Ole exclusive: They'll make us fight for every inch
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants his side to show plenty of fight in tonight’s Premier League home match against Burnley at Old Trafford.
In our exclusive interview, which took place at the Aon Training Complex on Tuesday, the Norwegian looked back on his two previous meetings with Sean Dyche’s side and called on his players to repeat our strong defensive performance from December’s 2-0 win at Turf Moor.
Read the full Q&A below to learn Solskjaer’s thoughts on Sunday’s defeat to Liverpool, the latest injury update and how United plan to tackle a busy end to January…
Ole, looking back on the weekend, why is it we lose a game and it always seems to be such a massive crisis in the media?
“Always is at Man United, because of expectations. Of course, we want to win, we’re disappointed we didn’t. But you know we go to a hard ground at the moment and we’re in the game until the last kick of the ball. The last 15, 20, 25 minutes we looked like getting back into the game and getting something from it, so I'm proud of the way we never gave in. We hung in there at times, early in the second half, but then we played well. There’s stuff there to look back on and think, we’re getting closer.”
And how’s the squad looking ahead of Wednesday night’s game?
“I don’t think there’s any other knocks in that game, so we should have the same players to be available against Burnley, which is positive.”
Obviously we have the disappointment of Marcus Rashford joining Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba on the sidelines, but you had Eric Bailly on the bench, Diogo Dalot made a late appearance and Luke Shaw was back, so it’s a positive to have those players available...
“Of course. We are stretched and some of the players have played a lot. They’re improving for it, they’ll reap the benefit because they get stronger physically, mentally more robust but of course it’s great having Eric and Diogo and Luke back in so we’ve got more choices. It’s a blow Marcus being out, but that’s football. That’s part and parcel of it. He’s been fantastic all season for us and unfortunately now we’ve got to do without him.”
We played Burnley three and a half weeks ago, so it’s a quick turnaround. Is it helpful to play them again so soon and what learnings did you take from that game?
“We played well against Burnley up there, we defended really well. It’s a very hard place to go to and I was very pleased with that win. It was a good clean sheet, we got the performance we wanted only two days after Newcastle. We made some changes for that one, we still might make some changes for this one too. It’s always beneficial when you’ve played them. Look back at it, we’ll see what we can do better, what went well – but they’ll do the same! We’re looking forward to it. We’re at home, we’ve done well at home lately and let’s keep that run going.”
They seem to have risen to the challenge of playing at Old Trafford. The last three visits were three draws, so how do you guard against that?
“We played them last year, I think we drew two each, but for me that was the first time I really saw the players’ character. Five minutes left, we’re 2-0 down but we never gave in. We put pressure on them, we scored two late goals and for me that was a great, great learning. We felt the connection between the fans and the players because the fans helped us get that last goal. Was it Victor who scored that last one? A tap-in? There’s a reason behind the grey hair and your heart struggling! Because those games are fantastic, but also painful.”
It’s always a physical challenge against them, isn’t it?
“Yeah, you’ve got to do the basics right. You’ve got to earn the right to beat Burnley, because they will make you fight for every little inch of grass on the pitch. We’ve got to play well, we’ve got to fight and stick together as we have done. The players have been absolutely fantastic as a group.”
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They’ll no doubt be buoyed by that win over Leicester, but as you mentioned before, we’ve scored eight goals in our last two league games at Old Trafford, so lots of positives for us…
“Yeah, lots of positives. But they’ve got a great result against Leicester now that they can look back on. They’ll come here with confidence but we’re confident as well.”
Finally Ole, games keep coming thick and fast. Is it just a case of focusing on the next four games, getting good results and then rest and recuperate in that winter break?
“Yeah, you can say there’s four games but you can’t take your eye off the one. And you’ve got to take this one, then we can look at the FA Cup, then it’s the [Carabao Cup] semi-final, then it’s the league and then we’ll have a break. So one game at a time.”
*Solskjaer was speaking on Tuesday morning and before it was confirmed Victor Lindelof had been sent home from training due to illness.
Manchester United’s Premier League game against Burnley kicks off at 20:15 GMT and you can follow live updates via our Official App.