Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says having so much riding on the last three league games of the season is nothing new for him and his squad, with the manager insisting it's what being a Manchester United player is all about.
The Reds know three wins from our final three matches - away to Crystal Palace, at home to West Ham and away to Leicester City - will secure a Champions League spot. But there is plenty of hard work to be done between now and the last game on Sunday week.
Ole spoke to Stewart Gardner ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park and discussed the race for a top-four spot, the threat posed by Wilf Zaha and he had praise for both Palace boss Roy Hodgson and Marcus Rashford, following his latest achievement...
Firstly Ole, Marcus Rashford has become the youngest-ever recipient of an honorary degree from Manchester University for his work with child hunger and child poverty. It’s an amazing achievement for such a young lad isn’t it?
“It's fantastic and it's fantastic when footballers can use their impact and power in their position to benefit someone else. What Marcus has done during the lockdown and since the lockdown when with Fareshare with the meals has been great. Marcus is a top human being and he cares about so much more than himself.”
Luke went off injured and Brandon got that blow to the face - how are they?
“I'll give Luke as much time as possible, him and Mason, their ankles are swollen and a bit blown up. I'll give them as much recovery time as possible to give them a chance. Brandon should be fine, he has a gash over the eye but if he can see out of it then... we've not trained obviously this morning yet but we'll hopefully have two, maybe all three of them.”
The challenge on Mason was a nasty one and it could have been a lot worse...
“In the heat of the moment he'll play on and adrenalin gets you going and then you get a little bit of reaction after. I said after the game that my ankles were a bit weak after many years of football. But obviously Mason carried on and I think it should have been looked upon by the referee definitely.”
With so many games at the moment is rest and recovery pretty much the key?
“It is. Physically it's difficult to go out on the training pitch and do a lot. Mentally it's maybe more important that we recover. Some games you want to take some bits from and against Southampton we created some great chances, scored some good goals, played some fantastic football at times and then you get the setback at the end. But you've got to get back on the horse, this is what you sign up for when you sign for Man United. The last couple of weeks or games… almost every season it boils down to the last three or four games at a big club like this. We’re ready for it.”
It is exciting and it means every game has so much riding on it…
“Yeah. The only thing [you can do] when you’re in the midst of it is to just think about the next one. You can’t think after this one it’s that one, no… it’s just one game at a time; all eyes on Crystal Palace. We played against them earlier on [in the season] and we lost three points. We know they can make it difficult for you, so we’ve just got to dust ourselves off and be ready for this one.”
This busy time shows the importance of the squad and no doubt you’ve got players desperate to play…
“Yeah there were a couple of question marks before the Southampton game. We went with the same team. Everyone [in the squad] knows that they’re valuable and important for us from the players who came on and those who came off… the team spirit is great. You could hear the players who came off shouting onto the lads on the pitch and even the ones who didn’t come on were like coaches, like we were! It’s a great feeling amongst the squad.”
A first return to Selhurst Park for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Overall, how would you sum up how he’s gone on in his first year at United?
“He’s had a rollercoaster of a season and a year. It’s been like that for everyone to be fair but this is his first season at Man United I think he’s learnt a lot about himself and about the club and about what’s required at the highest level. He’s had a great season.”
Wilf Zaha is obviously their talisman and you worked with him at Cardiff City. How highly do you rate him?
“I really enjoyed working with Wilf at Cardiff. He’s a very humble boy, he wanted to train, he loves football and of course we know all about his skills when he’s on his game. He’s difficult to play against. He knows about Aaron and Luke and whoever he comes up against it will be a fascinating battle.”
Palace are on a bit of a bad run but are well and truly safe so once again so it’s kind of mission accomplished for them…
“Yes they’ve shown time and time again that Roy’s teams are well organised. You know they’re always a professional team and he’s one of the managers that you really admire for what he’s done over his career. He’s been in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and he’s been at the top, so he’s one of the ones that you really, really admire.”
He’s still going at 72 – can you imagine still being a manager then?!
“Let’s hope so, you never know! The thing is if you work that long then you know you’ve done something right and you must have enjoyed it. As long as you enjoy working in football then you can pass your knowledge on which is fantastic. I’m very pleased for him. I know I love football and I know I enjoy this so who knows!”
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