Ole's press conference: Part two
Speaking in the second half of Friday's briefing, the boss was asked about Pogba, transfers and squad competition...
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer embargoed press conference 05/02/21 Paul Pogba has been named the Player of the Month by the fans. What have you done to get the best out of him? Because undoubtedly this period has seen the best of him compared to what’s gone before… “I think you should ask Paul what he’s done. The answer is, Paul has really knuckled down, he’s worked hard, got his fitness. I’ve said this many a time, he’s had a bad season last season with injuries, he got COVID this season, he had an injury [as well]. But he works hard, he’s playing in a team that plays well of course. He’s a big inspiration for everyone, he’s always has a big smile – not always a big smile, because yesterday in training when his team lost, you can see how that affects him and he wasn’t happy. Today was a new day and he’s ready to go tomorrow.” You’ve spoken before about the one-to-one attention you’ve had with certain players. Has that, do you think, worked with Paul and yourself? “I think it’s important for every player that you have a one-to-one relationship, have an open relationship and you can be honest about the situation. I try to manage every player as a different individual and a different human being. That’s the way I like to be managed and hopefully the boys feel like I trying to get the best out of them to make a good team together.” The club likes to have a decent idea of what it’s going to be up to in the summer market – I know we’re midway through the season but, with the pandemic, has that had an impact on plans for the summer or have you been able to air as you would have normally done in the previous seasons? “Well, I think we’re doing the same planning and preparation, but of course, the pandemic has changed the market and has changed the world. It might affect what we can do. We just have to see where we’re at in the next few months of course. But we are looking at players and targets as we normally would do. But we’ve done some very good business the last few windows, I feel, and it’s not like wholesale changes we need to make; it’s the odd contribution and addition to the squad.” Just back on Paul Pogba – everyone is aware that he and his agent have tried to engineer a move away in recent seasons. How do you, as his manager, try and convince him that Manchester United is the best place for him? Not just now, but in the years ahead, in terms of signing a contract extension? “Well our conversations stay private, of course. Paul is a Man United player through and through. He’s been here in two spells. He came here as a kid, he learned about the history of the club and the passion of the club. He wants to do the best for Man United when he’s here and I think we’ve seen that he really cares for his team and he’s trying to be successful as everyone else is. Our conversations, always, they have to remain private.” Luke [Shaw] has spoken about how positive it has been to have the added competition from Alex [Telles] at left- back and obviously you’ve got the same sort of thing with the goalkeepers. Are there other players who you think could still benefit from that or do you look at the squad and think you’ve got that competition everywhere now? “Well, I think it’s the sign of a Man united player that takes on the challenge of competition because if you cannot deal with competition, and you want to be successful, you’re at the wrong place. No-one’s guaranteed a place in the team and like a season-ticket card here. You have to perform to be part of a successful Man United. I’ve been part of it myself – strikers coming in and you just have to take the challenge head on. I really enjoyed the response I’ve had from the players. You say Luke, you say David [De Gea], but we signed Donny [van de Beek], we signed Amad now. We’ve signed players we believe in, but that’s sort of kicked other players up the backside to perform and to make sure you keep performing.” Back on Paul Pogba again – his brother spoke on TV on Friday saying if you want a fee for him you have to sell him this summer. Do you see it as cut and dry as that or do you see there as some way to go in what has become a bit of a saga for the club? “Speculation about Paul is always going to be there. We have a good open dialogue with Paul. What we talk about and how we see that situation, that remains between us, of course. I’m just happy he’s focused, playing really well and he’s happy in himself, and that’s important. You can see now Paul is enjoying playing with a red shirt on.” It wasn’t uncommon for Sir Alex [Ferguson] to talk about what he thought would be a points target to win the title during the course of the season. I was wondering if you had anything in mind about what you think might be enough to win it? Obviously we’ve seen 99/98/100 before, but do you think mid-80s will win it this time around? “When I played, I could never set a target of 20 goals scored because you don’t really know how the season is going to pan out. We’ve seen this season which is likely to be a lot less than it’s been the last few years, definitely. That’s because the world we live in is different now. But the consistency has to be there. If you want to win it you have work and deserve it. At the moment, Man City have put a long string [of wins] together and it’s up for the rest to follow suit. For me, the important thing is that we keep developing and keep improving. We’ve improved on last season. Of course we want to win every single game, and let’s come to March/April and see where we’re at. Let’s see then. Obviously it’s a big game for you this weekend, but it might not be the biggest game this weekend with the Super Bowl and the other Glazers’ team playing. We often hear about Gareth Southgate tapping into NFL knowledge – do you ever have conversations with anyone at the [Tampa Bay] Buccaneers to try and get anything from the NFL side with the Glazer operation? “When you operate at the top you try to widen your horizon; you have a network that you speak to, of course. I’m very pleased for the Glazers and the owners that they play the Super Bowl this weekend. For me, the big learning is maybe the Tom Brady story and what he does to keep going at such an age, and to be so professional. He’s come into the club and he’s brought them to the Super Bowl. It’s not him by himself, of course. We tell our young players, to be at the top level it’s not just natural talent: it’s dedication, it’s hard work, it’s focus. We’ve got the example of Edinson [Cavani] coming into our place and how much one player can influence a team. We’ve had Eric Cantona coming into the team with that experience. Tom Brady is an example to every single sportsman out there that it’s still possible at the age of 42/43, whatever he is now. But we do keep the dialogue between ourselves.”