United Briefing: Ole's call for leaders
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called on his Manchester United defenders to step up to the plate and fill the void left by injured captain Harry Maguire.
Our skipper suffered ankle ligament damage against Aston Villa last Sunday and was forced to watch the Reds' back-to-back Old Trafford defeats to Leicester City and Liverpool this week in the Sir Bobby Charlton stand on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
United conceded six goals in those 180 minutes without Maguire. The Reds now face Fulham next Tuesday at home in front of 10,000 fans for the first time in 14 months because of the pandemic, and finish the Premier League campaign at Molineux against Wolves on 23 May.
Three days later is the massive Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk, and the boss needs his defenders to get back to keeping clean sheets in the league ahead of the big finale which Maguire is battling to be fit for.
"Harry has been amazing since he came to the club. He has been more or less ever-present so, of course, when a player is a leader, a captain, the status of him, his presence is missed," Ole told a post-match press conference after the 4-2 Liverpool defeat.
"But then we have players who can come in and it is a chance for everyone to take on that little bit of leadership. We need to do that when he is gone.
"You can hear him in the stands when he is not playing. he is important for us and someone else just has to take that responsibility now because I am sure that in the next two games we will be without him. Hopefully, we can get him back for the final but who knows? I don’t know yet."
United are in the middle of a punishing end-of-season schedule but Solskjaer still wants to use some time before the players face Fulham, backed at last by some supporters on Tuesday, with work on the Achilles heel that has been costing us goals.
"We are going to use the next few days well to recover physically and mentally and then we have to prepare for Fulham and then Wolverhampton and then the final," he said.
"We should have more energy. We should use this period well, more energy means better press, better press means less chances against. Our forwards they have spent a lot of energy pressing. Maybe lately we haven’t seen too much of that because it is the end of the season and this is the end of a very, very hard week.
"But we will work on it and brush up on a few details, pay attention to some details on the set plays and put the players in the frame of mind that these set plays are vital in football. At least a third of goals probably are conceded [that way] in football. But we can do so much better and when we do that we will improve.
"Obviously today (against Liverpool) the goals we conceded, set plays disappointing, that’s a situation we don’t defend well enough and that is something we have to work on because we have conceded too many goals from it."
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
We'll kick off the day with our usual Media Watch round-up of all the key stories and transfer rumours on Friday.
There will also be a new episode of United Daily to close the day out, but between those two expect plenty of features as we start to look ahead to the final week of the Premier League season and also run through the contenders for the end-of-season awards, which you can vote for now.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
United suffered a disappointing 4-2 Premier League defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford. After the match, we provided you with the usual match report, match gallery, rounded up the most important talking points and post-match reaction from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Bruno Fernandes.
Ahead of kick-off, we started the day by serving you the latest news on United in our Media Watch article before publishing a press release on the Premier League's new TV deal. Club legend Paddy Crerand also revealed who he believes should win the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award.