WHY I LOOK
Solskjaer impressed by how dignified Portuguese was after Spurs mauled them 6-1... and admits: Mourinho left a lot of positives from United reign
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER has revealed that Jose Mourinho apologised to him after Tottenham’s 6-1 mauling of Manchester United.
Solskjaer saw a different side to the man he replaced as United boss in the aftermath of last October’s Old Trafford humiliation.
And while Mourinho has ridiculed the Norwegian’s recent suggestion ahead of the return meeting in London that winning trophies is nothing more than an ego trip for some managers, the United boss admitted that his rival showed some class after handing him the worst defeat of his reign.
Solskjaer said: “Jose Mourinho was very dignified after the game, from what I remember.
“He was almost apologetic because he knew how hard it was for me to take.
“I have the utmost respect for Jose. You shouldn’t always believe all that is said and written about him. There were plenty of positives from his time here and he has been a manager who I look up to.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember what I did personally after that game. It was an international break, so I had a long time to think about it.
“It wasn’t the best international break I’ve ever had. But we had some words in the dressing room – and I think the results afterwards have been there to see.”
While United are well on course to once again qualify for the Champions League, their hosts are fighting to break back into the top four after failing to build on an encouraging start to the season which peaked at Old Trafford. The Reds are also on the cusp of the Europa League semis after winning 2-0 at Granada on Thursday.
Solskjaer insists there were extenuating circumstances behind the Old Trafford debacle.
His pre-season preparations were cut to a minimum by his team’s participation in the Europa League last summer.
And Solskjaer believes that Spurs winger Erik Lamela “conned” referee Anthony Taylor into showing Anthony Martial a firsthalf red card with some theatrics.
He said: “We had such a low level of match fitness at that time.
“Even though we scored from an early penalty, we were just not at the level where we could compete with Tottenham – especially with 10 men.
“Obviously when Anthony Martial was conned into that red card, it was also a big turning point.
“But we learned a lot from it – especially not to get wound up and not to react.
“And we also learned that we have to keep our composure.
“Even though the players will all be fired up for Spurs, I still want to see a lot of that composure.”
United have been unable to stay in City’s slipstream after Pep Guardiola’s side put together a 15-game winning run.
But Solskjaer has no regrets about giving his players time off at the end of last season, instead of plunging them straight into preparing for the new campaign.
He added: “Would I deny the players, after the season they’d had, the chance to go and see their families?
“No. I totally understood the decision they took on that, but that meant in the pre-season we were in an even worse situation.
“We’re second in the league and in a good position in the Europa League. Hopefully, we can shorten the distance to City because then we can see progress.
“So the mood is good, but the players are hungry to improve and win something, to establish themselves in and around the top of the league.
“If you look back at the last six or seven years, we have not been stable in the top two or three.
“There have even been times when we’ve been fifth, sixth or seventh.
“So if we can get a good second place
– and not just scrape into it
– we will go into the next season with hopes that we can go even further and do even better.”
You shouldn’t believe all that is said and written
JOSE MOURINHO only turns his cannons on his Tottenham players because he wants them to have the same relentlessness and winning mentality he has.
Mourinho was furious his players were not capable of hanging on to their lead against Newcastle last week. Defending leads has been a Mourinho hallmark over the years and when put to him he said: “Same coach, different players.”
The comment caused quite a stir, but central defender Joe Rodon, an £11million signing from Swansea last year, insists such bombs only go off to benefit players.
Rodon, 23, said: “He is focused solely on winning and that is
the most important thing. That is, I guess, what the gaffer is trying to improve us at and put into us mentally — to be relentless and be winners in the mind.
“Whatever it takes, we have got to do it. I don’t look too much into what it feels like when he puts us in the firing line — we can only control what we are in control of.
“But it is important we know when we made mistakes and we haven’t done the job.
“It is only for us to go and put that right.
“It is a professional relationship with everyone – we just get on with it.”
It wasn’t the first time
Spurs have let a lead slip and Rodon isn’t sure why it keeps happening.
He added: “It is a hard question to answer. It’s not a stat we are proud of at all. We want to shut out games and win them, but I can’t really answer it as I don’t know.
“We make mistakes and we concede, but all teams do.
“It’s just when you are coming down to it at the end of the game and holding a lead you just need to be relentless and solid and see the game out.
“That is something I love doing and we can only work to improve on that.
“We don’t want to be coming in after a tough game with a draw, we want three points and on to the next.”
Despite not firing on all cylinders, Spurs came into the weekend just three points off the top four and a win against Manchester United today would be a big boost to hopes of a Champions League finish.
It’s a game Spurs‘ ‘Welsh Mafia’ — Rodon, Gareth Bale, Ben Davies and, er,
Heung-Min Son — are looking forward to, with Wales star, Dan James, in opposition.
Rodon said: “The main thing is you have to be Welsh – but there is an exception for Sonny as he’s the best guy.”