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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggests young stars have benefited from Champions League absence

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has claimed that playing in the UEFA Europa League has been the perfect setting for Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams this season. United will face FC Copenhagen in the quarter-final of the competition on Monday evening for a place in the semi-final stages on Cologne, Germany. Both Greenwood and Williams have forced their way into the squad this season which might not have been so good had they been in the Champions League.

Solskjaer has stated that if United were playing in the Champions League, both Greenwood and Williams would not have been given as much playing time, which they have clearly benefited from this season. The Europa League, in this case, has been ideal with United returning to the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League. Solskjaer, speaking in his press conference ahead of the FC Copenhagen match and reported by The Mirror, said:

“We went into this season knowing the Europa League was a great chance for us to get a trophy, to go far in a tournament and groom a few youngsters. So it was perfect for us.

“If we were in the Champions League this season, I wouldn’t have had a chance to play the likes of Brandon [Williams] as much as we have, Mason [Greenwood], and some of the young kids that have started out on fantastic careers.

“The Europa League has been about that as well, keeping the squad together, a group working together, and giving people chances. Brandon is next to me now and he’s going to play a quarter-final in the Europa League, which is a great achievement.

“We have developed through the season, with a squad that’s been working together.

“There were a few changes in the January window that made us stronger, but the teamwork we’ve done, with more and more principles in the group, is more natural and we’ve found good form.

“We’ve got good players and also players back from injury.”

Solskjaer has also been happy with Paul Pogba this season, despite the Frenchman sitting out much of the season with ankle injuries, one requiring surgery with the player recovering during the coronavirus lockdown in England. Pogba promptly recovered to feature against Tottenham Hotspur in the first Premier League match back, helping to earn a 1-1 draw by winning a penalty. Pogba has been subject to a lot of speculation but seems to be happy and in the zone right now. Speaking about Pogba, Solskjaer said:

“We’re delighted he’s back playing, he’s fit and he’s enjoying his football. He’s got to make up for lost time and he’s doing that.

“He’s training extra, he’s always a great personality around the place and hopefully we can see him lift this trophy as he has done before.

“He’s a great professional, a fantastic boy and I’m delighted we’ve got him in the team.”

The manager ended by talking about United wanting to lift the Europa League this season, which could be Solskjaer’s first trophy as United’s manager, which would be a great achievement for him. It is great to see United in much better shape this season with goals coming from different players with Anthony Martial scoring 23, Marcus Rashford scoring 22 and Mason Greenwood scoring 17. Solskjaer concluded by saying:

“We’re in a strange period and strange times at the moment. It’s unprecedented, but we’ve got to make the most of it.

“If we’re able to go through to the semi-final and final it would mean a lot to the club, players, supporters and staff. We just have to make the best out of a difficult situation.”

Written by John Walker

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