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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meets Gary Neville: Manchester United boss on his future and transfer plans

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tells Gary Neville that he's positive about the future at Manchester United, the structure in place at the club and suggests that the recruitment of players to the club has started well

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he does not need assurances about his future from the Manchester United board and is planning for the long term at Old Trafford. 

Speaking to Gary Neville in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Sky Sports ahead of a Super Sunday clash with Liverpool, the under-pressure United boss backed the club's recruitment plans and said he is in the process of changing the culture of his squad.

"All the talks I've had with the owners, with Ed Woodward and the club have been about me having a three-year contract," said Solskjaer, whose side currently sit 12th in the Premier League.

"We're planning long-term. I've been given the job and if you lose a game or two, you don't wait for a call to be given assurances.

"But we started out with a plan and a recruitment plan is in place. I'm 100 per cent sure from my time here that the structure is right because it is always the manager who has the final say."

Read on for the full transcript of the interview, including Solskjaer's verdict on how the club's young players are faring in the first-team, why he stands by his decision to allow Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to leave in the summer, and why playing Liverpool on Sunday could suit his side...

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GN: Perhaps more than you would've imagined. Are you happy with them at the moment? Is it too big an ask in the position that the club is in to expect these young lads to deliver the performances and the results?

OGS: I'm very happy with the young boys. You've got to put this question in a couple of brackets, really. They've stepped in during difficult circumstances, at a difficult time with loads of injuries to key players. But I feel they've held their own.

Image: Mason Greenwood has taken his chance in the Carabao Cup and Europa League

We've had a few debuts in Europe and in the league. I don't think it's the young boys that you can say we expect more from because this club is also full of experienced internationals and medal-winners, championship winners. I don't think the young ones have put a foot wrong.

GN: You cleared out five or six players. [Marouane] Fellaini left, [Ander] Herrera left, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling went out on loan.

It's clear what you're trying to do, clearing the club of players who perhaps don't have the quality or wanted to leave, but have there been times in the last few weeks where you thought you wish you'd had Lukaku or Sanchez, to call upon that experience?

OGS: In one-off games, you think we could've had a number of extra players with experience. Alexis and Rom are goalscorers and good players, but at the moment, we made those decisions and they were the right decisions.

Romelu Lukaku
Image: The United boss retains that he has no regrets over selling Romelu Lukaku

That's the only way you've got to look at it. All the players here want to give everything for the club and for the shirt - that's a big thing.

Every day that they come in training, and every day that they put the shirt on, they're going to give everything that they have. So you can't really say, 'oh I wish I didn't do that'.

Giving a couple of the lads the chance to show themselves, maybe it was a little bit too early for a few of them. But Mason Greenwood has stepped in and scored a couple in the midweek games, so it's a great experience for them.

We know we haven't had the results that we wanted, but I wouldn't have kept the players we sold. It was the right decision.

GN: Why do you think it's been a struggle to get the goals that you would expect?

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial
Image: Anthony Martial has been sorely missed by Manchester United this season

OGS: There's many reasons, but one of them is injuries to Anthony [Martial], who started really well through the middle with Marcus [Rashford] on the left. Creating chances has been a challenge for us with teams dropping deep. It's the fine margins as well.

If you go 1-0 up instead of 1-0 down, when you look at the Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay headers against Newcastle and Arsenal, it's a completely different ball game. But we're practising patterns every single week and when we get the players fit, I'm going to make Marcus and Anthony score those scruffy goals, as that's what I did!

GN: What was the state of the squad when you found it and picked it up?

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects David De Gea, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba all to miss the Premier League game against Liverpool

OGS: Of course, they were low in confidence because they'd been losing some games. The culture there was something I wanted to change. We've let a few players go and we've brought a few in - good characters and good personalities that helped the culture.

As a manager, you need a culture and a foundation to move the team forward.

GN: This summer you brought in Dan James, [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, spending around £140m. But when you look at the outgoings with the wages of Lukaku, Sanchez, Fellaini, Herrera and Smalling, you would think the club has spent a net of around £30-40m.

That's not enough for Manchester United at this moment in time. Could the club just not get the players or was the money just not there?

Pogba, De Gea ruled out of Liverpool clash
Pogba, De Gea ruled out of Liverpool clash

Paul Pogba and David de Gea will miss Manchester United's Super Sunday clash against Liverpool through injury.

OGS: The money is there. We've been looking at players and we were close to a couple but it's not right if you don't get the right players. The money is there to strengthen in January and in the summer.

