Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United need to harness the spirit of Paris Saint-Germain and put in a “perfect performance” if they are to overcome Manchester City and reach the League Cup final. United face an uphill battle after losing the first leg of their semi-final against Pep Guardiola’s men 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford’s goal gives United a glimmer of hope heading to the Etihad Stadium today and Solskjaer said the stunning comeback win against PSG in the Champions League last March can be an inspiration.
United were 2-0 down after the first leg and then 3-1 down on aggregate in Paris before storming back to win on away goals. “Well, it looked like it was over at half-time,” he said, referring to the first leg of the City match.
“I have to say the second part of that first half, they outplayed us for a while and it’s hard. But then when we got the goal, of course you’re back in it, we hope for another one. But now we’ve got to go into the memory bank and think PSG because we’ve done it against good teams before and it gives us some hope, and the game in December (when United won 2-1 against City) of course gives us hope that we can do something there.”
United have struggled for form this season, having dropped to fifth place the Premier League — six points behind Chelsea who occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.
Solskjaer confirmed Nemanja Matic is a doubt for the second leg in a press conference that included plenty of transfer talk but no updates. Sporting midfielder Bruno Fernandes reportedly remains a target for the club, while a number of enquiries have been made as United look at possible attacking options.
“I haven’t got any updates for you on transfers,” Solskjaer said when quizzed about a potential deal for Fernandes. “I think it was a waste (of a question) — I gave you the option (not to ask it)! I haven’t got anything to say now. My mind is just on the game.”
Alexis Sanchez would have been an option but does not have a recall clause in his loan deal, although Solskjaer expects him to have an Old Trafford future when he returns from Inter Milan at the end of the season. “We’ve got players here we’re working hard to get back as well and if there is something out there, then the club are pursuing that and looking at it,” said the United boss.
“Of course it is a difficult window. It always has been. I can’t remember how many good ones we’ve brought in, good deals that we’ve brought in in January. Henrik (Larsson) was good, Nemanja (Vidic) and Patrice (Evra) were two good ones.”
When January 2018 signing Sanchez was mentioned, Solskjaer said: “It’s very hard because the clubs don’t want to lose their best players. Alexis will come back in the summer and prove you all wrong.”
Solskjaer expects defender Marcos Rojo to stay at Old Trafford despite speculation over a move to former club Estudiantes de la Plata.
not to upset fans over
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has said he did not intend to upset Manchester City fans with comments about the size of the crowd at the Etihad Stadium for Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Fulham. A crowd of 39,223, well short of the 55,000 capacity, watched the routine 4-0 win over the 10-man Cottagers.
After that game, Guardiola said: “Motivation was right and hopefully in the next game against United, our fans can come and make the stadium full. It was not full. I don’t know why. (Wednesday) gives a chance to go back to Wembley. Hopefully they will support us more.”
When it was put to him the financial demands placed on football fans, Guardiola said: “I understand the fans. It was never my intention to offend them. It’s so nice to have the fans here. I am always grateful for their support. Since I arrived here until the last day I want to fight to play as well as possible and see the Etihad full for every game.”
Guardiola remains wary of the threat posed by Manchester United in today’s League Cup semi-final second leg after his side were beaten 2-1 at the Etihad in the Premier League earlier this season. “It’s Manchester United. They can do it, they have done it,” said the City boss, whose side hold a 3-1 lead from the first game at Old Trafford.
“In these kind of games against incredible teams with incredible history, they have pride and I know how difficult it will be to reach the final.”
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