Solskjaer determined to end season with a trophy

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer badly wants a semi-final win after four losses.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer badly wants a semi-final win after four losses.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to break his semi-final jinx and he believes that today's Europa League last-four, first-leg clash at home against Roma will be a step in the right direction.

The Norwegian is aiming to reach a final at the fifth time of asking since taking charge of the Red Devils. Under his watch, the English giants have twice fallen at the last four in the League Cup and in the semi-finals of last season's Europa League and FA Cup.

With United realistically assured of a top-four finish in the Premier League, but too far off Manchester City to mount a title challenge, ending a four-year trophy drought is the major task left for Solskjaer's men this season.

"We have done remarkably well to get to five semis. Now we want to go all the way," the United boss said. "We have looked at them (the semi-final losses) and some defeats you dwell on a little bit more, but it is about putting things right.

"Now we are going to go all out, our focus is on ending the season with a celebration. As soon as we went out of the Champions League, our focus was getting to a final.

"It will be a dream come true the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager. Our ambition is to finish this season with a trophy and to celebrate."

The 48-year-old also reserved special praise for defender Eric Bailly, who on Monday signed a new deal until 2024.

"Eric has been showing that he is more and more resilient, more robust," Solskjaer said.

"He has shown throughout the season he is maturing and we want to get the best out of him. He is highly regarded, the boys love him. He never lets us down, very pleased he is staying."

Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay all served one-match suspensions during the quarter-final, second-leg win over Granada and are available to feature again. Anthony Martial and Phil Jones are out injured.

For Roma, former United defender Chris Smalling could feature after making his first start in over a month in the 3-2 loss to Cagliari over the weekend. He missed nine games previously due to a lingering knee injury.

Former Chelsea forward Pedro Rodriguez, however, is set to miss the first leg with a thigh strain.

The other semi-final will see Arsenal take on Villarreal, whose manager Unai Emery will face his former club after he was sacked by the Gunners in November 2019.

The 49-year-old Spaniard missed out on the top four by a point and got to the Europa League final in his only full season in charge, but was dismissed just four months into his second.

"It ended in unwanted circumstances," Emery, a three-time Europa League winner during his time at Sevilla, told uefa.com.

"I want to win for myself and for Villarreal. (Two years ago) I was defending Arsenal's red colours in that final against Chelsea, now I feel that affinity for the yellow of Villarreal."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2021, with the headline 'Solskjaer determined to end season with a trophy'. Subscribe