United v Roma: Watch the press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Luke Shaw faced the media to preview Thursday's Europa League semi-final first leg...
Luke Shaw Luke, I know you won the Community Shield, but you haven’t been to the larger cup finals for so long in your seven years here at the club, how much is that a driving force to win the Europa League and what would it mean for this group to be successful? “Personally, for me it’s a massive motivation. As you said then, I’ve been quite unfortunate to not be involved in semis and finals, so of course I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night to step out in one. But of course, from a team point of view, it’s very important. In the past we’ve missed out on a few finals and I think this season, the way we’ve been playing, the way the confidence is high, we’ve got real belief that we can reach it. Like I said, it’s a massive motivation for not just me but for the whole team to reach the final. It’s a game we’re looking forward to tomorrow and one we’re very ready for.” Luke, there have been difficult semi-finals with Man United in recent times, what do you put that down to the fact that you haven’t reached a final yet and what do you need to do against Roma to make sure you get into the Europa League final? “I think first and foremost, no semi-final is easy, they’re always tough games. We’ve just missed out on a few like you said. We’ve had a lot of disappointment from that, so I think we can use that as motivation for this one, the way we felt after them. Like I say, we were very disappointed, we can just reflect on that and put things right tomorrow and start with that. It’s obviously two legs so you know it will only be half-time after tomorrow, but the first leg will always be a very important one and we’ve had a few days to prepare for this and we’re ready for this because we want to win this trophy.” Luke, can you talk us through what you were doing around the 2017 final against Ajax and what your emotions were given the team won but obviously you weren’t involved in the game? “Of course I was extremely happy for the players, but I think everyone would agree with me when you’re not involved and you’re not playing and you haven’t got that kit on, it’s not the same. Of course, like I said on the other hand, I was very happy for the club to win that trophy and for my teammates. Of course, I want to be playing, luckily tomorrow I am so I’m looking forward to it.” This season at United seems to be going very well for you, what’s going right, what’s leading to these performances? “I think a lot of things. I think one of them is the manager sat next to me, I’m not just saying that because he’s sat here! But of course, he’s one of them. I think of course myself as well. I’ve changed a lot of things; I’ve added more belief in myself and I feel a lot more confident. The most important thing is I’m just enjoying playing football again and I think that’s a very important thing to have in our job. You need to be enjoying it and I’m doing that. The team are going in the right direction and I want to be a part of it, so I need to keep my high performance up and just keep myself in the team because there’s competition all over the squad. I want to keep improving, keep getting better and keep helping the team to push and hopefully win trophies.” I think we’re all delighted we’re looking forward to a European competition that we know about, last week a lot went on and you came out on social media and you were very sort of outspoken about it. How relieved are you and the rest of the players that you are looking forward to the Europa League, the Champions League and not a Super League? “Yeah of course, that’s done now, a decision has been made. Personally, I think it was the right decision, so yeah that’s that. I think there was a lot of emotion last week, but it’s been dealt with now. We’re professionals, we need to put that behind us and focus on what’s happening now. Of course, we’re playing in a European competition, the Europa League, and like I said it’s one we’re looking forward to. So, the full focus is on that and we’re just looking forward to getting back out on the pitch again.” I don’t know if you saw the stat this week that you have created as many chances as Lionel Messi this season, it’s not a bad comparison I suppose, obviously your free-kicks and your corners are a part of that but how important is that to your game in terms of creating chances, getting down the wing and playing crosses? “Yeah, I think it’s very important. I think a full-back nowadays needs to create a lot and do as much as they can to help the team. Not just me, but Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] on the other side has been brilliant for us and creating a lot of chances himself too. So, I think a full-back nowadays, first and foremost we’re defenders, we need to defend but I think a lot of the game nowadays is full-backs flying forward. It’s something I personally enjoy doing trying to help the team as much as possible by creating chances and hopefully adding a couple more goals to my game.” You won the club’s Player of the Year award a couple of seasons ago but the team in general seemed to have tailed off at the end of that season. This season, it feels like the team is getting stronger, from a personal perspective, do you feel as though you’re playing the best football of your career? “Yeah definitely. The season I won the Player of the Year award, I think you could have just picked anyone out of a hat, I don’t think there was a standout person that season. I think definitely this season is my best, like I said I’m enjoying it and I need to keep working hard, keep improving. I feel like I can keep getting better and give more for the team. So, I need to be doing that, keep going, keep my head down and what will come will come.” