Ole's press conference before Leicester v United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has held his final pre-match press conference of the Premier League season, as Manchester United prepare to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.
Here, you can read a full transcript of what the manager told journalists…
Could you give us a sense of how big a game this is and what would it mean for the club to be back playing Champions League football next season?
"We’re looking forward to the game. We’ve given ourselves a good chance of being in the Champions League next year. We can’t go into a game thinking about what the outcome could be. We just have to go and perform and perform to a high enough level for us to get a result. We want to go there and dominate the game - we wanted to get to this position having to go Leicester to need to beat them. We’re not going to change our approach. We want to go there to try and win the game."
After making the worst start to a season in 30 years, you’re now in third. What’s been the fundamental change and how important is focus and concentration on Sunday?
“Well, focus and concentration are very important in football. When you play against quality teams and players, one lapse of concentration can hurt you. We’re going to go into it with a strong frame of mind and it’s not ‘job done’. We have one more game in this season and that’s just this season. That’s a journey for this team, it’s one extra step. We have come a long way mentally and we’ve shown more resilience and robustness when we’ve lost the first goal in games, for example, but we’ve also shown the heights, which you can’t expect every time. I’m delighted with the development.”
It’s been a very hectic period - how have the players endured it mentally and physically, and you guys as well. Also are there any players absent for Sunday’s game?
“Well, when you play football, when you win and get good results, it’s enjoyable. You build momentum and then you find one or two bumps along the way - it’s not going to go in one straight trajectory. For us, we’ve reacted well to some games being 1-0 down - the last three at home, actually, we’ve been 1-0 down and got results in all of them, which is very positive. We’ve enjoyed away games. Of course, we didn’t enjoy losing against Chelsea. We got a result against West Ham and now we’re third, so it’s fantastic so see that we’re growing as a squad and as a team. It’s the last game of the season and we have to go in positive. Axel [Tuanzebe] and Phil [Jones] are out still and the others will be given time to prove their fitness.”
“Confidence levels are high because we’ve given ourselves a great chance of going into the last game. And you’d expect when the last game of the season is in front of you, you’d expect any team to have some bruises, aches and tiredness. It’s natural in any player. Even though this season has been different, it still has been a draining season one for everyone, but we’ve got enough energy for 90 minutes. There will be injury-time as well! Having been so far behind when we started again, we had to go for it and we had to go for goals and points. It’s been a a great effort by everyone getting to this position and now it’s just a game to go.”
When you look back at the start of last summer at how the season would pan out, do you think third is the maximum you could get out of this group of players? Is third acceptable given the club’s history?
“Let’s get this game out of the way and get third and continue the growth that this team is on. We’ve had sone hard times this season and some setbacks, but I think we’ve shown that this is a team going places. If we can finish the season with a trophy in Europe and third place, we can discuss that then.”
How much are you missing fans at games and what difference is it making? How would that West Ham game have been different with fans and are your players saying anything to you about the lack of fans?
“I think the players have just got used to that this is the situation now and that we’ve just got to get on with it. The fans would have made a big difference, of course they would have. Both home and away games. Football without the fans for me is not the same. It’s just part of football because we are together and it should be with the fans. The passion, the enthusiasm, that energy level. Maybe we needed to go the extra mile against West Ham, or to defend the last ditch against Southampton or to go for more goals against Sheffield United or the other teams, Bournemouth. The games we could have scored many more, but I think it would have made a difference because our fans are the best. Old Trafford, there’s no better place to be chasing goals because the Stretford End have sucked a few goals in towards the end of games, but we’ll get there again. Hopefully we can prove in the next 90 minutes that they’ve got something to look forward to. I think we’ve given our fans something to look forward to. I think many are looking forward to seeing this team live.”
You’ve got a break after this game before the Europa League campaign starts, I just wondered what your plans were for that time?
“Well we’ll give them some time off. They need the mental and physical time away from the place because the effort has been fantastic. So recharge the batteries for a few days and then go again. We’ve got LASK, obviously we’ve got a 5-0 lead there so we don’t have to go into that game chasing as you would normally a two or three-goal win. We just want a good performance and hopefully that will be enough to get into the quarters - but a few days off, definitely.”
Gary Neville said in the week, after the West Ham game, that this team needs or this squad needs three or four more players to be signed to try and challenge for the league next season. Do you agree with that?
“There’s no point now. You’re still seeing what we need for next season. I don’t have time for that really, to think about what – our main focus is we need to just focus on the game against Leicester which is going to be the next hurdle and challenge for this squad."
Given the size of challenge for you before this season and the bumpy campaign you mentioned - has this been the most enjoyable campaign for you as a manager given where you’ve ended up at?
“We’ve not ended up anywhere yet. There’s one more game to show that we’ve become a better team. If we get a result against Leicester, I think everyone would say that this journey has been good. But this is not the end of the journey. If you get there it’s not like ‘breathe and relax’, it’s ‘go again’. We know that there are two teams who are too far ahead of us and we need to step it up even more.”
Coming back to the Burnley game, I think you’d won nine in 24 and are now unbeaten in the league - what do you think the most important factor has been in that turnaround?
“Many factors and reasons: belief. I think if you look at the game against Burnley, we should have won that one. That’s just football and the Premier League, you have to take your chances. I think the belief and confidence, the change of atmosphere; of course, Bruno [Fernandes] coming in has made a massive difference. We’ve got our best players fit and raring to go. There have been many different reasons for the upturn, but it’s been down to the work. They’ve trusted us and believed what we’ve said, and the boys have worked really hard. The fitness level and the mental robustness are so much better than last season.”
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