Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during Manchester United training.

Every word from Ole & Donny's pre-PSG press conference

Tuesday 01 December 2020 14:59

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Donny van de Beek fielded questions from the media on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of Manchester United's Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Reds head into the encounter needing a point to secure our passage to the last-16 and the boss was asked about his approach to the game, his thoughts on our hopes of mounting a title challenge and the transfer window.

As for Donny, the midfielder was quizzed on playing with Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani, adapting to life at United and more.

We've typed up every word from this bumper-length press conference for you to view...

We should probably start with Edinson Cavani. The club's made a statement, he's made a statement. What's your take on the situation and have you spoken to the player?
OGS: “Yes of course, we've communicated with Edinson and he's really deeply sorry for the mistake he's made. There was no malicious intent at all. It was just an affectionate greeting to a friend of his. But we explained it to him. He's been asked by the FA to explain so of course he'll co-operate with them and we'll support him. I think it's one of those unfortunate situations where he's just come into the country and, in Uruguay, it's been used in a different affection to what we have. We'll support him but, of course, we support the FA. It's important that the FA have asked him to explain and it's out there for everyone to see because we want to be in the fight against discrimination with everyone.”

I guess that underlines the need for education across the board for everyone, doesn't it?
OGS: “I think so. I saw Gary [Neville] said something that maybe all the players coming from different cultures should be educated and I am sure Edinson has learned the hard way.”

Donny, you’ve had to wait quite a while and be patient in terms of playing a run of games. Was that frustrating at all for you or conversely has it been a benefit for you in terms of allowing you to get up to speed and showing what needed to be done to get into the team and get to the level required?
DVDB: “Not at all, no. I just work hard every day and I know that I can give the team something extra and I can help the team a lot so yeah, I was just patient.”

Donny, another question for you. Obviously you can play as a 10 or as a 6 but you've linked up very well with Bruno in the last couple of games. How easy is it for you to play alongside him?
DVDB: “Oh, it's fine. Also in Ajax before, I played in a lot of different positions. I played 10, even number 6, so I'm used to it. I play in a lot of different positions.”

Just give us an update on the runners and riders in terms of injury and illness because it's quite a substantial list and you've got a ton of games now in December?
OGS: “Yeah and you expect when the Champions League nights come and the floodlights are out, unfortunately the fans are not there but the players all want to be there. So the training group today was a massive one, it was a big group and everyone held their hand up and was available for selection.”
How important is it to get the point so that you have qualified and it doesn't make so much pressure. As I said, you've got nine games in December so you could do with qualifying tomorrow night, couldn't you?
OGS: “The quicker you can qualify, the better of course. With a win, we'll win the group so, of course, that's our intent. We want to go out there in our style with attacking intent, defending well against a top team with some top individual players, of course, but our mindset is win this game and we've won the group.”

Just on Edinson again, how keen is he to play against his old club and are you happy that in terms of his mindset he's not been affected by the events of the past few days? And can I ask you about the fitness of David De Gea too please?
OGS: “David trained well today so he’s available for selection. And Edinson is ready to play. Of course it’s special for him to play against PSG, his old club where he’s the top scorer. So that'll affect him mentally. But from knowing him, I know that will give him energy and he'll be ready. He’s so professional, he's experience of course. He'll work on his mindset today and tomorrow to be ready for the game. The same goes for the FA [situation]. He’s learnt a lesson and it might affect him but he’ll just have to put it to one side when the game's on. The best players can put their problems or the other thoughts away for a while and perform when he has to.”

How much does history and tradition play a role in football nowadays?
OGS: “I think you always carry the history with you. We sometimes look back at history, we're proud of our history. We’ve had some fantastic nights, European nights at Old Trafford, and we wish our fans could be here because it's a Champions League in floodlights, probably some rain as well, so a wet pitch, a quick pitch. Those, for me when I played, were the best nights because the extra tension and atmosphere there was unbelievable and, of course, when you play against top teams and top players.”
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Highlights: PSG 1 United 2

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Can I ask Donny how good is it as a midfielder to have someone like Edinson with the runs he makes? How good is it to have someone who is so dynamic up front?
DVDB: “I think it’s really important, especially for me. Like if you come in the box, it gives you some excess space because the defenders always look extra to the striker, so it gives you an extra space for the midfielders.”

I want to ask a question about your former player Erling Haaland because after 12 games in the Champions League, he's now got 16 goals. That's only three goals away from your Norwegian goal record in the tournament. So what do you think about his performances in the Champions League and do you fear for your record now?
OGS: “He'll beat it and very quickly, that's for sure. The boy has had a great start to his career. It was really good to work with him, to see the potential in him and some part of me feels proud of having a little bit of input into such a rise. And I'm sure Erling will score loads of goals in the Champions League.”

