United v Club Brugge: Ole's press conference
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has held his press conference to preview Thursday night’s Europa League round of 32 second leg against Club Brugge at Old Trafford.
Here, you can read a full transcript of the manager’s media briefing at the Aon Training Complex…
Ole, you look like you have pretty much a full-strength squad, so was there anyone out there who won’t be available for tomorrow?
“We had a couple of knocks in training but hopefully they’ll be ok. But, we’ve got a strong and fit 25-man squad and it was a good session. We’re looking stronger.”
How are Tim Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe recovering?
“They are getting close to a Reserve match or a behind-closed-doors match. We need them to play in that kind of game before we use them in the first team.”
“I think we need to just take one game at a time. Of course, both are possible, but in a cup competition you never know. It might be a bad day, you meet someone. We take one game at a time and hopefully take as many points in the league. As I said, in the cup you can’t predict. You can’t rely on ‘we’ll this’. They’re a good teams in it - Brugge, we’ve got to get past these - and we’re looking forward to the game.”
With the luck you’ve had with injuries this year, is it good to have more options? People like Luke have had to adapt to a new defensive system…
“I think the squad has coped really well with the amount of games. I’ve said it many times before, the attitude, character and personality of them is improving. Especially, December and January were two tough months. Now we’re getting some freshness back and I think we’re looking shaper for it. Luke was out for two months and he’s done really well in a new position. It’s mixing between left-back and the left side of centre-back… He runs forward more as a left centre-back than as a full-back. I’ve been very pleased with him there.”
“My youngest is training in the Academy tonight, so I’ll spend a few hours watching him and there are some Champions League games, and preparing for tomorrow.”
With Anthony Martial scoring, Scott McTominay coming back and Bruno Fernandes playing well, this looks like a completely different team from a few months ago…
“Well, we feel we’ve added some X factor and quality with Bruno. I think Anthony coming back - he was out for a couple of months as well - getting used to the no.9 positions and the demands that means. Scotty has also developed and I think Nemanja has done brilliantly when he’s been away. Fred, as well. The addition of Bruno gives us that little bit of a different flavour. He’s a player who likes to play penetrative passes, forward passes. He likes to task risks, which a Man United player should do.”
With Bruno, the build-up before him was slow because players seemed to get the ball and were not be sure what to do. He seems to know what he’s going to do before he gets it…
“I think his imagination, or his overview, his picture, is a couple of seconds ahead of other players. That’s one of his strengths: knowing what he wants to do when he gets it. He also can change his mind in a split second. If that picture doesn’t work as he thought, he’ll change it. I think that composure has been important for us as well.”
“You need many attributes to play the perfect game of football, or to be the perfect team. We want the swagger and the confidence. We want players going onto the pitch believing in themselves. You still want your players to be humble, knowing that you’ve got to work harder and you’ve got to earn the right to win a game of football. I think that was one of strengths - I played with Becks, Giggsy, the graveyard shifts down the sides, that was one of the big compliments the gaffer used to give from other managers: ‘You’ve got a team full of quality but they work harder than others’. That was probably one of the first things I said when I came here, that I want my teams to be one of the hardest-working teams in the league. That’s only attitude, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Is personality something you can bring out of players?
“You can blossom more with confidence and speaking to them and managing them and making them be free. You want them to be free and play with courage and bravery. You want to have a bit of fear in you and that taste of ‘well I don’t want to lose this game’. There’s a bit of that edge but you still think ‘ok, I made a mistake, no worries, I’ll sort it out’. So, it’s a fine balance between arrogant, confident and humble. It’s difficult to say it all here in two minutes. We could have two or three hours on that.”
When you mention Bruno and you talk about X factor, is that what we say on Sunday? Will we see that now until the end of the season?
“I think he’ll only improve by coming here to a stronger league, with stronger opponents and stronger team-mates getting used to him. He’s got that bit of X factor and that swagger and quality that we want to develop even more. He’s come in and impressed everyone, but we don’t want to put any limit on what he can do.”
Braced for BruggeGallery
Our photographers focused on the final training session before Thursday's Europa League test.
“Well, of course, we need to play against 11 players of Brugge, so it might change. If [Ruud] Vormer is injured and Dennis is injured, that does something to them. Vormer didn’t play in the last game and Dennis played well against us. I know [Krepin] Diatta, he’s come back. He’s probably their most exciting and best player. I watched him a few years ago in Norway. He’s fit, I understand, and he might be a handful for Luke [Shaw], you never know.”
Only PSG have more clean sheets than United in the top-five league leagues in Europe. What do you think that comes down to?
“Well, it’s the work we’ve been doing on the pitch and the quality of the players we’ve got and sometimes a bit of luck or margins. In the transfer market, we did sign Aaron and Harry for big sums of money, but they’re worth it because we wanted a foundation we can build form. We not happy winning games 1-0, we want to be an exciting and attacking team, but we’ll get to that. Defensively, the coaching from Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] is absolutely fantastic. I think everyone knows what they’re doing defensively. The detail in what they’re doing is absolutely incredible and the application of the boys and adapting between a back four or five. There are many factors. It’s the work that’s been done.”
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You spoke about Diatta from your time in Molde, so what is it you liked him? He hopes to have a career like Sadio Mane as well, so is that possible?
“I think he should have high hopes and high ambitions for his career. I saw him when he was 17 or 18. He was actually at Molde before I came to Molde. Someone turned him down, I don’t know who, but that was before I came there. He was fantastic. You know when you see players with that quality and he feels free on the pitch, he tries things and he’s got the ‘X Factor’. He’s got fantastic pace and balance; he’s similar to Sadio Mane, so I think that’s a fair ambition he should have.”
At a club like United there’s always a lot of talk about finances and there was an investors call with Ed Woodward yesterday. Are you conscious, not only in football terms, of being in the Champions League for the financial benefits?
“Well, as you said, we’re a big club and we had good finances. But the longer you’re out of it, the more you’ll suffer. It’s an ambition for us to get back into the Champions League for too ball reasons but also financially that will help the club. As Luke says, we’ve just to focus on this game and then it’s the league on Sunday, then the FA Cup on Thursday and then the league again, the hopefully more European games.”
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