United v Bournemouth: Watch Ole's press conference
Saturday's Premier League game kicks off at 15:00 BST, leaving bags of time to watch our pre-match press conference...
Good morning Ole. Can you remember your team being in a more confident mood heading into a match like they are this weekend against Bournemouth? “Well it's been a while since of course we've been on a run like this. When I first came in the run was also a good one, but now, definitely we are feeling confident, we are feeling in good form and they should be because they've worked so hard over the lockdown period and they're just getting their sharpness and match fitness back. And of course, when you perform like you have done, the Sheffield United and Brighton games I thought they were really good, so they should be confident.” One of the standout performances in that Brighton game was Mason Greenwood. The expectations have gone up again for him because of his goal and assist and his all-round game. How careful are you going to have manage this situation with Mason in terms of keeping a lid on expectations and resisting the temptation to play him every match when he's playing like that? “We have done well over the course of the season giving him more and more exposure, more and more game time. You know, it's not easy being a young boy, he could still play in this season's FA Youth Cup team, so he's a young boy that we have to look after. But he's performing from the bench or when he starts and he's developed fantastically this season. So, the sky is the limit, it's up to him. He knows what he should do and can do and must do to keep on playing, but that will be between us.” Greenwood looks like he had a fantastic lockdown in terms of more pace and more strength. You know what it takes to make a number nine, he's got 14 goals, so do you ultimately see him playing behind the middle with not a nine on his back, but playing in that position? “Well, he's a centre-forward by trade but he likes to drift wide, he likes to face forward and that's a different role than being a forward up through the middle. You can see some centre-forwards who like their back to the goal, get over the ball, link it, which Mason is improving on. His body is filling out and he can play that position. But I think we can see him like maybe we have done with Marcus and Anthony as well, they're good centre-forwards, very good footballers, good goal-scorers, with good movement, they're not stuck between the posts.” You've talked about the gap between yourselves and Man City and Liverpool. Did you watch the game last night and think maybe with a couple of additions and the belief you've got, that maybe that gap can be closed next season? “I watched quite a few games yesterday. Norwegian and English, there is quite a lot of football on the telly at the moment. And yeah, I watched two very, very good teams on show. But we believe that we're on the right track, we think that we can improve from where we are now and close the gap further.” Ole, do you feel justified in what you've done this season? Because you took a lot of criticism in the first few months where things didn't seem to be going right and now the last few games there's obviously fruition of your plan. Do you feel justified in the way you've gone about this job? “If you're worried about what others write about you, think about you, say about you, you shouldn't be in this job. So, no I don't. What I feel doesn't really matter. What I do is with the coaching staff, with the club, trying to improve us, so I don't need anyone to say that was the right thing or the wrong thing or feel like we've shown that we've done the right thing. For me it's just about the next game and improving all the time. I believe in a certain way of managing a club, managing players, the staff, and I'm just doing what I think is right. That's what I've done more or less all my life when I've been working in football. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.” In terms of tomorrow, is tomorrow a dangerous game, because people will look at it and think this is easy. Manchester United are in form, Bournemouth are clearly not in form. It's an easy game. “I've seen lots of quotes that we have an easy run in. But then the next five games they are against Bournemouth, we lost to them in the previous game. Aston Villa, we drew to them at home at Old Trafford. We have Southampton, which we drew to, we lost to Palace, we lost to West Ham, so there's teams that we've got a point to prove against. We know that we have to improve on our last performances against them. No, I don't think it's an easy game, I think it's the same answer really. What anyone else thinks it doesn't really matter, because we know to win a game of football we have to perform. And Bournemouth, yeah, they're struggling and are fighting against relegation, which is not a nice place to be in, but they'll come here and fight for points. They're one of the best teams in the league on set plays, we know that, they scored against us at Old Trafford last year on set plays, so we know that we have to stop quite a few things with them. But then again if we play to our best, we should create enough chances to win the game.” What about the fitness issues, you’ve had so many games in such a short period of time - how is the squad looking injury-wise and fitness-wise? “I have to wait and see because there’s a couple that have got some knocks and bruises. If there are a couple of changes, don’t be surprised, not just because of fitness, but there are so many games and I have to look after the players. It would be nice to play the team that performed so well against Sheffield United at home last time and played so well against Brighton. Let’s wait and see how everyone is after training - I’ve not seen them this morning. I’ve got many reason to play the same team, but I’ve also got a few reasons to rotate one or two who have played so well earlier in the season.” Can I just ask about Jude Bellingham - you were strongly linked with him in recent months. Is that how you understand it and would that be a frustration to miss out on a very talented young player? “Well, there has been loads of speculation and we’ve been linked with very single talented player from the age of 15-25. I can’t comment on every single player that has been linked with us. So, no, I can’t really comment.” There have been eight clean sheets in the last 13 league matches. A lot of people are talking about United going forward, but how pleased are you with how solid you’re looking at the back? “Every time you get a clean sheet, that’s a big plus because we know that we are capable of creating chances and scoring goals. The foundation for any team… any manager would say if you have a foundation to build from at the back, with a shape and the intensity of the defensive work, then you’ve got a chance of getting a result. For me, it starts with Anthony and stops with David who makes the saves. It’s a team effort and I’m very pleased with so many clean sheets. We struggled early on in the season - we couldn’t buy a clean sheet. It just didn’t matter how well we defended, we had shots off the backsides of the opponent. I think, at the moment, we’re defending well as a team.” Going back to Mason and when you were a player - do you see any of yourself in Mason as a goalscorer? “Mason is way ahead of where I was when I was 18/19, that’s for sure. I don’t really want to say anything different because it’s natural for him. It’s what I felt I could do well as well. He’s a brilliant boy to work with, he keeps on learning and he keeps on making better decisions. He’ll be good.” New signings aside, what has changed between now and the last time you went to Bournemouth and the defeat in November? “At the moment, of course, you go into the game more confident. Results and performances will give you more confidence. The group is working towards a common goal. They can see that the effort we have put in has worked. The team shape is better and everything is better than it was back then. It’s hard to put a finger on something special and I’ve just been pleased with the focus of everyone.”