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TRANSCRIPT: Solskjaer’s Granada press conference – overplaying Rashford, Greenwood’s heading and Elanga’s involvement

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You’ve been involved in some frustrated cup exits. How determined are you to kick on and make your mark in this competition?

Victor Lindelof: We go in to this game with the mentality of winning it. We want to go through. It’s a game where we want to perform, we know it’s going to be tough, but we want a good result for the second leg. Every time you play in a competition you’re there because you want to win it. Hopefully we can perform a bit better this season.

You’ve played with some discomfort. How is your back? And does it make any difference who plays in goal? You’ve got two good goalkeepers behind you?

VL: I feel very comfortable with both of them. Every time they play they perform at a very high level. We have great goalkeepers and it’s always good to have that competition. And my back, I’ve been having some problems but I feel OK. I’m managing it in a good way and I feel much better than I did before.

Maguire played his 100th game against Brighton. How do you feel that partnership is coming together between yourself and Harry?

VL: We’ve been playing a lot of games together and the more you play together the more you get to know each other. I think we’ve been performing well and keeping cleansheets against some strong teams. I feel like I’m performing well at the moment. I feel fine and fresh. I’m happy that I can play and help the team.

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Marcus Rashford is in the travelling squad. Is he fit enough to start? And who will be in goal for you tomorrow?

OGS: I can’t disclose my team now, we’re not going to do that. Marcus is travelling and we’ve got to make a decision tomorrow if he starts or is on the bench. I don’t think he’ll be 90 minute man, let’s see where we’re at tomorrow. And with the keepers it’s the same, I have two very, very good options and whoever plays will play well I’m sure.

How tricky do you think Granada are? United go in to the game as favourites. What do you think their strengths are?

OGS: I watch their games and I have spoken to some people to get some insights and info. We’ve analysed them ourselves too and watched the last few games. It’s a team full of experience, with unbelievable character and spirit, which you expect from teams who come up. They were promoted in summer 2019-20. Great season last year and this is their second year. I think they’re one of the teams in Europe who have played the most games this season. To do that at this level so early is impressive so we know it’s going to be a battle.

There’s lots of excitement about Amad Diallo. Is he any closer to a first start?

OGS: Of course he is. He’s getting more and more used to our expectations, our standards, our training, the level of intensity in the games over here. He did well when he played 45 minutes against Milan, definitely a bright start, and we’ll see him gradually start games. It might come now or it might come in a little while.

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When it comes to resting players, will this game be a chance for you to rest certain players and how do you decide when a player needs a rest?

OGS: We always pick a team, no matter who we play against, to win each game. This is just the first half of the leg. There’s two games. We have league games coming up, big games as well, so that’s always a conundrum. Who can play 9 minutes0? Who can play four or five on the bounce? Who needs a rest in between to perform at the highest level? We always have a check in the morning of the game to see how everyone is feeling.

Greenwood scored a header and you’ve said Cavani might have helped with that. Do you have any insight on how you aid players in improving heading?

OGS: Well, I think if you look at players and you look at the news now and the issue with dementia and too much heading, I think kids train with heading now less than we did. With the astroturf the game is on the ground and you don’t see many Ronaldo headers, like the one against Roma. Hanging up there. That’s a rare skill. Mason’s goal was more poacher’s instinct, he made a sharp movement, he didn’t hang in the air like a salmon. I’m pleased that he scored. He’s been practising and there’s loads of things to think about when you practice finishing. It’s right foot, leg foot and heading. Mason has improved his awareness and movement around the box which has helped with Edinson at the club as he is one of the better ones to make those centre-forward movements.

Are you surprised that a team like Granada have got so far in the Europa League, beating teams likes Molde and Napoli?

OGS: No, I’m not surprised at all. How much attitude, desire, team spirit can do for a team and players. They’re very good at, better than most, on the things that don’t cost anything. I mean that as a compliment. The value of team spirit, camaraderie and organisation is so important for a team. But they also have individual quality and experience which will have been very important. In football, you’re never surprised when teams who get promoted do well, because they got promoted for a reason.

Have you got any updates on Anthony Martial and Eric Bailly? Also, you’ve beaten some big clubs getting to this point. Is complacency an issue?