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Can I just ask for your reaction, Ole, to Roma fans putting posters of you around the training ground. Apparently a comment from you, post-Granada, that you didn't know them and hadn't seen them play. Their suggestion is they were affected by that? "Of course. That was straight after the game and with all the games we've had, I was just relieved that we'd gone through. Of course I've watched them but I hadn't analysed them and I hadn't seen them in depth to give them enough respect probably. It's a fantastic club with a great history. I've actually got two prized possessions back home - a Totti shirt and a De Rossi shirt that I've swapped with them, they're actually signed. I know about the history, I know about the quality. Of course with Chris being there [on loan] last season, we followed them. Then they signed Chris so we haven't watched them as much. But of course we have analysed them down to the ground since we drew them. We are ready for them. And my [comment] was not meant as any disrespect and I think everyone knows that. I've got loads of respect for them." You've talked a lot this season about the progress the team has made and that's evident. But does there come a point now, where you're close to a final and you've lost in semi-finals, where you have to seize the opportunity and tell the players now is the time effectively? "When you come to the business end of the season, the main thing is arriving there. First of all arriving there and being there, and being in and around the important games in good form. Having confidence and belief like we do now, like Luke just said. But of course to have that little bit of luck but also that quality that's needed. We have done remarkably well to get to five semis in just a little bit more than a season but now of course, we'd like to go through all the way. That would mean so much to the end of our season if we have a final to look forward to." I know Luke has confirmed himself as a starter (!) but how is the rest of the squad looking? With Marcus, it seems he hasn't been able to train ahead of the game, so what's the situation with him? "I was going to ask Luke if he'd picked the team already! But with Marcus, we've managed him and we've had to manage him for quite a while actually, with of course, last year, his back. Then he had his shoulder [injury] which he has recovered really well from and I feel he's gone through the worst of this foot [problem] as well. He almost played the full game against Leeds and he's available for selection again on Thursday, tomorrow, so I think he's happy with the progress that he's made. And we didn't lose anyone after the Leeds game which was a great preparation for us because it was a high intensity, very difficult game." It's a great achievement to reach all those semi-finals, especially in something like the Europa League. But is there a feeling, and it's through no fault of your own, that any success in it will be devalued given that your owners clearly don't care for the competition? "We have had a great night in the tournament before at this club and we know how much it means for the team, for the whole club and of course our focus now is to get to the final and make sure that the end of the season can finish with a celebration. As soon as we went out of the Champions League, our eyes and focus was on 'let's get to the final [in the Europa League.' I've noticed with the players that these games have been very important for them, for us. When you've got Real Sociedad and Granada - two Spanish La Liga teams, good teams - and you've got AC Milan with their history, and Roma with their history, we feel we've been in a proper competition and we've had to dig this out. We've enjoyed it. Now we're one step away from the big one." You played against Roma in that unforgettable 7-1 victory. You played half an hour. Carrick scored twice and you had an assist. How do you remember that game and have you and Carrick had a walk down memory lane together before this one? "I remember both games. I remember I started the first one but I can't remember if I finished it because we played with ten men and we dug out a very good result. The manager was really happy and pleased after that 2-1 defeat because we had scored a goal and he was confident that we could go through. But that night was magical. Alan Smith - he was unbelievable in that game. Michael's two goals... Ronaldo scored... we were on fire that night and we showed what Man United can do. Hopefully we can put on a performance like this again. If you knew me and Michael well enough, you wouldn't ask that question because of course we haven't. That's just not