Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has discussed all things Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Southampton this weekend, where they’ll be hoping to continue their winning start to the Premier League season.
The Red Devils hammered Leeds United 5-1 on the opening day of the campaign, and Pogba was at the heart of everything, assisting four goals, while Bruno Fernandes claimed a hat-trick.
Solskjaer will expect his players to put in a similar display on Sunday afternoon, when they travel to the south coast to take on Southampton.
The Norwegian coach was in confident mood during his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to St Mary’s, where he discussed Pogba’s role in the Man Utd side, and the possibility of seeing Sancho and Varane in action this weekend.
Here are the best bits from Solskjaer’s press conference.
On Paul Pogba
Solskjaer was full of praise for Pogba’s four-assist display in the 5-1 victory over Leeds, but he insisted that ‘one swallow never makes a summer’, encouraging the Frenchman to build on that performance and improve.
“For me, me and Paul work together every day and we keep on trying to improve, improve the team and to enjoy ourselves. We just have to make sure we don’t make this one game and everyone flies off on it with the big headlines.
“It’s about bringing the energy and being even better. One swallow never makes a summer.”
On Raphael Varane
As well as obvious interest in Pogba, the Norwegian was also asked about Varane’s time in Manchester so far, and what it is exactly that he likes about the former Real Madrid star.
“I think if you’ve followed football over the last ten years, that’s the reason we wanted to sign him. Over his career, it’s no secret we were close when he left Lens ten years ago. Sir Alex Ferguson was there speaking to them, we were close, and ever since his performances on the pitch, behaviour and demeanour off the pitch tell me that he’s a Man Utd player,” Solskjaer said.
“Everything about him is class. Quick, strong, good in the air, can play with both feet – the short answer is: everything about him is what you want. He’s been humble, he’s inquisitive, he asks questions, he doesn’t want to learn by a mistake in the game, he wants to learn it on the training field, everything about him has been impressive.”
On Varane & Jadon Sancho’s involvement
But what about the clash with Southampton on Sunday? Will Varane play any part, and how close is fellow new signing Jadon Sancho to breaking into the starting lineup for the Red Devils?
“Well, you’ll see on Sunday [Varane and Sancho]. They’ve worked well, they’ve had minutes, we’ve had a very good week ourselves and we’ll see who is making the flight down on Saturday.”
On Cavani’s fitness
One man who’s on his way back is Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan forward was awarded extra time away from the club due to personal reasons after Uruguay were knocked out of the Copa America, but he’s back in training for the Red Devils.
“Edinson’s always looked after himself. Of course, he’s lacking in team training, in football training but he’s been looking after himself and you can see that.
“He had different reasons as to why he was late, personal reasons, but his body can tolerate a lot. It wasn’t that he needed those extra days physically. He’s chomping at the bit, he’s ready to go and let’s see how much we can get out of him early on.”
On Jesse Lingard’s future
Solskjaer also offered an explanation on the significance of Lingard to the squad, stressing that the 28-year-old’s priority is getting back into the Man Utd starting lineup. The coach also insisted that the former West Ham loanee has ‘a big part to play’ this season.
“I think Jesse’s first priority is to get into our team,” said Ole. “I think whenever your employer is Man United, I think that’s your first priority and always is.
“I think we, together, can have great moments. Of course, as a manager, with players in a squad like I’ve got now, it’s difficult. It’s difficult to say that ‘this weekend you’re not playing’.
“Of course, I have to leave players out, never mind from the starting XI but from the squad. But they all have to remember and know they’re going to have to play a part if we’re going to be successful.
“Jesse is back to his fitness, he played really well in the behind-closed-doors game on Tuesday and he’s come back bubbly and in good shape. He’s got a big part to play.”
On starting fast
Solskjaer challenged his players to start fast against Southampton on Saturday, and not rely on coming from behind as they so often did last season.
“It’ll be a big difference [return of crowds], I don’t know how many points, but we won so many going one goal down and you can’t afford to do that with fans away from home,” Solskjaer said.
“We’ve got the best away fans in the world but we can only hear them if we play well and start well. It’s not going to happen for the first game at St Mary’s in 18 months but it’s up to us to do that as well.”