The point will get you through and enable you to rest players for the derby. Seeing the crazy results we’re getting in the Premier League, is a title tilt outside of your chance duo you think?
OGS: “You lose the chance to win the title in the first eight or 10 games if you don’t keep up with the pack that starts winning, but you don’t win it in the eight or 10 first games. We’ve recuperated, we’ve started on a little run, so we’re just behind the teams at the moment. But we want to be in and around the places when the league starts to hot up, when it gets to April or May. Hopefully we can be there.  Now is just a time to improve, develop and take one game at a time. Of course, now our mindset is on the Champions League and if we can go through with one game to spare that is great, but we want to win the group.”
It has been a while since any Man United team has contented for a title - seven years - is it about giving those players that belief that they can do it? Like Tottenham players might have belief that they can do it, or Leicester players could believe it?
OGS: “You can give players the belief. I believe in these players, it’s the players’ belief in themselves, in their own performances, what we do day in, day out, like Donny sitting next to me, with the attitude and mindset of every day is important. Of course, I feel my squad is ready to do better than last season, and last season we were the best of the rest. So, let’s hope we can move up the table.”

A question for both of you. You talked about Edinson Cavani a lot already. How would you describe the man, not the player, you’ve discovered in the past few weeks?
OGS: “An absolute top professional. I’ve not been able to get to know him really, really closely because of the language barrier. We have to talk through someone else, but he’s so professional and meticulous. Everything he does, he does with the intention of being the best footballer he can be. He’s a very good team-mate, a team player and I’ve been impressed by his attention to detail with everything – apart from his parking! He’s parking too close to some of the players and coaching staff sometimes!”

DVDB: “Yes, for me too. I see already from day one that he is very professional. It’s sometimes difficult to communicate, but I think he is really important for the team.”

OGS: “He’s already learned two English words – ‘tomorrow off’! When we win a game, he wants a day off. He knows that one!”

You’re a month away from the window opening. Do you feel the club will back you so you can get the one or two players that could make a difference? Because if you are close and that’s what it takes, do you think you’ll be given the funds and the backing to do that? In previous windows it’s all been very late - do you think you can get something done early if it needs it?
OGS: “Here we go… on the eve of an important game with PSG and we’re taking about transfers. With the additions that we made to the squad in the last window, plus what what we did in January last time, I don’t think it’s right for me to start commenting on the transfer window already. We’re just focusing on this game. Let’s see where we’re at in January. Hopefully we can keep on improving. I’ve got selection issues already, so I’m very happy with what’s happening behind closed doors.”

Match Quiz


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Talking of selection issues, in regards to Edinson Cavani, he’s obviously very good as a centre-forward - that’s Anthony Martial’s position. Previously he started up front at the club and was put out wide and he didn’t particularly like it. If you had to ask him to do that again would that concern you, asking Anthony not to play centre-forward, to maybe play out wide or somewhere else?
OGS: “I think there is only one position here that we can say [they can’t play elsewhere] - that’s between Dean [Henderson] and David. Everyone else has potential to play in many other positions - like the boy next to me. Donny can play, he’s just spoken about at it, how flexible and versatile he is. Anthony, Marcus, Mason [Greenwood] and Edinson even, they can play in all the front four positions. You’ve got Bruno who can play in loads of positions, Paul [Pogba can]. There are lots of players here who want to be in the team and there are tactical reasons behind sometimes it’s Anthony, sometimes it’s Marcus, sometimes Mason, sometimes it’s Edinson, sometimes it’s two of them. I don’t think that is going to be an issue at all.”

Donny, you spent your career at Ajax before coming to United, I just wondered what the adjustment has been like coming from one style of play to a new one, and just whether the one-touch play that you’re so good at if you just need a bit more time to get that with your team-mates? Are there any team-mates you’ve already struck up an understanding with?
DVDB: “I think they understand it already because they are world-class players. There is no difference. Of course, I play with different team-mates so you need to understand them. We understand each other and I can play that type of style with them.”

People say managers improve players and there’s a school of thought that believes a player can only be improved as much as a player is talented. As a manger, what’s your take? Do you think that a manager can improve a player? Or does it come from the level of talent of that player?
OGS: “We start as coaches and you end up sometimes as a manager, but your aim to get a good team is to get the maximum out of every individual player. Maybe if you take your time with every single one of them that you try to give him advice, help him on the training pitch. Deep down it’s always the player who decides how good he can become because they’ve all got talent. If they’ve got the desire and determination to learn and want to learn and have the ability to learn, of course we’re here. I feel that also to give them a chance to develop you need to give them a chance to play. We can have a long chat on individual player development, but I’m here to help the players, but my job is to manage the club.”

I just wanted to ask about Edinson again – before you played them in the Champions League a few years ago, you said Cavani ‘was like a viking, like a warrior’. I just wondered what you meant by that and if that’s what you’re seeing? I guess that’s why you wanted him?
OGS: “We never give in, us vikings. We never give up. We’ve got the right attitude, the right mentality. That was maybe not fair to Edinson but it was a compliment because I always look at the players’ mentality and the ability to play or do well, even though you don’t have a perfect day. You know you’ve got talent – I could have spoken about his predatory instincts as a striker and his movement, but what I always saw from him was his ability to work for the team and to be a team player. We’ve already seen it here with the work rate he puts down. He’s at the top of the tree if you look at the running stats for strikers in the Premier League. He’s 33 years of age so that says everything about his mentality.”