Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes cup success could be ‘catalyst’ for Man Utd

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·4-min read

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes cup glory can provide the catalyst to further success as the Manchester United manager prepares for the FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester buoyed by beating AC Milan.

Having fallen in four short in semi-finals over the last 14 months, the Red Devils head to the King Power Stadium on Sunday looking to reach the final four once more fresh from an impressive Europa League last-16 triumph.

Paul Pogba came off the bench and settled a 1-0 second leg triumph at San Siro, securing a 2-1 aggregate victory against Milan and a quarter-final clash against Granada.

Solskjaer spoke ahead of the trip about his belief that cup success can sometimes paper over the cracks and be an “ego thing”, but the 1999 treble hero also knows all about the importance of silverware at United.

“I spoke about it a few days ago about trophies, sometimes it can hide the fact what you’re doing in the background,” the Norwegian said.

“But I feel we are improving all the time and we’re getting closer and to win a trophy could be a boost for everyone, yes.

“We’ve had this before when we won the Carling Cup in the 2006 season with Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, their first wins and it was the first of many.

“We feel, or we hope, a trophy can be a catalyst of more to come.”

Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra enjoyed medal-laden Manchester United careers
Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra enjoyed medal-laden Manchester United careers (Dave Thompson/PA)

The Red Devils have not won a trophy since the 2017 Europa League, with that competition and the FA Cup providing their own realistic avenues to silverware this term given the distance to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

But second-placed United have proven their ability to impress on the road and head to the third-placed Foxes having won their last two away matches at the Etihad Stadium and San Siro without conceding.

“The belief and the attitude is there,” Solskjaer said. “I have to say I’m really impressed by the way they recover and get ready for the next game because it is relentless.

“They are preparing to perform at the highest, highest level. It’s not like we’ve had any gimmes in the draws.

Leicester and Manchester United fought out a 2-2 league draw at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day
Leicester and Manchester United fought out a 2-2 league draw at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day (Michael Regan/PA)

“Every game has been a game you really have to dig deep to win. This is another one, Leicester away.

“Of course we drew in the league against them and we know we have to defend well against them.

“They’ve got (Jamie) Vardy and (Kelechi) Iheanacho now with the form they’re showing, goalscoring form, and you’ve got other quality players there – the passes of (Youri) Tielemans, the runs of (Ayoze) Perez.

“We know we’ve got a game on our hands.”

Marcus Rashford came off at half-time against Milan
Marcus Rashford came off at half-time against Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Solskjaer is hoping his injury issues ease at Leicester, having seen Marcus Rashford limp off at half-time in Milan – a match fellow attackers Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial missed through injury.

The United boss does not expect Pogba to be fully fit at Leicester but the midfielder should be involved after his superb impact off the bench on Thursday.

Making his return from 40 days out with a thigh injury, the 28-year-old changed the dynamics of the game and underlined his ability at a club where his contract expires next summer.

“I think everyone in the team and Paul included, we’re just focused on doing as well as we can this season,” Solskjaer said when asked about the importance of getting Pogba tied down to a new deal.

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“I don’t think any energy would be used on the speculation. Of course we’ve got discussions and talks.

“When you see Paul playing like tonight, when you see him come back training, that shows how much he cares for us and how much he enjoys playing and how much we can benefit from having him here.”

While Pogba got the headlines, there were a number of other impressive displays like those of centre-backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

Asked how much confidence he has in his defenders given United get linked with so many signings in that area, Solskjaer said: “Sky high.

Manchester United's backline held firm at San Siro
Manchester United’s backline held firm at San Siro (Antonio Calanni/AP)

“We’re used to speculation and every goal you concede at Man United is going to be scrutinised. That’s just the way it is.

“I know that these boys have become so much stronger mentally to deal with these things.

“We work on things. When you have a setback like we had against Milan in the last minute, we had a big… not row, but we had a little bit of a meeting.

“You saw against West Ham and you saw tonight there was no chance we were going to let any goals in.”