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10,000 home supporters are set to be back in attendance on Tuesday evening as the Red Devils play host to relegated Fulham in their penultimate top-flight fixture of the season, looking to seal second place behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League and recover some momentum following back-to-back defeats ahead of the Europa League Final against Villarreal in Gdansk on May 26.
There seems likely to be a notable edge to the atmosphere at Old Trafford, with post-European Super League protests against the Glazers having continued before last week’s rescheduled clash with Liverpool after the original fixture had to be postponed after fans stormed the stadium and invaded the pitch.
Asked if he had a message for fans ahead of their return on Tuesday night, Solskjaer told reporters at his pre-match press conference: “Well, we’ve been waiting for a long, long time to welcome the fans back and of course the last couple of home games – especially the Liverpool ones, with the protests… it’s never nice to see a club that is not united, the fans and the team.
“So of course, we’re hoping that Tuesday is going to be a positive day, that we move together, that we play a good game of football, because that’s my job – to prepare the team, to play well and that they enjoy the day. That’s important now, that we get back and enjoy being together.”
He added: “I think the mood in any club and the relationship between a team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch. We’re all human beings, we’ll react to getting our supporters back in a positive way. They’ve always been back there, giving us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer.
“That’s what we have to focus on. It’s a big game for us in that respect. Since the last time we had fans in, against Manchester City. Great game, the atmosphere was the best I’ve ever felt it at Old Trafford in a league game. The next time we can welcome the fans back in, [I hope] that it’s a positive one.”
United approach the visit of Fulham following successive losses against Leicester and Liverpool, with Solskjaer being forced to ring the changes after the postponement and subsequent rescheduling of the latter match led to his team playing three League games in just five days.
And while Solskjaer does not want to use the protests as an excuse for those below-par performances, he admits they have had an effect on his players.
“We lost the two games, but surely it’s reason behind the performances and the results we’ve had,” he said. “Physically, it’s impossible for them to turn up and play at the intensity and the level that’s required because of the amount of games. Then you look at the preparation in-between.
“You haven’t had the recovery in-between, you haven’t had the same routine as you normally do. We haven’t done the tactical prep in the same way as we’ve had. Of course, I’m not saying that it didn’t affect them, but was impressed with how professional they were in the way they went about it. There was none of them who complained.
“That’s one of the big things, for me, that we never complain. We never look outwards, we just look at what we can do. How can we maximise the situation? We tried to do that but we couldn’t get the results. The players have been good as gold, now they’ve had a couple of days off to refresh and be ready and we prepare as normal for these last two games.”