Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it is “time to step up” and use the pain of this season’s near misses as Manchester United look to overcome Sevilla and reach the Europa League final.
Champions League qualification through their third-place Premier League finish underlined the promise displayed by the 1999 treble hero’s side during a campaign as long as it has been challenging.
United have also gone close in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, only to fall at the semi-final stage of both competitions.
Those exits stick in the craw and Solskjaer has told his players to utilise that frustration as they look to make it third time lucky against Sevilla in Sunday’s Stadion Koln semi-final.
🗣ï¸ "Itâs time to step up and you need to have 100 per cent focus," adds Ole.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 15, 2020
"Any moment can win or lose you the game and weâve learnt that itâs very painful when you lose a semi-final."#MUFC #UEL pic.twitter.com/ex2jH8vM2M
“We are physically definitely ready,” the United boss said ahead of the game. “Mentally the boys will be ready because a semi-final everyone would want to take part and join in. I just want them to enjoy it.
“For me as well, looking forward to the semis. We’ve been already twice now in the semi this season.
“Of course we’re happy with going as far as we have but we’re not satisfied. We want to go one step further.
“You know that when you come to a semi-final, you’re playing against big teams. Good teams with quality. It’s time to step up for big players, big-game moments.
You have to have 100 per cent focus because any little moment can change the game.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
You have to have 100 per cent focus because any little moment can change the game.
“We’ve learned that it’s very painful to lose a semi-final.”
United have had six days to recover, prepare and fine-tune in sweltering Cologne, where they needed extra time and a Bruno Fernandes penalty to secure a 1-0 win against FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarter-final.
Europa League experts Sevilla overcame Wolves the following night with a performance far more impressive than the 1-0 scoreline suggests, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 matches.
Asked what will be required to become the first side to beat the in-form LaLiga team since February, Solskjaer said with a smile: “Score more goals than them.
“It’s not as easy as that because it’s a good, very well-organised team. Aggressive style of play, pressing.
“They’ve got some very good individuals there, so we have to play our best game.
“We have to be able to keep the ball when we can, play out of their press.
“We’ve got to be clever, creative and of course we have to step up in the big moments, that the last pass is a finish because these games will be decided so often on either a set-piece or a piece of individual brilliance by some players.”
Solskjaer has no fresh injury concerns for the semi-final, with defenders Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones all remaining at home due to injury.
The United manager’s decision on his starting goalkeeper will be interesting, with Sergio Romero given the nod ahead of number one David De Gea for both the round-of-16 clash with LASK and quarter-final against Copenhagen.
“I think Sergio is in a unique or special situation because he’s in a goalkeeping department with one of the best goalkeepers of the last 10 years, in the world,” Solskjaer said.
“David has been exceptional but it says everything about Sergio’s professionalism and his qualities that whenever he plays, he performs.
“Of course, he’s experienced, so he always knows how to prepare.
“He’s focused, his concentration is fantastic and he’s been a very, very good goalkeeper for us. He is a very good goalkeeper for us.”