Solskjaer and McTominay: The full press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Scott McTominay both appeared at Manchester United's press conference in Austria on Wednesday evening, to discuss the Europa League last-16 tie against LASK.
The pair discussed the authorities' decision to close the game to fans and their past experiences of playing in empty stadia, while Ole also gave an update on the fitness of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba and the prospect of Angel Gomes following Tahith Chong in committing his future to the club.
You can read the full transcript below...
With everything that’s happening around coronavirus at the moment, should this game be being played?
OGS: "The players are focused and just concentrating on the job. These are difficult circumstances, not just for football but in the whole society so for us we have to just do what we're told and get on with the game if that's what the authorities think we should do. And they [the players] have been the same, they have prepared for the game as we normally do. We're going to have to create our own atmosphere within the team, within the game of course. They are used to training with no spectators anyway and we do have some behind-closed-doors friendlies at times and I'm in no doubt that my players are focused, that we are ready to perform even if there's no spectators there. But of course it will be strange. It will be strange to see Scotty sliding, like he did on Sunday, in front of no one for example. So it makes for a strange atmosphere and we're just going to make the most of it."
OGS to Scott: "I'm not sure if you know but our old coach, Warren Joyce, once scored a goal for Hull in front of an empty stand and he was celebrating in front of it so you might just have to create that atmosphere yourself. Warren will be happy when I say this."
Do you fear this tournament might not even finish?
OGS: "We don't know what's going to happen, we just have to get on with it when we can. I think football is for fans, I think without fans we're nothing anyway. I think the game should always be for them. Of course it's still going to be on television but tomorrow we might get another message, or in two days' time, or next week so of course it's a difficult situation. But of course the boys are very good, they're just focusing on the job in hand and that's what we have to do as a club."
Would you understand it if the Premier League wasn't played out?
OGS: "Yes, I'd understand it in the circumstances. Of course it's up to the experts to decide and the main concern must be the health of the general public. And the decision that will be made we will back."
Scott, will it be strange for you to play in that atmosphere?
SM: "Yes, obviously whenever you're growing up playing Under-18 games or reserve team games, you're used to playing in lesser crowds than when you get to the first team and you're playing in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford. So obviously it will be strange playing a first-team game like that but we've just got to keep focused and keep the mentality the same and keep doing what we've been doing and obviously that's trying to win football matches. So for us not really an awful lot changes but it is a real shame that the fans of both sides can't come. Hopefully we get it sorted as soon as possible."
Scott, you're a big United fan, so if the season were to be cancelled, it would mean Liverpool wouldn't win the title. I wondered how you feel about that?
SM: "Obviously that's a difficult question to answer. For me, you can't really say too much about that. Obviously or us, the manager, the coaching staff and the players, we're just concentrating on ourselves. We have to be 100 per cent committed to what we're doing and the journey we're going on as well and forgetting about other teams. The only other team we're concentrating on is the next game and obviously that's tomorrow night, Sunday, Thursday, Sunday and obviously for us it's a big build-up in matches so we have to be ready and hopefully this coronavirus won't affect us too much."
Scott, does this feel like a moment for Manchester United after a result like Sunday, a turning point?
SM: "Yeah you can always say that. You can always say that big games can flip a season or turn a season and point it in a real positive direction and it can be a real transformation for a group. I feel like you're starting to see that with the players now, with confidence that we're playing with and how well we played the other day was a real, real credit. The desire to win and everything about the team that day was helping each other and doing all the right things as well. For me, coming back from injury it's amazing to be a part of that as well and long may it continue with the run of games we've been going on. It can be exciting times towards the business end of the season as well."
Ole, what would it mean for the players to play in front of empty stands at Old Trafford?
OGS: "At the moment I'm not aware of any decision being made about next week's game but we do, as a club, take all the precautions. As a group of players, we take all the precautions but we have to wait for the authorities and the government to make their decisions on the games going forward."
Ole, my second question is... sorry, I'm so nervous... I'm a big United fan since I was a little boy and is there any chance you can take a picture with me after the press conference?
OGS: "That's going to be no problem."
I've got a kit here as well and if you would sign it, that would be great!
OGS: "Absolutely, no worries. we'll do that."
Ole, there were absentees from training today. What's the situation and here's the weekly Paul Pogba question, how is he?
OGS: "Anthony hurt himself when he slid into the post, so he's not ready for this game. Hopefully he can be ready for Sunday but I'm not sure, he's struggling a little bit. And Paul is getting closer, yes, but today he wasn't with the team, no. He's not trained with the team, or fully with the team, yet. So by next week he'll be ready."
Scott, the manager has talked about creating a new culture in the club. How much can you feel that and see it day by day? And what are you learning from Bruno Fernandes in terms of your own footballing education?
SM: "Yeah, obviously you see with Bruno, he's come in and he's a born winner straightaway. You see that in training as well. He's willing to take the ball, to receive the ball in any situation and obviously play the killer pass, which is what we need as a team. We need that creativity, we need that spark from somebody and I feel like he's come in and had an amazing start. I can't give him enough credit for the way he has started his career here. Obviously for me, he's demanding, he's very demanding because he's a number 10 who wants the ball so you have to give him the ball and if you don't then you can be in a little bit of trouble! But no, he's been a breath of fresh air and I'm sure the manager would reiterate that as well with the way he's come in and interacted with the group perfectly. Obviously he's got a personality and that's what this football club needs, footballers who play for Manchester United need to have that personality on the pitch and he has that in abundance so it's a real credit."
Ole, we've seen Tahith Chong commit his future to United. Is there any update on Angel Gomes doing that?
OGS: "With Tahith, we're very happy that he can see his future here and we can see a very good player there and we'll give him the time that he needs to develop. That's the same with Angel, we hope that we can convince him that both in the near future and the long future, he's a Man United player."
Scott, there's been a lot of talk about yourself and Matic. He took the reins in your absence but now you're back, how is that competition for places?
SM: "In terms of competition for places, it's so important for a football club. If you don't have competition for places, people get relaxed, take it too easy and take their foot off the pedal. Obviously in a group where everybody is fighting every day to be in the team, it can only breed a healthy environment. Manchester United have always had that competition for places and people being in and out of the team. But obviously for myself, you want to be one of the first names on the team sheet. That's what you have to strive for, to strive to be the best. Nemanja's a great player and I can learn a lot from him. For me, it's only positive at the minute and hopefully we can go on a really good run to the end of the season with everybody playing as well."
Ole, did you ever play behind closed doors as a player?
OGS: "I played in Norway [smiles] so yes I did! I played for my local team until I was 22, you know, so I was probably Scotty's age before I played in front of crowds so yeah, I did, plenty of times."
You've talked about a team in transition but at this stage of the tournament, it must focus the mind. You must feel the team has ability and the mindset to win its first trophy under you?
OGS: "Well, I think the mindset is getting there, the focus is getting there and I think the squad that we're building, Scotty is talking about with the competition for places. Yes, Scotty wants to play but he also wants Nemanja to do well, which is a great position to be in as a manager. And it's not just them two, we've got now 24, 25 players training and competing every day. And they all know that it's the business end of the season. We're not giving out game time now just for the sake of game time. You need to perform to be in and around the starting eleven and even on the bench."
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