Ole: The challenges we have to meet
Solskjaer speaks to the Sunday papers about the tasks that lie ahead for his United team...
How proud will you be if you go a full season unbeaten away from home because that’s a very tough thing to do? And secondly, do you know largely what your side is going to be for the Europa League final or is there still a chance that players can play their way in or maybe even out?! “First of all, away from home, we’ve done really well. We’ve had a fantastic season and so far to go all these games without defeat is some achievement and testament to their characters because it looked like we had lost a few but then we came back [in those games]. Again, football has not been the same. It’s not the same so it’s been without the fans so we take that [achievement] with a pinch of salt.” Nobody else has done it… “No, I know. It’s progress and we’ve developed as a team with the players we have here. We’re happy with the form that we’ve hit [away from home]. With regards to the team, I have a team in mind, what I think might be the starting eleven, but there are two or three places I’ve still not decided on yet. That’s the gut feeling I’ll get when it comes to the last day to be fair.” You’ve swapped goalkeepers now for the last five games in a row. I just wonder if you see rotation in that role as a long-term option or if you feel you need a permanent no.1 and everyone knows who that is? If that’s the case, do you know who your no.1 would be? “It’s been a strange season in that respect with regard to goalkeeping because at United for most of the time we’ve had a solid no.1, or a no.1 that has been playing most of the games. Of course, we brought Dean back to challenge David and he’s had a very good season. And David flew home for the birth of his baby which gave Dean a longer run in the team and he really played well and he established himself as a very, very good keeper. And he’s learned a lot from it. But of course, David is David and he’s really played well as well. He’s knuckled down, or buckled down – that’s the word – and he’s really taken on the challenge. I’m very pleased with the two of them and probably, it’s difficult to have that kind of rotation. You don’t rotate [goalkeepers] that much normally but I’ll have to find a solution for next year definitely.” First of all, I’d like to thank you for all the help you’ve given us this season, very much appreciated. “The pleasure’s all mine!” At some point after the final, will you hope to sit down with the club and hammer out your own future. I know you’ve got a year left on your contract but given you’ve rebuilt the club, you’ve got them in your first final and you’ve got them successive Champions League qualifications, you must feel that you’ve done enough to warrant being able to take that next step and maybe that will take another couple of years at least? “I think all of you know me and I wouldn’t talk myself up here. But as I’ve said, I’ve had very good dialogue with the club throughout, open and honest, and if they want to sit down with me, good, then we’ll do that. I’m not going to sit here and say anything different than it’s been a pleasure so far. But I think there’s a few more steps to go so let’s see what happens.” Ole, after the Europa League final, all eyes will turn to the Euros and you’ve obviously got a lot of players who are going to be involved in that tournament. Gareth Southgate is due to make his final selections this weekend and announce his squad on Monday. With the form of Mason Greenwood being as it has been with eight goals in the last 13 games, would you be surprised if he was included in this squad and if he was included, would you be happy with that? “[Laughs] Being Norwegian, I’m not looking forward to the Euros so much, like everyone else here. Unfortunately, we’re not in it! But of course, my players, I want them to have good experiences and if Gareth thinks Mason is worthy of a place, of course I’m happy for him to go, definitely. Mason has really developed and improved throughout the season and has learned a lot. Would I be surprised? I’m probably not surprised if he gets picked because I see him day in, day out and I see the boy’s qualities. But as I’ve said, that’s Gareth’s decision.” Ole, as it’s the final weekend, we always say farewell in the newspaper to people like Roy Hodgson, Sam Allardyce and a few great players like Wes Morgan, who has just announced his retirement, and Aguero’s going. Do we include Juan Mata in that list or will we have more of him next season, do you think? “Juan’s got more football in him, that’s for sure, and it’s up to Juan where he wants to continue. Of course we’re in dialogue with him, we’ve been speaking to him and the decision will be made after the season. So I’ll expect you to still write good things about Juan as a footballer, and a person. Of course, it’s a decision he’s got to make. I’ve not played him as much as he’d like and I’d like for different reasons of course. He’s had some difficulties but he’s such a highly regarded professional and a quality player in the group as well so let’s see what the decision is for him.” Looking ahead to the final on Wednesday night, how pleased are you there are going to be around 10,000 fans in, having seen what it was like for the FA Cup final last week? “And for ourselves as well, to be reunited with the fans at Old Trafford was brilliant, with the energy and the buzz. It’s a different game. To play in front of fans gives the players extra energy and drive so I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a long year or 15 months without fans. We’ve made the most of it but it’s a different game, it’s a completely different atmosphere. It feels almost normal again.” You’ve had four transfer windows now as permanent manager of the club. Having got the team into second place and made so much progress over the last two years, obviously in league terms there’s only one place to go now, so does it feel like this summer is your most important transfer window yet in terms of making sure that progress and momentum continues rather than risking standing still or going backwards? “The fear of standing still or going backwards is always there and you would do that if you don’t improve. There are many ways we can improve. We can improve on the training ground, we can improve with signing players… of course, we know the challenge ahead. You can almost call it the first few steps were the easier ones to take, the last step is the most difficult one. The challenge to get the points tally for our ambitions, that’s the challenge we have to take head on. And of course to bring the right types of players in, that’s going to be important.” Just going back to Harry Maguire, I think you said the other day that some people realise how good he is when he’s not playing. So if he is unfortunately out of the final, how much of a blow is that to you and how much of a challenge is it for whoever replaces him? “Oh it’s a blow definitely, when your captain, your ever-present captain, your leader is out. He defends our box and he creates chances for us. He hasn’t scored enough goals yet but he’s always a threat. So that’s a big blow. And he’s a vocal leader, he organises everyone. But he’s still in and around the dressing room, he’s doing everything he can to help the players. And who knows… I’m like Jim Carrey in Dumb And Dumber, ‘you’re telling me there is a chance?’ We still hope, we’re going to give him as much time as possible, but the hope is getting slimmer.” Because you’ve signed up Edinson for another season, does that mean in the summer you would be looking at other positions as a priority or if the right striker came on the market, would you still look at a striker as well? “I answered that one after the game last time. Of course, we’re still looking at players in every position. Edinson staying doesn’t mean we’re not looking for a centre-forward or a forward. Having Bruno as a number 10 still doesn’t mean we’re not looking for an attacking midfielder. Having Marcus Rashford doesn’t mean we’re not looking for players in his position either. It’s just the nature of the beast that you’re always trying to improve but of course, Edinson staying is great for us and whoever comes in will learn from him, definitely, whoever you are. So the short answer is ‘no, we’ve not stopped looking for a centre forward.’ But the longer answer is more complicated than that.”