the types we are. We are looking forward. Maybe you look back at disappointments and setbacks, I think they're the ones you really go through. Good nights [like that] - that's in the bank but you don't talk about it." I want to ask about Eric Bailly. You've given him a new contract. How confident are you that he is over the injury problems he has had and does it change your focus bearing in mind the window in the summer? "Eric's been showing that's he's more and more resilient. He's been more robust. Of course, with Covid noone can be guaranteed there so that was a disappointment that he lost that one but I think he has shown throughout this season that he is maturing, he is developing, he's getting better. And of course we want to get the best out of Eric. As I've said before, he's a very, very highly regarded member of our squad. The boys love him, he's got such a good heart about him and his performances, when he plays, he never lets us down. He's a heart on the sleeve kind of guy and you know you'll get block tackles and aggression as a defender should do. But he's improving with the ball, improving with his build-up play and I'm very pleased that he's going to stay." There were protests against the owners in front of the stadium last weekend. Do you hope this will have an impact on the other side of the Atlantic? And can you explain to the fans how your relationship is with the Glazers? "I've had a very good relationship with the owners and with the club. Of course, they've employed me as the manager, they've listened to my views and that's my job, to give my opinion and do my best for the club and for them. I've had so many years here at the club that I'm looking forward to trying to bring success to the team and that's my focus. Bringing the fans and the players and the club together is very, very good. We've had setbacks, disappointments here so many times but we always come together. My focus, and our focus, the players, is to go that one step further - get to the final and hopefully win." What's the goalkeeping situation tomorrow and how does that work and how easy is it to navigate at the moment? "The situation is that we hope we keep another clean sheet and we hope we have a keeper that can join in the build-up, that we have a strong personality back there, making big moments. I'm probably the luckiest manager in world football to have two such good options and both of them have played more than 20 games this season, 20 to 30 games. We've been very solid, we've been building clean sheets, our record here is better and better and they're a big, big part of it. Both Dean and David want to lift the trophy, of course they do. Whoever we go with will know he has the support of his team and his team-mate." You spoke a minute ago about belief and getting from a semi-final to a final. Do you think there is a bit more belief than perhaps there was this time a year ago before that Sevilla game? "Yes, I would like to think so. The players have had another year, they're more experienced. They've come through some difficult times. Of course, Luke has been a big, big part of this season and he's another player who was injured last season, he couldn't be part of it. It was a strange end to last season with the tournament and even though we wanted to get to the final, it was a strange atmosphere and feeling, staying in Germany. Now, with the motivation of having those disappointments, I feel very confident that we're getting a good performance. And that's the thing. You come to a situation like this, the team's in good form, it's confident and you just then hope we can produce on the night. That's what it's about. Producing in 90 minutes, or 180 minutes, and have that quality and some luck at times to get to the final." Have you analysed those semi-final defeats and can you put it down to a reason why they happened? "Of course, we've looked at all the semis and we've looked at them for reasons why. But as Luke said, every semi-final is a tough one. You play against very, very good teams. Some defeats you dwell on a little bit more, you analyse a little bit more and it's about putting things right. It's arriving in this moment with an almost fully fit squad. We're in a better position. Of course, Anthony is injured, but we've had situations where we've maybe rested a couple that we thought we needed for the game the next week, which has been criticised and talked about, but we made those decisions with the right reasons behind it. Now, we're going to go all out of course. We've got Liverpool in between but that will take care of itself." You talked about the importance of winning trophies for the players and for the team but how important is it for you on a personal level to get into that first final and get your hands on that first trophy as a Manchester United manager? "It will be a dream come true, the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager, of course. That's what we're building for. As you said, we've been close, we're building step by step but to take the next step, it's ifs and buts and this and that, you always talk about that. But for this team and for myself, our ambition this season is to finish it with lifting a trophy and being able to celebrate. I know how much that can mean to a group moving forward."