We're planning and we're looking. We're refining our targets, but just before the summer transfer window ended, the ready-made players weren't there. But the resources are there if the right players are available.

GN: Do you feel now because of the results you need to do business in January, whereas a couple of months ago, you were probably a little bit more relaxed about it? Do you feel like you have to get players in January to bolster a squad that at the moment is very young, has injuries and lacks a little bit of experience?

OGS: January is a difficult window, anyway. But if there are players available and at the right price, I'm sure we will spend. There might be some experienced players who can come in and help the younger players - that might be worth the money.

Jose Mourinho brought on Alexis Sanchez, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata at half-time as Manchester United beat Newcastle 3-2 in October 2018
Image: Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini have been taken off the wage bill

So it depends on who is available. I'm not going to go down the route of bringing players in on big contracts and big fees if they're not the right ones for the whole group and for the future.

GN: The results haven't been great recently. How do you turn things around?

OGS: Through lots of work in the training ground, but I think getting players back after long-term injuries will be key. Of course, it'll take time to get them 100 per cent fit again.

If we can get David [de Gea] fit - hopefully he won't be too long - get Paul [Pogba] back, Anthony [Martial] back, Jesse [Lingard] back, Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly back - we've had so many players out. Once we get them back fit, I think we'll look a stronger team again.

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Highlights as Manchester United slip to another defeat at Newcastle

GN: How are you personally coping with everything that's going on at the club currently?

OGS: I don't like losing games - you know me. But I also know that this club will get back. After the two bad defeats away from home at West Ham and Newcastle, we haven't won away from home for a while. It does play on your mind, but it doesn't make me lose my sleep.

You look forward to the next one. I'm an optimist, and I'd rather be an optimist and be proved wrong than a pessimist and be right. I always look at the next game as a chance. The Liverpool game is a great chance for us to go the other way.

It's in my nature to think of the best-case scenario. I know the fans and the players will be up for it. We've had some great sessions here and I know we'll be prepared. The players will give absolutely everything, and let's see where it takes us.

GN: You've been so positive towards these players. You've been so positive from the moment you came in. The last manager Jose Mourinho did start to turn on the players and was critical of them at times. Is your patience being tested?

Marcus Rashford
Image: Solskjaer admits that forward Marcus Rashford has been in need of a rest

OGS: Of course I'm optimistic, and there are young players here who will be given loads of chances. These are difficult circumstances, but I don't lose my patience with the players. Of course, we need results which will be good for their confidence.

Sometimes you feel the margin that's going against us... if that turns, we might just go on a run here. If you look at the games we've got, if we can get a few players back in, we can go on the same run that we did when I first came in.

GN: Do you feel these players can get you into the top four?

OGS: Yes, definitely. Of course, we're looking at one or two new signings. We're one or two players light, and we've said that, but if the right ones are available in January then we might do something. If not, these players will give everything.

GN: I want to ask you about Axel Tuanzebe. You played him at centre-back alongside Harry Maguire against Newcastle. Do you see him as the long-term partner for Maguire?

OGS: I think Axel is going to have a great career at Man United, and so will Harry. We've just signed Victor [Lindelof] on a long-term contract, so we've got centre-backs there who are going to be part of the future. Axel can also play full-back, he can play defensive midfield, and he'll play his share of games.

Axel Tuanzebe featured at centre-back alongside Harry Maguire against Newcastle
Image: Axel Tuanzebe featured at centre-back alongside Harry Maguire at Newcastle

He's a leader and has always been a leader in the dressing-room. At the moment, he's stepping up and he's maturing fantastically.

GN: I said a couple of weeks ago that it looked like Marcus Rashford needed a break. Does he need a break, can he have a break, and what's his best position?

OGS: Well, at the moment we can't really give him a break because we've had injuries. Anthony [Martial] has been out for eight weeks now. So he's had to play loads more football than I'd hoped.

Marcus is a centre forward who can play left, right and as a No 10. He wants to be able to play all the positions. I want him to be facing the goal, I want to be direct and attacking quickly, so at the moment I see him coming in off the left or as part of a two up front.

Marcus' movement is great, but maybe we just need to give him a game or two of rest because he's played a lot. Sometimes, because he's a young boy with lots of expectations on his shoulders, he's played four or five seasons now, and yet he's still not even 22 yet.

Ben Chilwell congratulates Marcus Rashford after stunning opener against Bulgaria
Image: United hope Rashford's goal against Bulgaria breathes new confidence in him

He's a scorer of great goals, as he did for England. I want him to become a great goalscorer - and that's a different mentality. At the moment, he's learning his trade.

