Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his eyes on steering Manchester United to Champions League glory after adding the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane to his ranks.
Manchester United were unable to make it out of the group stages last year after being pitted in a tough group that featured both PSG and RB Leipzig, with Solskjaer’s side finishing third and having to settle for a place in the Europa League.
They would make it to the final of that competition, only to ultimately lose to Villarreal, a side they have now been paired with in this years edition of UEFA’s premier tournament.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s opener against Young Boys, Solskjaer has his eyes on Europe’s biggest prize once more.
“Of course, as you say we have had some very good, memorable nights at the club and they are the biggest nights,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “The aim is to go all the way but we know it’s going to be difficult. It always is. But we’ve added some quality, experience and youth into the squad and hopefully we are better prepared for what’s to come.”
The Red Devils have started the current season in decent form and currently sit atop the Premier League, albeit after just four games – the club buoyed by deadline day addition of club legend and footballing icon, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo won the Champions League with United back in 2008, before adding four more winners medals to his collection during his time at Real Madrid. Those wins came alongside Raphael Varane – a man who has also joined the Portuguese at Old Trafford this season – and Solskjaer hopes the added experience in his side can prove to be the difference.
“I think sometimes you can go far with the youth as well but in some games experience will of course play it’s part, but in others, you need the youthful exuberence and courage.”
“This team has grown and matured over the last few seasons, that was always the plan,” he added. “Back in the day when I came in, we wanted a team with experience and quality who could challenge.
“David [de Gea] sat next to me, Harry [Maguire] has been here for a few years now, Raphael and Cristiano. We’ve learned. The group is special as a united, they look after each other and it’s going to stand us in good stead.”
The Norwegian believes his strengthened squad as well as last year’s gruelling campaign has served to make his side better equipped to deal with the schedule and challenge for honours.
“Yeah. I can’t look at the squad and say we’ve played a game in midweek and we’re tired. Players are fitter now and we’ve been very robust over the years and improved a lot the way we dealt with the pandemic situation and the games coming thick and fast. The ones we’ve signed as well it’s easier to rotate. I’ve told the team I trust the members of the squad.
“There’s nothing better than getting into a rhythm of recovery, playing, recovery, playing. That’s when we get our best play.”
United kick off their game in Switzerland at 17:45 BST on Tuesday.
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Author: Ben Guest