Solskjaer and Williams: The full press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was back on press conference duty on Sunday evening, ahead of Manchester United's Europa League quarter-final against FC Copenhagen, and he was joined by young defender Brandon Williams.
Here, you can read the full transcript of what both Ole and Brandon said to the media...
Brandon, how would you assess your progress this season?
“It’s been a crazy season for me and my family, to be honest. Obviously I started with the Reserves and now I’m playing with the first team, and I just want to carry on and play as many games as possible.”
Ole, can you give us an update on the squad?
“We’ve travelled with a big squad. Of course Phil [Jones], Axel [Tuanzebe] and Luke [Shaw] are the three that we’ve left behind.”
Ole, you could be out in Germany for a while. With the lockdown measures in place, how do you keep players entertained?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Of course we’ve put plans in place, but for me it’s only about this game now. You can’t think too far ahead. It’s a knockout tournament and if you don’t perform you’re going home. If you go through then we have a few days before the next game, but at the moment we don’t have that problem.”
Brandon, at what stage did you feel you were fully part of the first team?
“I think it’s not a case of that, because at any time I can drop down to the U23s or I could pick up an injury or anything. I’m just focused on what I’m doing. I want to keep on working hard and keep on improving what I need to improve on, and try to play as many games as I can.”
Do you really think you could drop down to the U23s?!
“It’s just down to myself to keep on improving and keep myself fit and be ready to play every game, like I am. I’m always ready for the next one and now we’ve got a game tomorrow and it’s a one-off game so we need to win.”
United v FC Copenhagen: Press conferenceVideo
Ole, tell us about your relationship with FC Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken?
“I played against him for the first time in ’95 so I’ve known him for years. He had a very good career as a player, he was always the one we looked to stop playing when we played them. He was a creative midfielder. He’s then had a fantastic coaching career. He started off with his hometown team and he’s been at Copenhagen [for] two spells, and here in Cologne, and been in the Championship with Wolves. In a similar way [to me] he’s had his ups and downs but he’s really come through again, and he’s leaving a legacy at Copenhagen. Now they’re in the quarters for the first time, so it’s step by step for him. I went to Copenhagen to do my study visit for my pro licence and it was very kind of him to let me in. They lost to Chelsea so hopefully this time they’ll lose to us!”
Ole, will it be strange to to have a European final with no fans?
“It is strange and it’s not football as it should be. And I think it’s changed things a little bit. That little bit of passion and edge to a game is missing because the fans have to be there. I have to commend our players because they’ve done really well and have handled the situation really well, and I know our fans can’t wait to get back to Old Trafford to support us. We’ll just have to try to make the most of this Europa League and hopefully get as far as we can.”
Ole, Paul Pogba posted about his anniversary of re-signing for United and seems very happy here. How pleased are you about that?
“I’ve answered numerous questions on Paul! We’re delighted he’s back playing, he’s fit and enjoying his football. Of course he’s got to make up for lost time and he’s trying to do that. He’s training extra and he’s always a great personality in and around the place, and hopefully we can see him lift this trophy as he has done before. He’s professional, he’s a fantastic boy and I’m delighted we’ve got him in the team.”
Ole, how difficult is it to choose between David De Gea and Sergio Romero for the rest of this tournament?
“It’s an obvious question. I think I must be the most privileged manager in the world with the goalkeeping department we’ve got with Sergio, David, Dean Henderson coming back – you’ve got three top, top keepers there. This season has shown again how important Sergio has been for us. And for me also, David has always been performing. We’ll see what we do for the rest of the season and going forward. It’s difficult, of course it is, but it’s a nice problem to have.”
Brandon, where does the personality and aggression you show come from and do you have a preferred position on the pitch?
“I think it’s from when I’ve been a kid here, and from the age of eight it’s drilled into you about what this club means. It’s part of the DNA to have it inside, but you’ve got to have it controlled and not over the top. I think it’s just from what the United coaches have given me over the years. For positioning, wherever the manager wants me to play I’m always willing to put a shift in and do my job. I’m just happy to be out on the field to be honest, it doesn’t matter where I play.”
Ole, do you think Anthony Martial has become more of a powerhouse centre-forward this season?
“Definitely. Anto has made huge strides this season in many aspects of his game. Of course I like him scoring, being in between the posts and scoring simple goals, because we know he can score worldies like he’s done a few times. He’s in the gym a lot and working on his fitness and strength with the fitness staff. They’ve done a fantastic job with him. He’s physically at his best level in his career I think. I’m just looking forward to seeing him improving and there’s more to come from Anthony definitely.”
Ole, are you surprised to see FC Copenhagen in the quarter-finals of this competition?
“No, not surprised at all. I know how Stale has built the club and what they’re about. Of course I played against them when I was at Molde and I’ve known Stale for such a long time and Copenhagen has had a great history in getting into Europe and doing well in Europe. I think Stale’s team have got individuals there, very good players. There are some young forwards who are interesting, the three of them, and there are experienced players in midfield and at the back. But I think the biggest strength is the teamwork and how well organised Stale’s teams always are.”
Ole, obviously there are no fans watching games and this tournament has been shortened with ties becoming one-legged affairs. With those things in mind, if you were to win it, would it mean as much?
“Well, we are in a strange period and strange times, it’s unprecedented. We’ve just got to make the most of it and if we can go through to the semis and the final it would mean a lot to the players, the club, the staff and the supporters. We just have to make the best out of a difficult situation.”
Ole, what will happen with Dean Henderson next season and, in terms of the forwards, do you think they keep pushing each other on?
“Competition for places is important and we’re looking to have that. We have Dean, Sergio and David at the moment, in the ranks, and Lee, the fantastic professional that he is and he’s backing them up. It will be difficult to keep three of them at the club, so we’ll see what the decision will be there. Forward positions – scoring goals is always good for strikers. Seeing others scoring goals gives you a little bit of an edge that you don’t want to be behind them, but you also play for the team and the three of them [Mason, Marcus and Anthony] have been backing each other up. For me, I hope they will continue their development because it’s exciting times for United in the next few years.”
Ole, we'll see two Norwegian managers against each other tomorrow night...
“First of all, it’s not me against Stale – we’re not playing against each other. He’s had a very good career, I think about 750 games or something. I think I’m getting towards about 400 now, I’ve been a manager for almost 10 years, so I’m not that new. It depends on what you think is new. Stale is a bit older than me and even though I’m turning grey, hopefully I’ll keep the hair!”
Ole, having now already qualified for next season's Champions League, is the pressure now off a bit in this tournament?
“I don’t think so. We went into this season knowing that the Europa League is a great chance for us to get a trophy, to go far in a tournament and to also groom a few of the youngsters. It was perfect for us. I think if we’d been in the Champions League this season – which is of course where we always want to be – I maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to play the likes of Mason and Brandon as much as we have done. So many of the young kids who have now started what will be fantastic careers have done so with the Europa League. So it’s always been about that as well. It’s about keeping the squad together, having a group that is working together and giving people chances. Brandon is sat next to me now and is going to play in a quarter-final in the Europa League, which is a great achievement for him this season. So it’s been perfect for us.”
Ole, you've only lost one of the last 23 games – what’s changed in the last few months?
“We have developed through the season. We’ve had a squad that’s been working together. Of course there were a few changes in the January transfer window that made us even stronger. But also the teamwork we’ve done is now more and more natural and we’ve found good form. Of course we’ve got good players and we’ve got players back from injury, but one in 23 is one too many.”
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