GN: Is that last answer a little bit of a hint to how you're going to play against Liverpool? Are you going to play with two strikers if Martial's fit?

OGS: I'll need to make a decision on Anthony. He's not trained with us yet, he's still working with the physios and the fitness coaches. Marcus hasn't come back from internationals yet, so we're probably not ready to play the two of them together. They might have to share the load.

GN: Liverpool are in great form, they have been now for some time. It's a game where it doesn't bear thinking about losing as a player, coach or as a fan. So how do you beat them?

OGS: There's a lot of pieces in that puzzle that have to be in place. We've got to be ready and I think the players are mentally prepared for this one. Of course, the fans will always be behind our backs.

Liverpool have been on a great run. Deano (loaned-out Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson) knows he could've stopped that run, but we know we'll just have to ride their good moments, because they've got some quality players, but we're Manchester United and there are some good players here.

Image: Liverpool are bidding to equal Manchester City's 18-game winning run

We need to step up to the plate, and these are the big games that you sign up for at Man United - you have to show your quality.

GN: Have the players got a reaction in them. Are they capable of showing they can beat Liverpool?

OGS: Sometimes we've struggled more in games where we've had to break teams down. We've had 75 or 80 per cent possession in games and we haven't been able to create the big chances. The Chelsea and Leicester games at home were 50-50 possession, and we've had more spaces to attack into.

I can't see Liverpool coming to park the bus - that's just not in their mentality. So I can see it being an open game, which will suit us.

"We're planning long-term. I've been given the job, and if you lose a game or two, you don't wait for a call to be given assurances"
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

GN: Before you were appointed, I said the next manager would need the right structure around him to be able to perform.

It isn't just about the coach's job. Do you feel you have the right structure above you and do you feel like you're going to get the support and the assurances that you need over the next 12 months to rebuild this squad?

We know that you've started the job and we can see it. But do you have the assurances that you will need and the fans will want to see in terms of making sure that you're there to benefit from the clean-up job that you're having to do?

OGS: Of course, all the talks I've had with the owners, with Ed Woodward and the club have been about me having a three-year contract. We're planning long-term. I've been given the job, and if you lose a game or two, you don't wait for a call to be given assurances.

But we started out with a plan, and a recruitment plan is in place. I am 100 per cent sure from my time here that the structure is right because it is always the manager who has the final say. Myself and Mick (Mike Phelan) are the ones who make the decisions on the players that we want to have.

Solskjaer insists he and assistant manager Mike Phelan have the final say on transfers
Image: Solskjaer insists he and his assistant Mike Phelan have the final say on transfers

It's then up to the scouts and whether the players are available before the negotiations.

GN: I think the reason I've been critical is that I've seen a new manager come in and get rid of the previous manager's players, as well as the previous strategy and style of play. I'm now watching you doing exactly the same, so the recruitment hasn't always been good.

You brought in three players during the summer, and there might have been more... is it a case of resetting again?

OGS: That's always a decision that a club has to make when they appoint a new manager. It is the manager who has to be the one with the final say. I feel that has always been the case at this club with who we're bringing in and who we're going to let go.

I might have a different view on the club to Jose [Mourinho], Louis [van Gaal] and David Moyes and Sir Alex [Ferguson]. Now that I've been backed and given this job, the recruitment has started really well.

Manchester United fans have shown their backing for Solskjaer
Image: Manchester United fans have shown their backing for Solskjaer during hard times

GN: What message have you got for the fans? At the moment, they're a little concerned with the position in the league and not necessarily the performances but the results.

What would you say to them to settle them down in terms of what is going to happen over the next 18 months? When are United going to be challenging again?

OGS: It's never an easy answer to give a message to the supporters, but we've got our ambition, and the ambition at this club is to win. You've got to win trophies, playing the right way. You want to have attacking football, but it also means defending - we haven't always attacked.

But it's also about giving our young lads a chance that is in our DNA. You are one of the great examples with the Class of '92 and we've got some great youngsters now. We're building for the future. We're recruiting for the future.

Of course, at the moment we're having a tough time, but the benefit will be there down the line I'm sure. The club is always going to be bouncing back. The last six weeks have been hard results-wise. The Chelsea game was an example of how good we can be.

It gives me a lot of confidence in our supporters when they can see what we're trying to do as well. We'll be back.

How to watch Manchester United vs Liverpool

Watch Manchester United vs Liverpool live on Super Sunday from 3pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 4.30pm.

Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.

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