Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urges Manchester United to make most of European situation
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to make the most of the strange Europa League situation as Manchester United kick off the mini tournament with a quarter-final against FC Copenhagen.
Following trips to Holland, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Belgium and Austria, the Red Devils have arrived in Germany searching for continental silverware in this new-look final-eight competition.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, empty stadiums will play host to single-leg ties in a frantic period in North Rhine-Westphalia, with United getting the truncated competition under way against Copenhagen in Cologne on Monday evening.
The United squad will have to stay in a bubble as long as they remain in the competition, with Solskjaer hoping they can go all the way to the final on August 21.
“I think it is strange and it is not football as it should be – I think it’s changed a little bit.”
– Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
“I think it is strange and it is not football as it should be – I think it’s changed a little bit,” said the United boss, who did his study visit with Copenhagen counterpart Stale Solbakken when doing his pro licence in 2011.
“That little bit of passion and edge to the game is missing because the fans have got to be there.
“But I have to commend our players. They’ve handled the situation really well and I know our fans can’t wait to get back to Old Trafford and support us.
“We’ll just have to try to make the most of this Europa League now and hopefully get as far as we can, so they are looking forward even more to seeing the players.”
Solskjaer’s determination to win his first trophy as manager is clear, but United’s third-placed Premier League finish and subsequent Champions League qualification has slightly eased the pressure.
And, while every season away from European football’s top table is a gut punch for the Old Trafford giants, Solskjaer believes this Europa League campaign has aided his side’s development.
“We went into this season knowing that Europa League is a great chance for us one to get a trophy, to get far in a tournament,” Solskjaer said. “But also to groom a few of the youngsters and it was perfect for us.
“I think if we’d been in the Champions League this season – of course we all want to be the Champions League – I probably or maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to play the likes of Brandon (Williams) as much as we have, Mason (Greenwood) – so many of the young kids who have now started what’s going to be fantastic careers.
“The Europa League has also been about that as well.
“It’s about keeping the squad together, have a group that is working together and giving people chances. When they take them – Brandon is going to play in a quarter-final in the Europa League.
“It’s a great achievement for him this season and it’s a perfect for us.”
Williams will start with Luke Shaw absent through injury, while Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are the only other first-team players sidelined.
And Solskjaer has a decision to make when it comes to goalkeeper, with Sergio Romero tending to play in this competition instead of first choice David De Gea.