MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Feb 22 – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has joked that he might invite Alex Ferguson to deliver Manchester United’s team talk before their eagerly awaited Premier League meeting with Liverpool.
The legendary former United manager has acted as Solskjaer’s mentor since the Norwegian took over as the club’s interim boss in December.
Solskjaer’s impressive success in the role has made the visit of bitter rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday an even bigger confrontation than might have been expected earlier in the season when United were struggling to find their form.
The former United striker believes his club is rebuilding their reputation in the game and, given the rivalry that used to exist between Ferguson and Liverpool, Solskjaer said he would summon the spirit of his old leader before kick-off.
“He would be welcome to have his talk to the players if he wanted to,” said Solskjaer.
“Because we know how much it meant for him to overtake Liverpool.
“For them, it’s a big game, for us, it’s a big game. We want to be in the top four and we know how big this game is for Manchester United, for the staff, for the supporters.
“We’re looking forward to another challenge for this team because we want to build this team into one worthy of Manchester United’s history.
“It’s another big step if we can do that at home. Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea were all fantastic wins away; now we have to perform at home as well.”
United’s stunning form under Solskjaer — 11 wins and a draw from 12 domestic games — has featured a dramatic return to form from French international midfielder Paul Pogba.
– ‘Top, top player’ –
Last time United played Liverpool, in a 3-1 defeat at Anfield in Jose Mourinho’s final game as manager, Pogba was an unused substitute — an indication of how far he had fallen under Solskjaer’s predecessor.
Now, having been revitalised under the interim manager, Solskjaer believes Pogba is the best midfielder in the world of his type.
“If you build your team around Paul Pogba, I said a couple of years back before I thought I would be manager, he’s a top, top player I’ve always liked,” said Solskjaer.
“He’s a World Cup winner, a leader in dressing room, wants the ball all the time. My idea was to get him playing to the best of his abilities as an attacking midfielder.
“PSG man-marked him, other teams will. If Liverpool do, he will have experienced that. PSG stopped Paul and created space for others.
“There are different types of midfielders but in his mould there’s no-one near with his physical presence, his great close technique — his diving header against Chelsea, he did the same against Bournemouth when he ran from the halfway line.
“He can also spray passes when he is sitting in midfield, though I don’t think that’s his best position. But he can do that as well.”
United’s plans for the Liverpool game have been helped with the news that Pogba’s compatriot Anthony Martial and England attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard are making good recoveries from minor injuries — groin and hamstring, respectively.