Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will face his biggest trial as Manchester United manager when the Red Devils host Barcelona at Old Trafford in their opening UEFA Champions League quarterfinal clash.
Ahead of the game, Solskjaer has faced the press and discussed many topics regarding the match.
Marcus Rashford, who missed United’s Saturday defeat to Wolves, was seen training on his own on Tuesday, but Solskjaer remains hopeful he’ll play against Catalan giants.
“He needed the extra warm up, hopefully, he won’t get a reaction, he couldn’t join the boxes which is the fun part of training, let’s see tomorrow, hopefully, he will be ready,” said Solskjaer.
Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, trained with the squad, however, he will play no part in tomorrow night’s clash.
“First training session today with the team, he’s done lots of recovery work,” stated the boss.”He is injury free. Train with the team, probably in the squad for West Ham on Saturday. He is not going to be able to join in tomorrow.”
The Norwegian doesn’t think that this game will be his biggest test as United manager: “Every game is the biggest game. Of course, when you get Barcelona, with the quality of their team, we know we need to step up our game. We know we need to perform to our best levels. Which we didn’t against PSG at home, the outcome of the second-leg gave payers and supporters belief.”
Lionel Messi is in sensational form. He has scored 13 goals and set up another four in his last 10 games, and now Solskjaer’s job will be to prevent him from shining at Old Trafford.
“What kind of plan can you have to stop one of the best in the world. This season we played against Ronaldo and Mbappe and had Hazard for Chelsea and Suarez and Coutinho and Messi will keep our defenders on their toes, let’s see how we manage tomorrow,” said Solskjaer on Messi.
Pep Guardiola once said Messi was unstoppable. Solskjaer, however, would rather focus his attention elsewhere: ”You should ask (Pep) because he has played against him before, he’s a fantastic player he will go down in history as one of best ever, he will be difficult to stop but never impossible. It’s not like Messi against United, Suarez, Coutinho, Vidal so many good players can’t focus on one we have to focus on XI of them.”
Solskjaer has once again reiterated his desire to keep Paul Pogba, who is wanted by Real Madrid, at Old Trafford next season.
“Paul is looking forward to tomorrow. He is only focused on playing well tomorrow, I can not see him not playing for Manchester United next season,” said the Norwegian.
The Norwegian boss is expecting a performance from Pogba: “It is not about one player. Every player has to perform at the top level. At his best Paul can run a game like this. Paul’s job is to be the creator, to drive forward. Of course I expect him to perform tomorrow.”
It has been reported, that Manchester United are ready to offload players and many players at United are out of contract.
However, according to Solskjaer, contract situation does not have an impact on his players.
“I think there are two teams that carry goal threats, they are both fantastic attacking players but defenders who are quality. We drew 3-3- away too if we could get a 6-6 and a pen shoots out at the Nou Camp I think everyone would be happy. Both teams have it in them to score goals, we know we have to defend well against them and we will,” Solskjaer said.
Solskjaer insists he isn’t focusing all his efforts on Champions League and he thinks it would be easier to win Champions League than get a place at top-four: “We’ve given ourselves a great chance to challenge for top four with the results just before Christmas, nobody would have thought that. Champions League is possible and we can go on to win it, there will have to be lucky and margins and we’ll have to perform at our best I wouldn’t say winning the Champions League is easier than getting into the top four.”
Gerard Pique returns to Old Trafford for the first time since joining Barcelona and Solskjaer will meet a familiar face: “Gerard, I used to play with him. I played here in a reserve final. I scored, Gerard scored. Kieran McKenna scored that game! Not sure if that tells you how young I am or how old he is. He came as a young boy, we had a lot of belief in him. He was maybe unlucky, he came here when Vidic and Rio played here so he didn’t get the chances he probably deserved.It will be nice to meet him again, hopefully, we can make him feel old, and not me young.”