Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says red background at Old Trafford has affected home form

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Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United’s patchy home form is partly down to the fact his players were unable to see each other clearly due to the red stadium wrap at Old Trafford.

Tuesday marked 25 years to the day since Sir Alex Ferguson famously ordered his players to change from their grey kit to a blue-and-white strip midway through a 3-1 loss at Southampton.

Solskjaer joined United the season after the Dell debacle and raised the issue of spotting players ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Granada at an empty Old Trafford.

All four of this season’s Premier League defeats have come at home, while they suffered a key Champions League group loss to Paris St Germain there, along with the Carabao Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City.

Manchester United changed out of their grey kit midway through a 3-1 loss at Southampton on April 13, 1996
Manchester United changed out of their grey kit midway through a 3-1 loss at Southampton on April 13, 1996 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

When that record was put to Solskjaer along with the fact United have yet to win a home Europa League game despite triumphing at Real Sociedad, AC Milan and Granada without conceding, he said: “You’ll see a change now.

“If you see the banners round the club, it’s not red anymore. We’ve looked into this.

“There shouldn’t be any reason, really, but some of the players have mentioned that you know that split-second decision that you have to make, look over your shoulder if your team-mate’s there or not and the red shirt is on a red background just with the red seats.

“So we’ve of course tried to change that along with an anti-racism campaign so of course that was important that it wasn’t red anymore.

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“Then again, there shouldn’t be any reason. But then again, if you’ve got a 4-0 advantage (like we did against Sociedad) you don’t really have to win that game. Nil-nil was a good result.

“Then the first game against Milan that’s still a draw, we conceded in the last minute.

“I still think we played some good football at home. We started off badly with the three defeats, with Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal very early on, so we’ve improved.”

United replaced the red stadium wrap with black banners at the start of April, which read ‘United Against Racism’ as part of the club’s See Red anti-racism campaign.

Manchester United's 2-1 comeback win against Brighton is their only match with the new design to date
Manchester United’s 2-1 comeback win against Brighton is their only match with the new design to date (Oli Scarff/PA)

Thursday’s quarter-final against Granada will be just the second match Solskjaer’s side have played at Old Trafford since the change in design.

United are well placed to seal a semi-final date against Roma or Ajax after winning the first leg 2-0 in Spain last week.

Marcus Rashford overcame injury concerns to open the scoring that night and, having been withdrawn in the second half, managed 72 minutes of Sunday’s 3-1 Premier League win at Tottenham.

But the 23-year-old, who has been dealing with an ankle complaint, looks set to be sidelined for the return fixture against Granada having missed training on the eve of the game.

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United said: “Daniel James is fit, despite missing the win at Tottenham through injury, but Marcus Rashford had to sit out training on Wednesday and is, therefore, doubtful for the tie.”

Solskjaer will be without captain Harry Maguire, midfielder Scott McTominay and left-back Luke Shaw through suspension on Thursday after they collected bookings in Andalusia.

UEFA has handed United a 7,000 euros (£6,074) fine for picking up five yellow cards in the first leg win, while several players are walking a suspension tightrope ahead of the semi-finals.

“It’s never a positive thing to not have every player available but we’ve got players ready to deputise and come into the team of course,” Solskjaer said.

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“It was (a booking) amnesty after this quarter final so we hoped to get them through, but there were some easy yellow cards that the ref handed out. We’re ready to deal with that.”

Anthony Martial and Phil Jones remain injured for a game that Eric Bailly will miss despite returning from the Ivory Coast, where he had previously tested positive for Covid-19.

“We have to make sure that we go through,” Solskjaer added. “I always pick a team that I think will win a game and we will go into it wanting to win this.

“I know Granada will want to come and give it our all but we also want to improve our performances, build our momentum that we’re on and have a good performance.

“There will be a few changes. Of course some of them are forced and some are maybe rotation.”