve shown them in the games that I’ve been here that we do prepare very well.”
Manchester United’s Premier League game against Liverpool kicks off at 16:30 GMT and you can follow live updates via our Official App.