Sol­sk­jaer irked as tie moved to ar­ti­fi­cial pitch

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport Football - By Luke Ed­wards in The Hague

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer has crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion to move Manch­ester United’s Europa League tie against AZ Alk­maar on to an ar­ti­fi­cial pitch which he de­scribed as one of the worst he has seen.

Sol­sk­jaer grew up play­ing on ar­ti­fi­cial pitches in Nor­way, but is strug­gling to un­der­stand why a coun­try with Hol­land’s cli­mate still al­lows top-level games to be played on them. Alk­maar were un­able to host the Group L tie at their home sta­dium as one of the stands was badly dam­aged in an Au­gust storm and is still be­ing re­paired.

Al­though there were plenty of sta­di­ums to choose from, United have been forced to play on an old and bat­tered ar­ti­fi­cial sur­face at the Ky­ocera Sta­dium, the home of ADO Den Haag. The fact Alk­maar have been play­ing all home games here for the past two months inevitably means they will have an ad­van­tage.

The con­cern over the sur­face was one of the main rea­sons be­hind Sol­sk­jaer’s de­ci­sion to leave Paul Pogba out of the squad, al­though it is doubt­ful the France in­ter­na­tional would have started the game as his work­load is be­ing man­aged fol­low­ing a re­turn from a foot in­jury.

“I’m sur­prised they’ve cho­sen to play on this pitch when I look at it,” said Sol­sk­jaer, who has not won an away game since the vic­tory over Paris St-ger­main in early March.

“I’m used to ar­ti­fi­cial pitches in Nor­way. It’s not the best I’ve seen, it’s one of the worst I’ve seen for a long while. We’ve all got stan­dards back home in Nor­way and they are mod­ern and new – it’s safe, I’m not say­ing that, it’s just not the new­est.

“It’s just on the floor, so on the car­pet more or less, so when you pull the grass up [and] you [need] to do that loads, there’s more bounce. It seems like it’s been used a lot.

“I’m sur­prised that, in this cli­mate, you have to use it. It’s OK when you live in the North Pole, like we more or less do in Nor­way, and can’t play in March, Novem­ber or De­cem­ber, but here, I’m sur­prised. There’s a dif­fer­ent style on ar­ti­fi­cial pitches, there are parts of the game which will be­come dif­fer­ent, there’s less tack­les … but you can’t ban them be­cause you can’t force the Nor­we­gian teams to have nat­u­ral grass. If I was run­ning a club here, I wouldn’t have an ar­ti­fi­cial pitch.”

Solk­jaer was glad to have some­thing to com­plain about, as it lim­ited the time spent dis­cussing his team’s de­fi­cien­cies. AZ would al­ready have been tough op­po­nents – they are third in the Ere­di­visie and have lost only once this sea­son – but the pitch also works in their favour.

“You keep talk­ing about con­cerns,” Sol­sk­jaer replied when asked if he was wor­ried about their poor start. “We are a good team. We have been win­ning 1-0, those games should suit us more and we’ve played some very good away games.” Prob­a­ble teams – AZ Alk­maar (4-3-3) Bi­zot; Su­gawara, Vlaar, Wi­jn­dal, Wuytens; Midt­sjo, Koop­mein­ers, De Wit; Stengs, Boadu, Idrissi.

Manch­ester United (4-2-3-1) Romero; Dalot, Tuanzebe, Rojo, Wil­liams; Matic, Fred; Gomez, Mata, Lin­gard; Green­wood. Ref­eree Ged­im­i­nas Mazeika (Lithua­nia).

Un­real: Manch­ester United train on ar­ti­fi­cial grass at the Ky­ocera Sta­dium

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