Emirates FA Cup quarter-final: Ole's press conference
Knocking AC Milan out of Europe with a victory at San Siro is a fine achievement, yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no time to dwell and he is already looking forward to Manchester United’s next challenge – Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City.
The manager held his pre-match press conference for our trip to the King Power Stadium in the aftermath of Thursday’s victory in Italy, speaking to journalists in another digital media briefing.
As you can read in the full transcript below, or watch in the video, Ole provided injury updates on Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial, discussed the importance of Paul Pogba and heaped praise on our defence following another impressive clean sheet.
The boss also provides plenty of positive reinforcement for the recent work of Mason Greenwood...
“We haven’t really got to the bottom of it but with Edinson, he’s worked really hard and is joining training sessions and towards the end of training sessions when he needs to chop it up and feel hundred percent ready for the game and he hasn't really gotten there yet. So, it's down to him. He wants to be 100 per cent when he joins in. He doesn’t want to come in and look off the pace, so hopefully he can be ready for Sunday but I'm not sure either, because after the training yesterday he felt something that he couldn’t travel with us.”
You spoke earlier about the importance of winning the first trophy and now have the chance both in the Europa League and the FA Cup to do so. Just how much difference do you think that can make for you going into next season with a trophy in your bag?
“I spoke earlier about trophies and it can hide sometimes what you’re doing in the background but for me, I feel we’re improving all the time and getting closer. To win a trophy could be a boost for everyone, yes, it would be… We’ve had this before, when we won the Carling Cup in 2006 with Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra] and it was the first of many [trophies]. We feel, or we hope, a trophy can be a catalyst of more to come.”
“The belief and the attitude is there. I have to say I’m impressed by the way they recover for each game, because it’s relentless. They are preparing at the highest, highest level. It’s not like we’ve had any gimmes in the draws. Every game has been one where you have to dig deep to win. This is another one, Leicester away. Of course, we drew in the league against them and we know we have to defend well against them. They’ve got [Jamie] Vardy and [Kelechi] Iheanacho, with the form they’re showing, and they’ve got quality in other players, the passes of [Youri] Tielemans, the runs of [Ayoze] Perez. So we know we’ve got a game on our hands.”
We saw Paul’s quality coming on and you said earlier how important he will be for the rest of the season. With that in mind, how important is it to get him tied down to a new deal? He’s only got one year left on his contract and how confident are you that you can do that?
“I think everyone in the team, Paul included, is just focused on doing as well as we can this season. I don’t think any energy will be used on the speculation. Of course, we’ve got discussions and talks and when you see Paul play like tonight and come back training, that shows how much he cares for us and enjoys playing and how much we can benefit from having him here.”
“We’ll have to see how much he can play. I’m not sure if he can play 90 minutes or if he can start but you see the impact he can make if he comes on as a sub. If he feels okay, maybe we can start him as well. We have to see who the riders and runners are after tonight. It’s a long travel, we’ll be late back, so we’ll see. I hope he’s ready to start. Victor and Harry, I thought they played really well last season as well. We had so many clean sheets last season as well, Victor and Harry have got a good understanding with each other and they’ve really built on last season. Then again, we’ve got other centre-backs who come on and do well when they get the chance.
Mason didn’t score tonight and he hasn’t scored very much this season but…
“I knew you were going to say but! I bet your question was going to be about how well he plays? He’s really matured and his performances are top class.”
Specifically though, what is he doing? From the outside, it seems like he holds the ball up really well, running in the channel but you tell me what makes him a good striker?
“Definitely. His hold-up play, his link-up play has improved so much. His physical strength has improved so much. His awareness has always been there but he’s getting the confidence. You know, this season has been a big step forward for him. The next step for him is to stop thinking about finishing because he doesn’t have to think about it. It’s just instinct, just do it. Just trust yourself, all the other bits are there. And that’s what I tell him. He’ll be fine, he’ll really kick on soon.”
“Not concerned at all. I just want Anthony fit. Same with Paul. We just want them to go and play. They’ve missed too many games. This was a hip injury he got against AC Milan a week ago, we hoped he was going to be ready for West Ham and then he couldn’t make that one. Then he was close to getting fit for this one. He couldn’t make it but hopefully he can make Sunday. I’m not sure, because he’s not reacted how we hoped. He’s working hard to get the treatment, in the pool, light work and everything to get ready. That’s the pleasing thing. He’s just wanting to get fit and I think it will benefit him going to France and playing.
Just in terms of the defence. How much confidence do you have in the defenders that you’ve got? Because you’re not conceding a lot of goals and are on a good run at the moment but periodically you get linked with all these defenders. How much faith have you got in the guys that you have?
“Sky-high. We’re used to speculation. Every goal you concede at Manchester United is going to be scrutinised. That’s just the way it is. You know, I know these boys have become so much stronger mentally and to deal with these things. We work on things. You know, when we had a set-back like we did against Milan in the last minute, we had a little… not row but a bit of a meeting and you saw against West Ham and tonight that there was no chance we were going to let any goals in. They’re proud defenders. Even though, they can play football, they can play out from the back and all this but when you see defenders wanting to defend, you’re pleased. Of course, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] had a good chance but he’s a physical monster, so you can’t protect yourself against everything in football but they’re trying as well as they can.”