Sunday, May 16, 2021

Mark Mann-Bryans, PA

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists both he and Harry Maguire are “positive” that the Manchester United captain will be fit to lead his side out for the Europa League final.

United face Villarreal in Gdansk next week looking to win the competition for the second time in four years.

Maguire has been a mainstay of the United side since moving from Leicester but suffered an ankle injury in last week’s win at Aston Villa and faces a race against time to be fit for the final – but Solskjaer plans to give his skipper as long as possible.

“He’s making progress, but we’ve consciously taken the route of not testing him out too early, too quickly, because we don’t want to aggravate something,” Solskjaer said.

Maguier (top) watched the midweek Premier League defeat to Liverpool while using crutches.
Harry Maguire (top) watched the midweek Premier League defeat to Liverpool while using crutches (Peter Powell/PA).

“Harry wants this so much, so he doesn’t want to take any risks either.

“When I spoke to him this morning, he was quite positive. But, naturally, the day after it happened we were all down.

“But we saw early on or decided we have to focus, have to be positive and think that you’re going to make it until you have to say ‘no’. I’ve always been an optimist, so we’re positive.”

With Champions League football already assured for next season through the Premier League, the Red Devils can play without the burden of needing to beat their LaLiga rivals to return to Europe’s top table.

Solskjaer revealed how he was told he would miss a key Champions League game by manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed how he was told he would miss a key United Champions League game by Sir Alex Ferguson (Martin Rickett/PA).

But Solskjaer will be aiming to mastermind a victory in Poland and land his first piece of silverware as United boss.

To do that he will strive to pick his strongest side – whether Maguire makes it or not – admitting he will take a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book and have individual conversations with those players who do not make the cut.

Solskjaer famously came off the bench and scored the last-gasp winner in the Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in 1999 to complete the Treble for United and pinpointed another moment when Ferguson made special dispensation to talk to his players.

“It’s always difficult and the human side is you want everyone to get this experience,” he said, when asked if he faced some difficult conversations with his squad.

 

“Then you have to pick XI. That’s just the nature of the job that you have to make some tough decisions and stand by them.

“There are a couple of games left for me to finalise what the XI in the final will be.

“You’ll have to sit down, of course, individually, and I remember Sir Alex sat me down, he came to my hotel room to explain why I didn’t play the semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen and we sat there for 45 minutes. We had a good conversation and I still felt I had a contribution to make and that I was important in his team.

“All my players know they have been important this season. We couldn’t get to a final and second place in the league without everyone’s contribution every day. They’ve been competitive but very supportive as well.”

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