United v Real Sociedad: Ole's press conference
Team news and transfer rumours were prominent subjects throughout Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s press conference to preview Manchester United’s Europa League match against Real Sociedad.
The Reds secured a 4-0 win from the first leg in Turin and plan to build on that advantage on Thursday at Old Trafford, where kick-off is scheduled for 20:00 GMT.
To preview the occasion, Solskjaer held a media briefing with European journalists on Wednesday afternoon and he began by discussing the players who might be involved, as you can read here…
Can I just ask you with the state of the tie whether Amad and Shola [Shoretire] and also whether Hannibal will be in the squad, but whether the other two have any chance of starting?
"Hanibal is injured, unfortunately. He got injured in the Reserves, so he'll be out for about a month. He was just coming into our squad and unfortunately for him, he's out. Amad and Shola will be involved. They're in the squad, but I'm not going to tell you if they're starting or not.”
It'll be five years ago to the day since Marcus [Rashford] made his debut as a young player. What do you remember about that, and how do you sum up his impact since?
“He's had an incredible impact, both on and off the pitch. He's matured, grown into a real, proper young man who knows what it takes to be a Manchester United player, on and off the pitch. He's taken responsibility on and off it. Yeah, I do remember a young little lad coming on, two nice goals and the celebrations with his team-mates in the stand, of course. I think he's living proof of what we want to do at the club, that when you sign for Man United, whether you're 10, 6 or 14, you've got a chance to make dreams come true. Long may it continue, because he has 10/15 years left in him.”
Do you think that story of Marcus gives you and Manchester United and advantage when trying to sign the best young talent, when they know that there is a pathway?
“I don't think it's just Marcus, I think through the history of Man United we have proven and shown many times that we can develop our own local ones, homegrown ones. Butyou sign players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and make them the best players in the world. Sir Alex [Ferguson] was the best at it; Sir Matt [Busby], unbelievable. Of course, we want to follow in their footsteps.”
Obviously there were some big-name players missing recently - are you going to be able to welcome back [Edinson] Cavani, [Scott] McTominay and [Donny] van de Beek back for this one?
“No, they're still out. Still not trained enough or joined in. So it will be, more or less, the same squad that played at Newcastle.”
Can I ask about Dean Henderson? There has been a lot of talk about him given how well he did at Sheffield United last season and for you. How much of a headache is it to juggle him and David [De Gea], give them playing time, keep them happy, and keep Dean developing?
“I've said it many a time, it's any player's job to keep the manager happy I would think, to get into the team. To be honest, it's not a bad headache to have, to have two fantastic goalkeepers. Dean has matured throughout the season. I thought maybe the Real Sociedad game was his most assured one which gives me a lot of confidence in him.”
One of the hottest players on the planet right now is your former one, Erling Haaland, who seems to be wanted by all the big clubs in Europe. What do you think about his performances lately and is that a man you would like to see at Old Trafford?
“I think when you have had kids and players though as coach, you follow them, of course. I still keep in touch with Erling and it's great to see him become the player he has become and I know he'll work to keep improving all the time. Erling's a Dortmund player, we wish him well there and let's see what life will bring later on.”
You didn't have your normal coaching team with you on Sunday because of the whole COVID issue. Will they be back tomorrow and how confident are you that the outbreak has been contained and won't impact any of the players?
“We've had loads of tests since then and all the players have been negative. The precautions we did, I think we just acted in the right time and the right manner. But they won't be with us for this game, no.”
Can I ask you about Juan Mata? A couple of reports said there was interest from Italian clubs in him. How important is he to your future, given that his contract is up at the end of the season and he has an option [to another year]?
“I'm not surprised that teams are interested in him because, one, he's a very good footballer and, two, he's a fantastic professional and human being. Of course, when the contracts are running towards the end, there will be interest. I'm sure Juan has been able to speak to other clubs if he wanted to. I keep in touch with him all the time anyway. We've got a good dialogue.”
