Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking forward to seeing how his team copes with
“a new challenge” after Sevilla – instead of perennial opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers – won the right to play Manchester United in the Europa League semi-final this Sunday evening. As the manager said in his pre-match press conference, six days of preparation mean the Reds are mentally and physically ready for this third chance to reach a final in 2019/20.
Now, as he explains below in an exclusive interview with Stewart Gardner for club media, it’s about getting the fine margins right on the night as we return to Stadion Koln to face formidable opponents, who are serial winners of the Europa League…
Watch Ole’s interview VIDEO NOW IN OUR APP Quite unusually, there’s been a little bit of time to actually prepare for the game. You’ve had a few days, how useful has that been ahead of this one?
“Very useful. Of course we had the first couple of days since the quarters to recover, watch who we’re going to play in the semi and then prepare by watching them more closely. And then now, the last couple of days have been more tactical on the pitch.”
And amongst the lads is there that extra buzz that a really big game brings?
“I think so, I think you can see their eyes widening. It could have been Wolverhampton that we knew so much about. Then when it became Sevilla of course, us as staff had more analysis to do and the players as well. It’s a new challenge for them.”
Sevilla have a great record in this competition of course. What do you make of them as a side?
“They’re a very good team. Obviously, you talk about it, the record they’ve got in this tournament – five wins. They obviously beat Man United in the Champions League so we know all about their team really. Individual quality, the style of play, aggressive… it’s a good team.”
In games like this, one-off ties, what makes the difference when it becomes a real pressure game like this?
“There are so many things. Of course, the preparation is important, that you get it spot on. Team selection. Then, when you get to the game, goals always decide how these games will pan out. But I think both teams are teams that like to have the ball, like to dominate and let’s see who’s got the best qualities. It might be a set play, an individual piece of brilliance because there’s so many good players on show.”
United’s new away kit GET YOURS HERE! They are 19 games unbeaten and we’ve lost only one out of 24. Neither team is really conceding goals either. Are you expecting it to be quite a tight, tense affair?
“Well you do when you get to the semis. They’re always good teams who get so far. So yes, definitely. I don’t think any of the teams will run away with it, with big wins. They’ve got a very good defensive record. As you said, 19 now unbeaten and they have some individual players who can harm you.”
For you personally, do you relish this kind of occasion, a European semi-final?
“Yes of course you do because you don’t know how many of these you’re going to play or take part in. We’ve lost two semis already this season which is painful and, I’ve said it before, I hope that pain will give us that little bit extra motivation or inspiration, focus. I know everyone’s focused anyway but that little extra edge that might drive you to [think] ‘I don’t want to feel that pain again’.”
It’s game 61 of the season – is everyone okay? It has been a long road, hasn’t it?
“We’re fine. Obviously the ones left at home are still there. But as you said, we’ve had many days to prepare so that means it’s also a good recovery and we should be physically fresh. Mentally, of course, you’re physically ready for a game in the semi-final. Everyone wants to play that.”