Ole exclusive: Homegrown duo to bring the power
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe have returned from injury lay-offs looking fitter and stronger.
The Academy products appear to have maximised their time out by working hard in the gym, with McTominay already back in action after coming off the bench in the 3-0 victory against Watford at the weekend.
Tuanzebe may require an Under-23s outing before he gets into the side again but both are providing options to the boss in advance of the Europa League last-32 tie against Club Brugge, with the scoreline at 1-1 after the first leg in Belgium.
In this interview with our lead MUTV commentator Stewart Gardner, Ole discusses the physical growth of both players and also explains how he is still pushing Anthony Martial to get better...
First of all Ole, is it nice to have a lot of players to choose from because from what we saw there were 27 out there at training?
"Yeah, we have a big, strong squad and everyone is like eager or you could call it desperate to be part of this team. Odion coming in, Bruno coming in, Scotty back fit, Timothy and Axel back training with us, the squad becomes bigger and the competition becomes harder with more demands when you’re on the pitch."
Scott came off the bench at the weekend – is he ready for more minutes?
"He’s ready for more minutes than the 10-15 he got the other day. He’s training really hard and has come back, if possible, more motivated and ready for the last part of the season."
Scott and Axel are looking massive, physically bigger – has that been something they’ve been working on when they were out injured?
"Well, when you’re injured, you can’t be out on the pitch running around so you do different things and programmes. You’ve got to be positive and say where can I make the difference for me now? What can make me a better player? If I can’t be on the pitch running, what can I do? They have both been building up and ready and physically fit, as you say, because it’s a strong part of their game. They’ve got to be good one on one, making challenges and winning challenges and, yes, they are looking strong."
There were changes in Brugge and a fresh performance against Watford. We’re playing on Sunday again so what will the approach be?
"Win it. Win the game. That’s all that matters. It’s a knock-out competition and we’ve got to find a team that is going to create enough chances, to score goals and win games. And a team that is not going to concede chances. We want to look like a strong, energetic, aggressive Manchester United team."
Hopefully, it will be Thursday-Sunday for the rest of the season but somehow it always feels different to Wednesday-Saturday…
"It is different. Sunday games and Thursday night is a different pattern to the week. You don’t have Saturday night at home with the family, you have them at a hotel, for example. But we want these games. We’ve got a strong squad and now it’s up to me to rotate and, when the players get chances, for them to be ready when they get them. I just want the rhythm of playing games and them getting match fit."
Anthony [Martial] is in great form – how much work do you do with him as a no.9 as he seems to be relishing that role now and it’s different to playing wide?
"If you’re a wide forward, you’re facing forwards more and running at people. Now he’s in a different position, where it is more physical and you’ve got to be stronger with your back to goal and be more patient. It’s your job to be in the box when the ball arrives. I’m still at him. I demand more of him. Sometimes, the ball is squared across the six-yard line and it’s where he should be. I just nudge him and say: ‘It should have been a goal for you’. Scoring 25 instead of 15 is a big difference for a no.9."
Brugge drew with Real Madrid and only lost narrowly at PSG in the Champions League – they won’t have anything to lose will they?
"Obviously, the expectation of Manchester United, and of most of the footballing world, is to expect us to go through. But I’m sure they will have an expectation to go through and want to go through. They’ve got to come here, score goals and beat us. I think that bodes for a good game. We want to win at home and want to improve as a team. They need to win the game or at least 2-2 and a score draw. Hopefully, it will be a good game of football."
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Nobody has scored at Old Trafford in the Europa League this season and we’ve kept five out of six clean sheets [in all competitions] so how much confidence do you have?
"It’s a foundation to build performances from. If you concede goals, you need to score more goals and we’ve got many individuals at the back playing really well. The keepers, the full-backs, centre-backs and as a unit, we’re getting more solid and more compact. When I’m on the touchline, I’m stood watching and not confident until the game is gone and then, clean sheet, and a pat on the back. Concentration and focus. That is what it’s about – in both boxes."
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