Ole's press conference to preview United v Saints

With his Manchester United side not in action again until Monday night, against Southampton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chose to hold his pre-match press conference early on Saturday morning.

The manager sat down in front of his monitor to speak with reporters over video call, and he began by paying tribute to the late Jack Charlton following the sad announcement he had passed away. 

Solskjaer went on to praise two influential players from his squad – Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – before discussing his plans for the upcoming 2020/21 season. Here, you can read a full transcript of the press conference…

Jack Charlton has sadly passed away. You and I are both too young to remember him as a player, but certainly as a manager he leaves behind a great legacy. Do you have any memories of having met Jack or watching that famous Republic of Ireland from World Cups gone by?
“Yes of course. As you say, very sad news and a legend of football and a gentlemen. I watched Norway play Ireland in the World Cup in 1994, but he was always so, so passionate when he was speaking and it is sad to hear.”

Ole's press conference before United v SaintsVideo

There is such great excitement about Mason Greenwood at the moment. You said it's down to him as to how far he wants to go, but at the same time do you have to be a little bit careful in terms of making sure he doesn't burn out or get his head turned or lose his focus, do you think?
“You know, at that age you've got so much energy, you've got no fear, you just want to go out and play football. If we have a day off, he'll go and play football with his mates. So, I'm not worried about Mason this season. We've just got to look after him of course in his whole career. He's a fantastic boy to work with, he just loves playing football at the moment. He gets results and rewards for his hard work.”


Last summer, when you were asked about Mason Greenwood potentially going out on loan you said there was no chance of that, he's staying here, and you likened it to the way Ryan Giggs - the club cultivated and nurtured Ryan Giggs through. I guess Sir Alex Ferguson would be impressed by the way you've handled Mason, but has he surpassed your expectations this season?
“Not really. We know what he's capable of and we always trusted him to be a part of this squad and chip in with performances and goals. Of course we see it every day. We've seen it, I've seen it since I came to the club 18 months ago. He's just a natural footballer and when you put natural, good footballers with better footballers that he's used to playing with, that'll just create and give him more opportunities to show his qualities. So the club, they know what they're doing when they're educating people and players.”
In recent press conferences we've asked about the need to change the side because of tiredness and you may well have some injury issues which you might give us, but is it actually a benefit to have the team playing together regularly; having this unit you are building that can go out week in and week out and win matches?
“Yeah, there are so many things that you have to consider when you manage a team. And of course there's a squad, we've got players here that are champing at the bit, they want to play, but you've got players who are in the rhythm and keep on playing well. So there's less work on the training ground, obviously, so there's loads of decisions to be made, but they make it easier by playing well and performing well and looking after themselves. So if we don't get too many injuries, there's no reason to change too much when you're doing well.”


I just wondered how much planning you're doing for next season and what the difference is in those plans depending on whether you're in the Champions League or whether you're not?
“There's quite a lot of planning going on. When do we start the league? That is obviously determined by how far do we go in Europe. So you can't really decide on the training programmes. There are so many small decisions, and of course transfers, that's sometimes out of our hands as well because if the team is going well, what do we need, what do we not need, do you get injuries? That's just the way of working in this job, that you've always got a plan for different scenarios. But now, the uncertainty of dates, how much holiday can you give them, how will next season look like, it's still a little all up in the air.”

Ole: We won't look too far aheadVideo

Is it fair to say though, depending on whether you qualify for the Champions League, that'll have a dramatic effect on the club in the short term, because clearly you're getting a lot of plaudits for the way you're playing at the moment, but you're still fifth in the table?
“I don't think it's dramatic decisions. The word you said there, I don't think the club would either panic or suddenly go crazy with plans that we've already talked about for the years to come. You do have to have a long-term plan, but of course in the short-term maybe some decisions will be easier to make if or if not we get to the Champions League.”


Does it feel a little bit like the old days when United were on the mission for the title? You’re pursuing those teams just ahead of you, the likes of Leicester and Chelsea...
“If we were challenging for the trophies maybe I would say. It’s just keep developing the culture, keep doing the right things. You just have to go one day at a time, one game at a time in the training ground and with the culture we’re trying to build. Every day is a chance to either break or make that culture.”


Just a word on Southampton, it’s been a real rollercoaster season for them, but I can imagine you were hugely impressed by the way they stuck with their manager after that disastrous 9-0?
“Well, first of all, Southampton is a very fine football club with traditions. You can see it’s a proper football club. I wasn’t expecting any changes and I’ve followed Ralph’s time there and you know what he’s doing. I’ve got huge respect for the way they have turned it around. They have it, call it a German [Austrian], aggressive, rock-and-roll style of football. It’s direct, it’s high energy. It’s hard work but it’s difficult to play against. If you want to be a part of his team, you've got to be able to run 10, 11 or 12K. You've got to be able to sprint. We’ve watched quite a few games and I really enjoy watching them because it’s high entertainment and it’s high energy all the time.”

90 in 20: Aston Villa 0 United 3Video

We saw another brilliant attacking display from your side against Villa. The unbeaten run is up to 17, but United are now entertaining the fans as well. How important is it for you that United are doing that while picking up points?
“Well, Manchester United have always been about winning, of course it is because you want to win trophies. But it’s also about our fans and the way we approach the game. The way we approach football, that you play with pace, you play with power, you play with no fear, you take risks and you’ve got the players who have got qualities. That’s just the DNA of the football club. Of course I’m happy when you score goals and when you don't concede, but it’s always been built on a strong foundation. You know, when we had [Gary] Pallister and [Steve] Bruce, or [Jaap] Stam and [Ronny] Johnsen with fantastic keepers behind them. We had the engine room with Roy Keane and Bryan Robson. They laid the foundations for the forwards to show their skills, so long may it continue. We have just got to take it one game at a time.”


What have you made of Marcus Rashford since the restart?
“I’m very happy with him. He’s physically coping well with the games. He’s mixing up his game; he’s making defenders think. He runs in behind, he comes short, he can play a pass, he can play and run, he’s got individual skills. So, Marcus has got all the attributes to be a top a centre forward - or a forward. You can see our players suddenly pop up on the right, Mason [Greenwood] on the left, Anthony [Martial] on the left or right. You want that rotation between them but also, sometimes, have the discipline to stick out wide and create space for others and make runs to create space for others. Sometimes you get an assist from me, in my head, when you make a run to create space for others and we do see it.”
You said after the Villa match that you’ve come a long way this season, I was just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on that? How would you describe the development from the start of the season to now?
“Well we’ve had an up-and-down season. We started fantastically well against Chelsea with a great win. We played some very good football. Then we got a setback and of course I think the players have stuck to the task in hard times, difficult times, believed in the coaches, believed in what we are trying to do. They trusted us when the results haven't gone great, that we just want to keep on working. And now the results are coming and the excitement is coming. Now it’s time to keep your feet on the ground: keep working, keep doing the right things, don’t believe the hype or the all the praise. That’s not their job, their job is to perform when they play - but then don’t believe in all the criticism when you don’t play well. Trust your team-mates and trust yourself. Now we can see the end is not too far away. It’s a strange one because we’ve been out for so long, but now there’s only four games left of the season, so the goal is getting close.”

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