You said about Marcus earlier that he could play for 10 or 15 years. Obviously, part of that is down to how he lives his life off the pitch. Is he an example for the squad and other players normally of how to look after themselves?
“I think what he does on and off the pitch - you had to be meticulous to last for a long career. We have the best possible example of that here over the last 20 years: Cristiano. He came into the club and we all took notice. The way he developed and looked after himself throughout his career is major. I'm sure Marcus is looking after himself. That's the only way to live at the top, you cannot ever get distracted. If you play until you're 35, you can do whatever you want after that.”
As one of the only managers you can say that you managed three of maybe the five or six most promising attacking players in the world - Erling, Marcus and Mason [Greenwood]. What is that like as a former striker to be able to work with those types of talent and how do you compare those cases, having worked with all three?
“Well, I think when you are at Man United, you'll work with some fantastic talents. Erling we signed with Molde and, of course, you try to help them. That's our job as coaches and managers, you try to make players better - better players, better persons. I feel privileged and I'm lucky, and I really enjoy working with people and players. Like Dan next to me, he's hungry to learn. They're the players you give extra attention to, and the lads you were talking about there, they are a part of it.”
Ole, your opposite at Real Sociedad talked about the physical rather than the technical difference between the two sides. Spanish teams have been hugely successful, but four teams were beaten last week in European competitions. Do you sense a shift to a different type of successful football, or is more about economics?
“For me, the fitter you are, the more you can do. The best teams have the physicality, technicality and the mentality. Marcus is exceptional, Dan is exceptional with his pace. We found a way of finding space in behind him, but they are very technically good. When you have David Silva out there you have to focus for 90 minutes.”
Adnan Januzaj said before the first tie that at Man United he maybe felt he'd been a victim of the club chopping and changing managers. Do you think young players, kids coming through the Academy and players like Dan have got a better chance to establish themselves now they have a bit more stability under you?
“Of course it's down to each manager and how they think. I believe in the youth. I believe that if players get the chance they can really develop, improve and impress and surprise you. That's part of this club and that's part of me. I've always loved working with young players, hungry players with a good attitude. If you have a good attitude you have a chance with me. If you don't, there's less of a chance.”
Just a quick question on Erling Haaland. Twelve months ago you came close to signing him - you got Bruno in that window. I know you missed out on Erling, but does it show from a recruitment point of view just how right the players you are now targeting. Also, having missed out on him, do you think that ship has sailed? or do you think it's something you could look at again in the future?
“One, you know I can't speak about Eric because he's with Borussia Dortmund and I think it's disrespectful to talk too much about it other than I know him and I speak to him. Who wasn’t interested in him a year ago? You'd always take the best players in the world and Erling is a top player. For me on the recruitment. There's a boy sat next to me that proves that, Bruno as well. I think the signings we've made since I have come to the club have all improved and complimented the squad. That's part of what we do, we have to compliment what we have in our group with a different type of player. I'm happy with our recruitment model and the processes that we go through.”
Daniel James sat alongside the manager at the Aon Training Complex to take questions from the press, fresh from an excellent week in which the Wales international scored twice…
Dan, what kind of a season has it been for you because you've been in and out of the team and you seem to have hit some good form at the moment, but I just wonder how it's been over the course of the season?
“I think it's been a learning one for me. I played a lot last season, more than I expected coming in. I think as a season, it's been a learning one for me - time to knuckle down, get stuff done in training, reflect on things, and I think that's what I've done. I’m reflecting every day on getting back to where I want to be.”
You made such a good tart to your United career, in the first six months or so. Did that surprise you how quickly you adapted to the demands of the club? After a difficult period do you think you are nearing that level of form again now?
