Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he meant no disrespect to Roma after some fans accused the Manchester United manager of belittling their club ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final.
Innocuous comments made by the Norwegian after the quarter-final triumph against Granada have clearly angered some Giallorossi supporters.
Posters have been plastered up near Roma’s training ground ahead of the semi-final, which feature Solskjaer’s smiling face and the quote “I don’t know them and I haven’t seen them play”.
The poster is completed with the caption “make sure he remembers us!” – anger the United boss attempted to diffuse on the eve of the game.
“That was straight after the game and with all the games we’ve had I was just relieved that we’d gone through,” Solskjaer said.
“Of course I’ve watched them but I hadn’t analysed and hadn’t seen them in depth to give them enough respect probably with analysis.
“I could’ve said, which I truly mean, ‘it’s a fantastic club with a great history’.
“I’ve actually got two prized possessions back home – a (Francesco) Totti shirt and a (Daniele) De Rossi shirt that I’ve swapped with them, actually signed.
“I know about the history, I know about the quality.
“Of course with Chris (Smalling) being there last season, we followed them and then they signed Chris.
“We’d not watched them (play a match) but of course we’ve analysed them down to the ground since we drew them and we are ready for them.
“It was not meant as any disrespect and I think everyone knows that. I’ve got loads of respect for them.”
If those quotes hurt Roma fans, then the 7-1 Champions League defeat at Old Trafford that Solskjaer was a part of in April 2007 must have really stung.
The Norwegian provided the assist for Wayne Rooney’s goal in the first-leg loss at the Stadio Olimpico and came off the bench as United ran amok in the return leg of the Champions League quarter-final clash.
“I remember both games,” said Solskjaer, whose coaching staff includes Michael Carrick, who netted a brace in the 7-1 win.
“I started the first one. I can’t remember if I finished it because we played with 10 men and we dug out a very good result. The manager was really happy and pleased after that 2-1 defeat because we scored a goal.
“He was confident that we could go through but that night was magical.
“Alan Smith was unbelievable that game, Michael’s two goals, (Cristiano) Ronaldo scored.
“We were on fire that night and we showed what Man United can do and hopefully we can put in a performance like this again.”