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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been addressing the media ahead of his side’s clash with Wolves on Sunday, with the Reds looking to go into the international break in the best manner possible – with a win!
As well as updates on his squad ahead of the trip to Molineux, Ole also discussed transfer business, while putting the record straight on Donny van de Beek and Phil Jones.
Here’s everything the boss had to say at Carrington earlier today…
First and foremost, are you looking forward to the game?
“Yes, of course. When you have the disappointment of losing two points last week, you want a game straight away. The start of the season has been a little bit different. Last year we had loads of games, this time a week in between. We’re training well, fit and ready. We’re still missing Scott who had surgery this week. Marcus, Alex, Dean Henderson, they’re not ready. But apart from that we have a fit squad ready to fight for points.”
Can you give us some updates on the transfer window? On Jesse Lingard?
“Jesse, I see him as a Man Utd player. I know there’s loads of speculation about him, but he’s had a very good pre-season, England squad, it’s just unfortunate that he got COVID before we started, he would have 100% started the first game.”
One player who isn’t in the England squad is Mason Greenwood, what do you make of that?
“I think Mason is on the right track. I’ve had conversations with Gareth [Southgate] and he sees him as a potential England striker. We potentially see him as a very, very good talent. I think it’s taking it step by step and the way Gareth wants to manage that on, I’m very comfortable with. I think Mason’s on the right track, definitely.”
It looks like arch-rivals City are doing big business in Cristiano Ronaldo, how will that affect your title ambitions?
“We focus on the ones we have here. I don’t want to speculate too much with Cristiano and what’s happening there in the press. I’ve said many a times with speculation, when you’re at Man United, when you’re Messi, Ronaldo, Pogba, Bruno, you have to read a lot about yourself. So let’s see what happens with Cristiano because he’s such a legend of this club.”
Are you happy with your squad now, or does a manager always want more players?
“Any manager like Jose said last week, is always looking for a little bit more, but I have to say that the transfer business that we’ve done this summer… I’m happy. I’m happy with the numbers we have, with the quality we have, with the personalities we’ve brought in. The atmosphere and the spirit in the squad is really good. The staff with them, they fit each other really well. You’re never comfortable, of course you’re not as a manager, but you go to work and see the chemistry is there. I’m very happy with what we’ve got here.”
Just on Cristiano… Wayne Rooney said he couldn’t see him going to City as a United legend. Would you be tempted?
“As I said, I don’t want to speculate too much because it’s speculation. Cristiano has been a legend of this club, he is a legend of this club, he’s the greatest player of all time if you ask me. I was fortunate enough to play with him, I coached him. He almost retired me because it was that Wolverhampton game when I got injured because he kept switching sides. Such a tremendous human being as well so let’s see what happens with Cristiano, everyone who’s played with him has a soft spot for him.”
Just on a couple of players, Donny van de Beek didn’t get into the Dutch squad today. Phil Jones came back in pre-season but seems to have disappeared again…
“I can do, I’ll start with Donny. Of course, we started against Leeds with the team that we picked and the 5-1 win was, of course, a justification of the team selection. Of course, it always is. Then we moved to the next one, Scott couldn’t play and Nemanja has been our best player in the pre-season, I have to say, that’s why I chose Nemanja. He’s been terrific. So I went with them two. Donny has worked hard, he’s done really well, I can’t say anything else but he will get his chances when the season gets going. Last season we had the Carabao Cup games, a game every 3 or 4 days at the start, now we have a week or 8 days even in between. I can’t really say it in any other way, that we made a decision. Of course, when you start as well as you do, you don’t want to rotate too much. Scott couldn’t start, that was the decisions that Nemanja started instead of Donny. It was very close, very, very close. He has been very positive in the games.”
“Phil has had a horrible 18-19 months and probably a year before that as well with injuries. I think Rio was a bit, not out of order, but a bit unlucky. He should have called me and asked why Phil hasn’t played or why Phil hasn’t been here. Phil is a no fuss, get on with it type of guy. I think that was out of order completely. I know more than anyone how it feels to be injured at that stage. He’s still not 30 years of age. Since I came here he’s battled with this knee injury, he’s put his body on the line, every single training session, every single game. There’s a few times we’ve had to manage him. He’s never given anything but given everything for the club. Rio should know more than to go out and say this. I’ve wanted to say a lot but I’ve not said a lot about Phil’s injury because I’ve wanted to protect him. Phil’s never on social media, never asked to do interviews, he just gets his head down, proper, proper professional, no fuss, family man. He just wants to get back fit. We managed to get him half an hour against Burnley, which was the first half an hour against an opponent. He’s played here in training. He’s working his way. I was out for two years in a three-year period with a knee injury. Phil has battled valiantly, I’d say. I know how Phil has felt, you’re embarrassed at times coming in. But he has to look after his career and he’s now getting back to fitness. Now is not the time to throw him in. I think you can give him a little bit more, maybe a month, six weeks. Some behind closed doors. He’ll be there. For me as a manager, to see there’s can be light at the end of the tunnel, it’s great because I’ve been through the same. I think Rio knows, I think he feels a little bit sorry about that one. I’ve not spoke to Rio, but I think he should. Sorry, that was a long one, but I feel Phil deserves that because he’s played here for 10 years and always given everything. Thanks for asking.”
Do you see some of the elements of the great defenders you played in your time at the club in Raphael Varane?
“He is working really hard. When I asked him if he was ready to play, we had a behind closed doors against Burnley and he felt, no I need to suffer on the training field first. He needs to work because you know he had his holidays, he came in, said his goodbyes at Real Madrid, then he didn’t train with them, then he was waiting for his visa, then he came here, had his isolation. We found him a little garden, a house with a garden, he wasn’t ready to play but now he’s had a good couple weeks of training and he’s looking ever as impressive. As a person, as a player, he’s got class. He will fit in at Man United, definitely. I think we’ve signed a top person and a player at the right time. A new challenge for him after being a World Cup winner, Champions League winner with Real Madrid so many times, he probably needed a challenge and hopefully we can challenge him to take the next step.”
Last season it happened a lot when you drew games, against Southampton you scored and had the impetus, do you need to put your foot down on the pedal?
“I think you’re right. They were not too dissimilar those two games, in the way they went. Of course we took the lead against Leeds, they scored, we scored then we got the momentum and we scored a couple quickly and we were clinical. That was the difference against Southampton, we weren’t clinical, we didn’t take our chances. We had as many, or even more, chances. If you’re not ruthless in the box, you won’t win points in the Premier League. I looked at it and we had a good 10-15 minutes after we scored and we should have scored more. In the last 15 minutes, we lost our way. Stick to your structure, believe in ourselves, believe in what we’re doing, believe in your teammates and keep sticking to what you’re good.”
Cristiano’s quite ruthless isn’t he?
“I knew you were going to ask! I could have been in that box and scored a few as well, just tap ins. I have to say as I said earlier, he’s probably the greatest player of all time, arguably him and Messi. But then, it is what it is.”
Allegri has said that Cristiano wants to move. He’s one of the greatest players on the market, so why would Manchester United not try for a move like that?
“Well, it’s… I didn’t think Cristiano was going to turn out leaving Juventus. It’s been speculation the last few days, of course. We’ve always had a good communication. I know Bruno has been talking to him as well. He knows what we feel about him. If he was ever going to move from Juventus, he knows that we’re here.”