FC Copenhagen manager Ståle Solbakken has written off his side ahead of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final with Manchester United, which will be played in Cologne on Monday evening. United first played the Danish side in 2006 in the UEFA Champions League and Solbakken, who was the manager of the club back then beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side 1-0 in the group stages of the competition. The 52-year-old admitted that his team will need to play the ‘perfect game’ against United. Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Sunday, The Mirror reported Solbakken as saying:
“In order to do that we have to play perfect. We need a bit of luck and we need United not to fire on all cylinders.
“We need to be perfect defensively, we need those one, two or three chances we get during a game like this.
“So the chances are not great, but it’s an advantage for us that it’s over 90 minutes and not 180 minutes.
“We have a good feeling, after managing to get a week’s break after the season ended, and we’ve managed to get a couple of players ready to play, who have been vital to us before.
“So we have a good feeling after our 3-0 victory in the last round, but you shouldn’t put your house on us tomorrow! But we will give everything.
“After the coronavirus break, United are looking more of an attacking threat, based on what you’re used to seeing from United teams of the past, if you go all the way back to the early days of Ferguson right through to the late days of Ferguson.
“Obviously Ole Gunnar’s main mentor as a manager is Sir Alex Ferguson, and I can see he’s building what you would call a more attractive way of playing or whatever you like call it.
“He has more weapons in the last third of the pitch and they are still a great counter-attacking team.
“But they’re starting to open up low defences now, with the signing of Bruno Fernandes, with the cutting inside from the right of Mason Greenwood, and obviously the speed of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
“So it’s going very much in the right direction and after the coronavirus break they have been very good.”
This could well be seen as reverse psychology and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not fall for it. Whilst Copenhagen might not be as good a side as United at this moment in time, in these matches either team could win. A little bit of luck or a mistake down the line is all that is needed to get ahead in the game. With no away goals or aggregate scorelines, as there would be normally at this stage, it could well be easy for either team. United will obviously be confident of getting the victory with the firepower they have available.
This season, Anthony Martial (23 goals and 11 assists), Marcus Rashford (22 goals and 10 assists), Mason Greenwood (17 goals and five assists) and Bruno Fernandes (10 goals and eight assists) are responsible for 72 goals and 34 assists this season, which is 106 goal contributions. That could well be enough to put any team off, providing all four players are used at the same time, which could be why Solbakken has admitted defeat before a ball has even been kicked in this match.
However, I do not believe that the Norwegian will give up on the opportunity he has ahead of him. His team looked very good against İstanbul Başakşehir on Wednesday, winning the match 3-0 or 3-1 on aggregate. However, that said, the Turkish side did not seem to be playing all that well – which comes down to the luck on the day of the match. United will have everything to play for in this game to reach the semi-final of the competition. However, with their Champions League fate already decided, the pressure is off and United will be playing for pride.
Written by John Walker