Every word of Solskjaer's press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes we'll continue to see unusual results in the Premier League throughout the rest of the 2020/21 season.
Speaking at his pre-Sheffield United press conference, the day after Manchester City drew with West Bromwich and Chelsea lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Norwegian said the tightness of the league table - United, in ninth, are just five points off the top, with a game in hand - is testament to the quality of the division.
Ole was also asked about Dean Henderson, Blades' midfielder Sander Berge and a recent managerial sacking, on his video call.
You can read the full transcript below...
Hi Ole, how are you? I just wanted to start by asking about Dean Henderson and whether you could talk to us about how much he has benefited from the two years he spent at Sheffield United – one in the Premier League as well, and how you manage his expectations now he’s got all that experience and returning to United?
“It just shows how beneficial some loan deals are. Of course Dean has worked his way up through the ranks, through the system and the two years at Sheffield United has made him really come back as a more mature, quality keeper. He's had some experiences there with a great promotion and his year in the Premier League last season as well was very valuable for us and for him. He's made his England debut now since he's come back and I feel he is learning more and more the Man United style. Our play is a bit different. We have a couple of different demands of him obviously but we're very grateful to Sheffield United and Chris [Wilder] for giving him the chance to develop as they did.”
Sheffield United away: Ole's press conferenceVideo
I’m sure you’ve seen the news about Slaven Bilic this morning. I think at this stage last year Arsenal, Everton and Spurs had all parted company with their manager. It’s taken until mid-December for Slaven to lose his job. I just wondered whether you think Premier League clubs are more mindful of the circumstances in which you’re doing your job, not only in the summer but this season as well?
“Well I think these times, in a pandemic and what’s happened, has made people sit back and think and maybe take a deep breath. I'm very sad to hear that Slaven lost his job. I think he's done great for them, getting promotion. I know him from years back as well and I'm sure he'll get a job again when he wants to. That’s one bit. The other bit is that hopefully more and more clubs and teams think long-term. Of course, it's a short-term business, we need results as well but everyone knows that continuity is a key to success. Sometimes they don’t have the patience for it, though.”
Hi Ole. On that theme, we talk about patience and pressure and you know the pressurised environment that United is, as a player and manager. But it’s a very different pressure at the bottom of the league isn’t it, with the likes of Slaven losing his job and Chris Wilder under pressure with just one point so far?
“Yeah of course. It's not a nice position to be in as a manager because you want your players to play every game with confidence going into a game thinking and believing they'll win the game. I've been there with Cardiff and for me it was a new experience, a learning experience and a valuable one in that respect. I didn't enjoy it with the results and the relegation that we got, but as a manager I think you're one of very few if you're not going to feel that pressure at one point. I’ve felt it and I'm sure Chris, Slaven and whoever feels that pressure are mentally strong enough. You have to be mentally strong to be a manager anyway.”
Have you come to any answers or solutions about why so many teams are better away from home than at home at the moment? I think there are only four teams with a better home record than away record, so it’s not just United?
“I think it goes to show how important the home fans are when you get them back again, how valuable they are. It's not just a cliche when we say they're our 12th man and we need their support. Now it’s like I can call Chris up and ask him to come to Carrington and play a friendly game. It's almost that similar feel to it. Our fans are so, so important for us and I can't wait to get them back.”
Hi Ole, how’s Edinson Cavani doing? We saw a picture of him training. You’ve got six games in 16 days coming up. How much are you going to lean on your squad and how are you looking?
“Yeah, of course we have to be mindful of little strains and niggles and decisions have to be made. From the kick-off of Sheff United to the kick-off of Aston Villa it's 15 times 24 hours, so it's going to be very tight. Edinson has done well in his rehab, but we still have to make a decision if we should risk him because it is a risk a little bit too early. I doubt he'll be available for me to pick him tomorrow.”
The Reds train ahead of Blades clashVideo
Can I ask about other squad players? Marcos Rojo was registered for the league but hasn’t played. Is he in your plans? Sergio Romero and Phil Jones haven’t been included so what’s their situation heading into January?
“Marcos has just felt a niggle in his calf again. He's worked really hard to come back, he played a game with the Reserves and got a knock there. Worked really hard again then felt something. He’s hopefully back in January, Marcos. Phil should be ready by January and Sergio has been training hard as well.”
Ole do you think this season is going to be unusual in terms of results all the way through? We saw last night City drawing against West Brom, Chelsea losing. Liverpool not beating Fulham at the weekend. Do you think every game is going to be harder than it normally would be and we’ll keep getting shock results?
“I think it's also sign of the Premier League, the quality of the so-called lesser teams. There's no easy game in the Premier League. Then again the top teams the last few seasons have just had a knack of winning tight games instead of drawing them. With the tight schedule and whatever is happening around the world and in peoples’ and players’ lives I think yeah we'll see this throughout this season. Whoever gets a midweek rest might have a big advantage, because if you play midweek every week it's hard to have everyone 100 per cent sharp for every game.”
Sheffield United have struggled so far this season and you have been brilliant away. One of the standouts for Sheffield United has been Sander Berge. What do you think about his performances and how are you planning on keeping him quiet tomorrow?
“I know more or less all about Sander from when he was in Norway. I spoke to Kjetil Rekdal a lot about him. He's doing well for the Norwegian national team. He came in and needed probably a little bit of time to get used to the Premier League and the tempo and intensity of it and now Sheffield United can see they've signed a very good player and a fantastic boy as well. I’m sure he's only going to be better and he's going forward more as well now. I know all about his strength and that capability. We know with the size of him, we need to look for him.”
Ole it was another slight change in shape against Man City on Saturday. You’ve used a diamond formation, three at the back, four at the back. How do you feel your players are adjusting to the different styles they’re being asked to play in the side?
“What was the change in formation? You tell me, see if you got it.”
Pogba on the left-hand side this time. He’s not really played there too much previously…
“Yeah, of a 4-2-3-1. Coming into that pocket is probably Paul’s favourite position. I think he did well. Paul did well and the team shape was as it normally is. Twice we've played with three at the back – we beat PSG in one of them and unfortunately lost to Leipzig. We played a full game against Leipzig at home in a diamond and we’ve played two half games in a diamond. So four out of about 20 games is not too bad of consistency with our normal shape. That’s what we work on more or less every day. Some details will change within the same system, of course. If you have Dan James on the left wing compared to Paul Pogba it’s a different scenario. Or Marcus Rashford on the right wing compared to Juan Mata. Sometimes you look at the opposition and you look at where we need players with different qualities, but I think they’re coping well with it.”