Ole Gunnar Solskjær admits there can be no excuses if Manchester United fail to perform in the Champions League after a weekend Premier League match and has told his players he has full trust in them.
United start their European campaign with the visit to Young Boys in the Group F opener on Tuesday. The club’s Champions League challenge last season ended at the group stage despite Solskjær’s side winning their first two games. The manager, in a third full season in charge, pointed to the growth of his squad and how the addition of the multiple European Cup winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphaël Varane, plus Jadon Sancho, had elevated its quality.
“Yeah, I can’t look at the squad and say: ‘Ah, we played a game in midweek and we’re tired,’” Solskjær said. “Players are fitter now and we’ve been very robust over the years and improved a lot in the way we’ve dealt with the pandemic situation and games coming thick and fast. But [with] the ones we’ve signed, it’s easier to rotate, definitely, and I’ve told the team I do trust the members of the squad.”
Solskjær has also overseen defeat in the Europa League final and losses in four semi-finals. “We’ve had enough disappointments, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’ve had some big moments too but this team has grown and matured over the last few seasons. That was always the plan, back in the day when I came in [December 2018]: to build a squad with experience and quality to challenge.
“We have had some very good nights and some memorable historic nights at the club [in Europe] – they’re the biggest nights for the club. The aim when we go into this tournament now is to go all the way, it’s going to be difficult – it always is. We’ve added experience, quality and youth and are better prepared this year for what is to come.
“With players, too, like David [de Gea], Harry Maguire’s had a couple of years [at the club], we’re getting the spine of the team. You can see also the experience and quality that Raphaël and Cristiano add. We’ve definitely learned, and the group is special, as a unit. They look after each other. The atmosphere is really good and that’s going to stand us in good stead, definitely.
“Sometimes you can go far with the youth, sometimes youth will play its part – with its youthfulness and courage – but Young Boys is going to be bouncing, the atmosphere is going to be electric so of course we need players who have that experience to calm it down and manage the game properly.”
Solskjær is hopeful Edinson Cavani will be available again soon. “He had a slight strain in the international week during our in-house game; he’s working hard to get back,” he said.
David Wagner’s side are the Swiss champions though they stand fourth, five points behind the leaders, FC Zurich, in Switzerland’s Super League.