Club Brugge v United: Ole's press conference in full
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sat down in front of the European media late on Wednesday afternoon, to preview Manchester United’s Europa League last-32 tie against Club Brugge in Belgium.
Ole, Odion Ighalo has travelled again. Is he in contention to start or is it too early for him?
“Well I'm not going to tell the team today, but we're going to have to rotate with all the games we've got coming up and yeah, he's one of them that could start. We've not 100 per cent decided yet.”
And with Paul Pogba, fans are wondering when he is going to train, when he is going to be back. Is there any time frame yet? Is he any closer?
“He's not been part of the team training yet, so it'll depend on how he feels or when he feels ready to do that, so he's not anywhere near that yet.”
You signed Jude Odion Ighalo from the Chinese league after scoring 10 goals in 17 games. In addition you've signed millions of Nigerians who are rooting, praying, wishing for him to succeed as the first Nigerian to ever play for Manchester United. Are you seeing him as a makeshift for Rashford, and how do you see him fitting into your tactical approach?
“Well for me Odion is a different type of striker for us. He's a box striker, he's a goalscorer. We've already seen in training he really knows his craft, he knows how to play as a centre forward and he's a fantastic professional and human being and he's already added to the squad. The boys have learned his song already, so they've taken to him, so I hope he's going to sharpen up quickly, because we know he's been out of season and he needs to do a little bit extra after training most of the time and we try to give him as much game time as possible. Unfortunately he didn't score against Chelsea, he had a good chance, that would have been a good start, but I'm sure he will take his chances.”
“Yeah I would hope he's playing this season. It'll just be touch-and-go towards the end. So hopefully we can go through and get through this tournament and prolong the season.”
When you say touch-and-go, can you explain why please?
“Well it takes time. I'm not a doctor, but obviously I was hoping that he would recover quicker than it actually looks like he is going to be out for. So another few months definitely.”
If he doesn't play before the end of the season that would take him out of the Euros, presumably?
“Well I would hope that he plays before then, but we're not sure, so if he's not fit enough he won't go.”
“You want a couple of ways of playing. Of course a Man United team never normally plays with a back three. We've done well in a few games, yes, and with the players we've got fit it is a very good option in a few games definitely. So, we've got plenty of midfielders that can do that position, running attacking midfielders, we've signed Bruno of course, we've now signed Odion, so it gives us more options. Our centre backs are fitter, so yeah.”
Ole, with the Man City Champions League ban coming in, which they're appealing that at the moment, there's still a chance that United might need to get to fourth place to qualify for the Champions League next season. Is that something that you're telling your players, that you've got to get to fourth as fifth might not be enough?
“At the moment we're talking about this tournament and we want to go through. We dream about winning this tournament and that would also give us a chance of course if we go far. We have to improve, we have to get better, we have to be more consistent. If we get the results we've got a chance to be in the top four.”
Ole, can I just ask you about Wan-Bissaka? He came and he's had a really good reputation for tackling, for stopping goals, we saw what he could do in the opposition third against Chelsea. What kind of stuff are you working on in that regard in terms of going forward?
“Of course we're working on patterns, movements, relationships with strikers. It's not just the full backs that are going to put the crosses in and practice the crossing. It's also the strikers to get in the box, fill the box with more players, because we've not been too many numbers in the box, but Aaron has provided a few nice assists now. It gets him on the standings seeing that he has a big part to play. When you play at Man United as a full back you do have to provide assists. That's just part and parcel of being here, so he's getting more and more of them. We always knew that he was going to be hard to beat. He's one of the best 1v1 defenders I've ever seen, but he used to be a winger when he was younger, so he's got it in him.”
“Of course it has a big impact, because two days of recovery is not a lot. Obviously we've had two weeks to prepare for this spell coming up. We'll have seven games in 21 days, so it is starting on a Monday, ending on a Sunday against City, but hopefully we'll get through here, so we'll get a game every three days anyway. But we have a big squad. We've travelled now with 19, a couple of youngsters haven't travelled with us. There are couple of injuries, but they're coming back. I've just got to make use of the squad I've got and make not too many, but many enough, so we've got a rhythm and consistency in team selection, but also in players feeling part of the team, because there's many of these that would like to play more.”
Would you expect more support?
“Yeah, you would want to get a game on a Saturday before a Thursday, especially when we had 16 days off or whatever we had. We can't complain. It is what it is. I just mentioned it because it's not really the best of preparation, but these boys are brilliant because they just get on with it. They're young, they're fresh, they recover quickly and they're up for it.”
Just on that. When Jose and United won the competition a few years back the fixture load did become huge. Injuries effectively ended up prioritising the Europa League at the expense of the Premier League, because they just couldn't go for both competitions. Do you envisage a situation where you may have to make a call in the weeks and months ahead potentially?
“I hope so. I hope that we can go through and we get that problem, but as I've said I've got a squad with more or less two players in each position now. I can rotate, but it's important that we keep the consistency as well. We'd rather have too many games than not enough.”
You mentioned that you had hoped Marcus would recover quicker than what he will do. What is the nature of the set back? What's changed in terms of the schedule of his recovery?
“He had a scan and there was maybe more severe that fracture than what we had hoped for and expected, because he felt fine in the few days before that. I never had anatomy in school, so I didn't know that it just takes that time to recover, but when it heals he'll be stronger for it. So, it's important that we don't rush him and we won't do that.”
Erling Haaland scored twice again last night. He was a player you were looking at last month. Is there any regret that you weren't able to bring him to United, given the explosive start he's had at Dortmund?
“I never normally comment on opposition players, but since I've had Erling I'm just delighted for him. He's a top boy, absolutely fantastic kid that you want the best for and he's started fantastically with Dortmund, so we just watch him and you know for Norway it's brilliant for us that we have a striker that can score a goal again.”
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