Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident that Manchester United will get the results we need in the Premier League to secure a top-four finish and, therefore, Champions League football for next season.
The Reds are second, nine points clear of West Ham in fifth, who have four games left to play and a significantly worse goal-difference.
That means a win at Villa Park today, in a game which Ole is viewing as the first ‘step’ in an energy-sapping five days, would probably be enough to achieve that particular goal, and the Norwegian sees no reason why we can’t beat Villa, even if the West Midlanders have impressed him this season.
But first, the boss offered a few words on the current season’s European campaign…
You’re in the final of the Europa League, but as Nemanja [Matic] and Harry [Maguire] both said to us after the game, now you’ve got to go and win it…
“When you play football, you don’t have to have the feeling we have to. We feel that we can, and if we do the right things we will be OK. If we get a good performance, that’s all we have to focus on. If you go into the game with the mindset of ‘I have to do this, I have to win…’ no. Focus on our jobs, on our roles, on our responsibilities as a team and, more often than not, you’ll get a good result.”
‘We’ve had some very good results there!’Video
It’s great that you’ve got that responsibility in major European finals to help the players then…
“Well, I’ve got 15 minutes [laughs] Michael [Carrick] has been part of more than me. Of course, we’ve got to the last stage now and we’re looking forward to the final. It’s a game to look forward to, for the fans, for the players and, hopefully, we can bring the trophy back.”
Yeah, we’ll chat a lot about that closer to the time. In the meantime, you’ve got this ridiculous fixture schedule to approach. You’ve voiced strong opinions already about this upcoming schedule but are you any clearer on how you might approach it?
“You’ve just got to go game by game, one step at a time. We’ve been handed a very bad hand. The cards are not very good because the intensity of the Premier League is so, so high and the quality is so high. We’ve just got to make sure we tick one off at a time. But the players are ready for it, I’m ready for it, the coaches are ready for it. It’s a challenge we’ll take head on. It’s not like we’ll just throw the toys out of the pram and feel sorry for ourselves. That’s not the way we are. But I had to express how unhappy I am with how they can risk injuries for the players. That’s what I’ve got to look after. I’ve got to look after them.”
Aston Villa up first. Your thoughts on them?
“Difficult game again. We played them just before Christmas, was it? January, was it January? It’s been so long this season, but a 2-1 win, hard-fought. We played them in pre-season. Difficult, they’ve had an unbelievable… not unbelievable because nothing surprises you, but I know that Dean [Smith] and John [Terry] we met them in pre-season and you saw the quality and organisation was different and they’ve had a very good season. They beat Everton last week, so we know it’s going to be hard, but we’re looking forward to it. We’ve had some very good results down there, both against Villa and other teams.”
They are a much different proposition this season than they were last, when you beat them 3-0 at Villa Park. Such a different team now…
“Yeah, definitely. You know momentum and confidence and what that gives to you and you’ve seen how well organised they are. Certain individuals have played their way into the England national team and they’ve been excellent. One of the signings of the season is the keeper [Emiliano Martinez] of course. He’s done fantastic for them, so we know we have to play well. Again, as everything in the Premier League.”
And a win would guarantee you a place in next season’s Champions League, which is always the goal. Would it mean a lot to be able to wrap that up early and hopefully by Sunday afternoon?
“Yeah, we’ll wrap that up. I’m very confident we can get the results we need. Of course, other teams can get the results but we’ll take one game at a time and the Villa one is one we can win if we play well.”