Tuesday 19 March 2019

Fergie time again at Old Trafford

Solskjaer considers asking ‘gaffer’ to deliver rousing dressing-room speech ahead of Liverpool showdown

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks during a press conference yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks during a press conference yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

James Ducker

Alex Ferguson has been given an open invitation to deliver Manchester United's pre-match team talk against Liverpool tomorrow, as caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed victory would signal another step towards creating a team "worthy" of the club's history.

Solskjaer has urged his players to channel their emotions by focusing on the game, rather than a potentially volatile occasion, as United attempt to boost their top-four hopes at the same time as dealing a huge blow to Liverpool's title aspirations.

Yet Solskjaer has raised the prospect of Ferguson joining the players before kick-off to deliver a stirring address as they go in search of a 12th win in 14 matches since a 3-1 defeat at Anfield in December that culminated in Jose Mourinho being sacked.

Asked if he had any plans to indulge in Ferguson-style mind games with his Liverpool counterpart, Jurgen Klopp, Solskjaer said: "No. I don't think Jurgen Klopp will read what I say and I'm not going to read what he says. That's for further down the line, I would think.

"But he (Ferguson) would be welcome to have his talk to the players if the gaffer wanted to, because we know how much it meant to him to overtake Liverpool (in terms of titles won). Our players know what this game means for everyone at Manchester United."

Having beaten Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea away from home with performances that demonstrated Solskjaer's tactical acumen, the Norwegian said the challenge was to make a similar statement at Old Trafford, after admitting his disappointment at the manner of United's 2-0 Champions League defeat by Paris St-Germain.

"We're looking forward to another challenge for this team, because we want to build this team into one that is worthy of Manchester United's history and it's another step if we can win this at home," he said.

"Against Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea, it was fantastic to win those three away, but now we need to perform at home as well (against Liverpool).

"I played in a few of these games myself and I know the magnitude of it for the fans, for everyone who works here, the staff. There have been many comments that this is the big one.

"But then it's our job to be focusing and channelling all that energy into performance mode when we start the game. It's not about emotions. I understand emotion can be brought into it, but we have to stay controlled but with some fight in us as well.

"We have to perform better than we did against PSG. Suddenly we're not underdogs anymore, suddenly people praise us and say that now is the time to play them (Liverpool). But we have got to learn from that experience against PSG, because we didn't perform to the level we wanted to, even though they should have had 10 men and us 11 when it was quite even.

"We've just got to make sure we stay focused for all these games, but these games are decided on the little margins.

"That one centimetre where Kylian Mbappe was in front of Eric (Bailly) and he scored (PSG's second goal) instead of Eric clearing it - that's the deciding factor in these big games."

Although initially ruled out for two to three weeks, Solskjaer claimed Anthony Martial "might be ready" to face Liverpool and "hoped" Jesse Lingard would also be available, after both forwards were substituted against PSG with groin and hamstring injuries respectively.

United imploded against PSG in the second half without the pair but they were outstanding in their absence in Monday's 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win at Chelsea, and Solskjaer said that performance should give his team every confidence against Liverpool, even if Martial and Lingard do not make it.

"Every single player has the attributes to give us something, and the way we played against Chelsea shows we can cope without them as well. We have got options, it's a big squad, everyone is eager.

"If they (Martial and Lingard) don't make it, it might be the same team as against Chelsea. Who knows?"


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