Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident increased belief, experience and motivation can help Manchester United end their semi-final hoodoo and reach the Europa League showpiece.
Having lost in the final four of the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Europa League in 2019/20, the Red Devils went on to fall at the same stage of this season’s Carabao Cup.
They are now hoping to make it fifth time lucky by overcoming Roma to reach May’s Europa League final, having been knocked out at this juncture by Sevilla in Cologne eight months ago.
Asked if there was more belief among the group this time around, United boss Solskjaer said: “Yeah, I would like to think so.
“The players have had another year, they’re more experienced, they’ve come through some difficult times.
“It was a strange end to last season with a tournament and even though we wanted to get to the final it was a strange atmosphere and feeling staying in Germany.
“Now with the motivation of having those disappointments, I feel very confident that we’ll get a good performance.
“That’s the thing. You come to a situation like this, the team’s in good form, it’s confident and you just then hope we can produce on the night.
“That’s what it’s about, producing in 90 or 180 minutes, and have that quality and some luck at times to get to the final.”
💬 "Every semi-final is tough — you play against very good teams," adds the boss.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 28, 2021
"You dwell on some defeats a little bit more and it's about putting things right. We're in a better position, so we are going all out."#MUFC #UEL pic.twitter.com/xbxGgI96Pr
Solskjaer says United have “done remarkably well to get to five semis” over the last two seasons, but the former striker knows as well as anyone how important it is to go further.
The club have not won silverware since lifting the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017 and successor Solskjaer is looking to reach his first final in the Old Trafford hotseat.
“It will be a dream come true the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager, of course,” the 1999 treble hero said.
“That’s what we’re building for. We’ve been close, we’re building step by step, but to take the next step it’s ifs and buts and this and that. You always talk about that.
“But for this team and myself, our ambition this season is to finish with lifting a trophy and being able to celebrate. I know how much that can mean for a group moving forward.”
Thursday’s Europa League semi-final is United’s first home match at Old Trafford since the club embarrassingly backtracked on their decision to join the Super League.
United co-chairman Joel Glazer was named vice-chairman of the breakaway league and admitted “we got it wrong” by attempting to leave the Champions League.
Asked if those underhand moves had devalued potential Europa League glory, Solskjaer said: “We have had a great night in this tournament before at the club.
“We know how much it means for a team, for the whole club and of course our focus now is to get to the final and make sure that the end of the season can finish with a celebration.
“As soon as we went out of the Champions League, our eyes and focus was ‘let’s get to the final’.”
The semi-final fixtures against Roma come either side of the Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday, when fans will protest against the Glazers before kick-off.
Some showed anger at Old Trafford on Saturday and a group of fans got into the training ground last Thursday – the same day there was a minor incident at departing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s house.
“I’ve had a very good relationship with the owners and with the club,” Solskjaer said when asked about the Glazers.
An open letter from Joel Glazer to all Manchester United fans.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 21, 2021
“Of course they’ve employed me as manager, they listen to my views and that’s my job: to give my opinion and do my best for the club and for them.
“I’ve had so many years here at the club. I’m looking forward to trying to bring success to the team and that’s my focus.
“You know, bringing the fans, players and the club together it’s very, very good.
“We’ve had setbacks, disappointments here so many times but we always come together.
“Mine and our focus now, the players, we just have to show up and go that one step further, get to a final and hopefully win.”