United boss Solskjaer demands a flying start to new season
A poor beginning last term resulted in Jose Mourinho’s departure.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Manchester United need to hit the ground running if next season is to be a success.
A poor start to the 2018-19 campaign resulted in Jose Mourinho’s men falling behind the pack, leading to the Old Trafford hierarchy eventually wielding the axe in mid-December.
Solskjaer then oversaw a remarkable upturn in fortunes when brought in as caretaker manager but things went awry after his permanent appointment and United stumbled home in sixth.
The gap to relegated Cardiff in 18th was the same to champions Manchester City at the end of the season, and Solskjaer knows his side need to start as they mean to go.
“Of course the transfer window will close when the league starts,” the United boss said.
“The start of the season is important, that’s why we’ve worked them hard.
“I don’t think many of the players have had a pre-season like this before in the last two or three years because there have been championships. It’s their first pre-season for a little while.
“So, for us, in the first eight to 10 games you don’t win anything but you can definitely lose the chance to win things. The first two months is vital for us.”
Getting players in as soon as possible will also play an important role.
So far, Swansea flyer Daniel James and Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been the only additions, with the club keen to still at least bring in a ball-playing centre-back and central midfielder.
Asked for a transfer update by PA, Solskjaer said: “As I’ve said a few times, we’re working on one or two cases but my objective here now is we’ve got to get ready for the games and training sessions.
“And if I’ve got to travel somewhere, I will, and you won’t be able to ask me.”
Solskjaer was speaking at Singapore’s National Stadium, where United will continue pre-season preparations against Inter Milan on Saturday in the International Champions Cup.
🎙 | CONFERENCE#Conte: "Tomorrow, we have an important match. At this level, it's difficult to see it as just a friendly and it will also be the same for them. Our pre-season is going well, I hope to see improvements in my team."#ManUtdInter #ICC2019 pic.twitter.com/zpTlx7bAFz— Inter (@Inter_en) July 19, 2019
Romelu Lukaku, a key transfer target for the Serie A side, will miss his third straight friendly with an unspecified knock.
Addressing the issue, Solskjaer said: “He’s not fit so he won’t be available.”
As to whether he expects Lukaku to be at the club next month, the Norwegian added: “I don’t have any updates from the last time I spoke to you. So yeah, I do.”
Lukaku watched training from the sidelines in Singapore, where Fred and Matteo Darmian trained with the group after being allowed to miss the Australia leg of the tour for personal reasons.
“Today we are going to have to see where they’re at because they’ve been training back home,” he said.
“Fred’s been over in Brazil, had his wedding, got married so he has probably got loads of energy and I’m sure he is keen to join in.”
Solskjaer expects David De Gea and Luke Shaw to be available to face Inter after illness and a hamstring issue respectively.
The United boss, meanwhile, has thrown his support behind Anthony Martial ahead of the new campaign.
Solskjaer is confident the £36million capture from Monaco four years ago can enjoy potentially his best season with the club after witnessing his form so far in pre-season.
“Anthony can be a world-class forward and I think if you followed Anthony in the last few seasons the way he’s come back to pre-season now, his attitude is absolutely spot on,” he said.
“There’s been a couple of instances where you can see a new Anthony in the way that he works for the team.
“He has always got the quality, talent, he’s going to score goals and his work rate is improving. I expect him and Marcus to be even better than last season.
“Anthony had a top season when he came, his first season top scorer, then he’s had a couple of seasons where he’s not hit that amount of goals and quality so I’m sure we will see a better Anthony this year.”