“I wouldn't say that it surprised me. I worked very hard to get in this position. I think at the start it was a lot of excitement and enjoyment, I was just so happy to be here. I believe in life you also go through difficult patches, it's just about not about sticking your head in the sand and thinking 'when can I come back from this'? It's about reflecting and learning very day, which I have. It's just about getting back to the form at the start of the season. I would like to think I'm on a good pathway. I've still got some much to learn and the coaches are always speaking to me. It's about doing the right thing.”
You mentioned about improving this season. I know it might be difficult to talk about yourself, but can you give us an idea of what kind of stuff you've got better at? The last couple of games you have shown a different side to your game...
“I think over the season, it's about learning from the players that are here. The coaches as well, and the gaffer. I think what I came away with the most is to be myself. I think I need to take a leaf out of everyone's book, but ultimately be myself. I think I'm a different performer to everyone here. Every forward is different and it is good to have that option. I think I came away from that a little bit, but I think I reflected and looked back and when I'm at my best, and come back to that. Just learning every day in training.”
We've got just a few months to go in the season, United are still in three competitions. Just how hungry are this squad to pick up some silverware this year?
“Yeah, I think you've seen this season we're so hungry to pick up silverware. I think last season we were just that little bit off, but this season we want to go that step further.”
Question for each of you - Dan, what's it like to play with Bruno [Fernandes]? Ole, your opposite number at Real Sociedad talked about the physical rather than the technical difference between the two sides. Spanish teams have been hugely successful, but four teams were beaten last week in European competitions. Do you sense a shift to a different type of successful football, or is more about economics?
DJ: "It just is what you see on the TV. Bruno has been unbelievable since he's come in and not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well. He's a real character and he's brought a lot to the changing room. You can see he's brought a lot to the pitch. We do speak a lot because I need to be on the same wavelength as him and if I can know what he's going to do before he does it then it's going to help both of us. I think in a game, there are times when he's not even looked at you and you know that he's seen your first five [yard runs]. I've seen so many of those balls this season. It's just great to play with him and hopefully I can keep having a great connection with him."
OGS: "For me, I think football evolves and develops all the time. I think if you look back to the time when I was playing, there is a such a difference technically and tactically, physically, probably mentally as well. For me, the fitter you are, the more you can do. If you have pace you can run, if you are technical you can pass. I think the best teams have the physicality, technicality and tactically and mentality they are very strong. When you look at some of the goals [against Sociedad], Marcus is exceptional, Dan is exceptional with his pace. That's going to trouble any defender. We found a nice way of finding space in behind them in Turin, and hopefully we can find some spaces again to hurt them. But we know we have to defend well because they are very technically good. When you have David Silva out there you have to concentrated for 180 minutes."
Adnan Janujaz said before the first tie that at Man United he maybe felt he'd been a victim of the club chopping and changing managers. Do you think young players, kids coming through the Academy and players like Dan, have got a better chance to establish themselves now the club have a bit more stability under you?
OGS: "Of course It's down to each manager and how they think. I believe in the youth. I believe that if players get the chance they can really develop, improve and impress and surprise you. That's part of this club and that's part of me. I've always loved working with young players, hungry players with a good attitude. If you have a good attitude you have a chance with me. If you don't, there's less of a chance."
Just a quick question on Erling Haaland. Twelve months ago you came close to signing him - you got Bruno in that window. I know you missed out on Erling, but does it show from a recruitment point of view just how right the players you are now targeting? Also, having missed out on him, do you think that ship has sailed? Or do you think it's something you could look at again in the future?
OGS: "You know I can't speak about Eric because he's with Borussia Dortmund and I think it's disrespectful to talk too much about it other than I know him and I speak to him. Who weren't interested in him a year ago? You'd always take the best players in the world and Erling is a top player. For me, on the recruitment… there's a boy sat next to me that proves that, Bruno as well. I think the signings we've made since I have come to the club have all improved and complimented the squad. That's part of what we do, we have to compliment what we have in our group with a different type of player. I'm happy with our recruitment model and the processes that we go through."