OGS: Eric is still in Ivory Coast. He needs a negative test before he can come back so we’re waiting for that one. Anthony has started his recovery and if we see him before the end of the season I’ll be very surprised. But of course he’s determined to come back as quick as he can because there’s important games for us before the end of the season and the Euros. He’s already come in, bright around the place, but disappointed he can’t help us. But he wants to get back as quick as he can. And complacency? No. When you beat Real Sociedad or AC Milan you just get more of a taste for it. You know you’ve jumped a couple of high hurdles. Granada beating Napoli, getting through the group and then beating Molde last time is a sign of a team that’s got quality. It’s going to be a difficult game. We have of course set our eyes on the final and improve on last season. We want to win this tournament.

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De Gea has been your no.1 for some time. How did he take the news that he wasn’t starting against Brighton and what does he have to do to get a place back at the weekend?

OGS: I cannot prioritise the league or Europa League. The next game is the most important one. Every time I try to explain to players why they aren’t playing in this particular game and what they have to do, all those discussions remain private of course. David has been a top, top keeper and is still a top, top keeper. He’s working to be ready when he plays. When it’s David or Dean I’m very comfortable to play either of them and I’m pleased that either of them are happy to be a sub.

Can you say whether Anthony Elanga will be involved tomorrow?

OGS: Anthony will be in the squad, he’ll be on the bench. He’s impressed when he’s been in training with us. He was very unlucky two or three months ago when he got a bad injury and he’s worked really hard to come back. He was just due to move into the first-team squad back then. He has got some X-factor, some attributes, it’s not like a gift, but the pace and acceleration and speed that he’s got that’s a given for wingers. When he’s got that speed, he’s always got qualities I like. He’s a goalscoring winger, he’s confident, he likes to beat men and he can finish with his right foot and left foot and he’s got a great attitude. He has an appetite and hunger to improve and when he’s been training with us the last while he’s been here now he’s not been phased by it. He’s confident. He’s not just here for experience, he’s there to be ready to play a part if he has to.

How important is this game for United? Is it the biggest of the season?

OGS: It’s very big for us, of course. You know the cliche, the next game is always the most important, we have to live by the principle. If you get the chance to play in a quarter-final in Europe for Man United, every player knows this is a massive game and an important game for you. I’m the manager and I know that it is just the first half in a two leg affair but it’s a big game for us. We have beaten Milan away, we’ve beaten Real Sociedad, and have drawn against them both at home. This game can give us even more momentum.

When you come up against a side like Granada you might not know as much about the players as you do the ones you see week in week out in the Premier League. Is it a fun challenge?

OGS: With the Premier League, you watch the games, you watch Match of the Day, and you can sit back and relax. You can get a picture of the opposition and then you analyse really closely when you play against them. I haven’t seen Granada play too many times before Molde played them, but when Molde played them I got interested because we might meet them. I watched them against Real Madrid and Barcelona. I’ve been impressed by them. They got promoted, then had a fantastic season, and this season they’re up there. You have an idea of what you’ll meet. But then you analyse them and realise it might be a bit different.

With your two goalkeepers, do you see a healthy dynamic and relationship between them? Is it a slightly different dynamic to Peter Schmeichel who was always no.1?

OGS: When you’re a part of Man United, there will always be players that come in and they’re not just there to fill the squad. Everyone has got the ambition to take your shirt. I was there myself as a striker. We signed Ruud, Diego Forlan, Louis Saha, we signed loads of top strikers, Sheringham, Yorke. The aim for me then was to prove to the manager was to be important for you. I’m going to give everything I can to play. It’s the same whatever position you play. David has had 10 fantastic years at Man United. He’s had challengers who of course wanted to play. Sergio probably played less games than he deserved. Dean comes in and also gives his all. It’s a healthy competition, of course it is. The goalkeeping departments are a very tight-knit group. They work together in prep, they have different gym sessions, they stay together more and naturally create a bond. The spirit in the goalkeeper department has been top. It’s a healthy competition. All of them want to play and that includes Lee Grant, Nathan Bishop and Sergio Romero. They want to play. That’s a competition I like.

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Marcus Rashford has been really important this season and played in almost every game. In some games he plays through pain and you can see him struggling. With his injury record and back problem he had last season, are you worried about overplaying him? Is the risk worth more than the price?

OGS: I don’t pick players when we know there is a risk. There’s always a risk when you step out on to the pitch and play football, but if the physio and medical advice says it’s too much of a risk I would never pick him. I would never play someone who had a problem that we knew about in advance. Now, Marcus joined in training this morning and let’s see how he reacts. If there’s any risk of making it worse I’m not going to overplay him. His back has recovered and he’s a tough one. He wants to play and wants to give his all for Man United. It’s also a responsibility for the player to tell us, as he did on Sunday and said he wanted to come off.

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