Ole Gunnar Solskjær put a quartet of recent semi-final stumbles behind him as Manchester United routed Roma to all but book a place in next month’s Europa League final.
“We don’t feel the job is done but this was a good job done,” said Solskjær after a sometimes surreal first leg at Old Trafford, where United trailed 2-1 at the interval but ended up winning 6-2 after an apparently stern half-time homily from their manager.
“I told them I wasn’t happy with the first half. We’d forgotten we have to [sometimes] run back. For five or 10 minutes before half-time we didn’t look great but we managed to get ourselves together.
“The two goals we gave Roma were junior, schoolboy errors that shouldn’t happen at this level. We said that at half-time and we corrected it. The players didn’t lose their heads and their character showed when they came back out. We managed to get ourselves together and we took our chances. I was very pleased with the response. The second half was very good.”
It would take an unprecedented collapse in the Italian capital next week for United to forfeit their lead. They won courtesy of two goals apiece from Bruno Fernandes and the imperious Edinson Cavani, before Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood concluded the scoring.
If Solskjær does collect his first piece of silverware as United manager next month his stellar management of Cavani and Pogba will have been major contributory factors. “Edinson was excellent,” the manager said. “He was scoring goals, creating goals for other people, running the channels. I’m absolutely delighted with him, you can see the difference in him now he’s properly fit. He’s much more than just a goal poacher. He’s got a calmness and a control about him. He’s showing his experience and he’s definitely stepped up lately. He’s worked really hard and he’s showing his quality. It looks like he’s making up for lost time.”
Small wonder, then, that Solskjær is desperate to persuade Cavani to stay at Old Trafford for another season. “I’ve promised him Manchester’s a different place with fans in our stadium and it’s [normally] a fantastic city to live in. We want to create an environment where players want to be and enjoy coming to work every day. When you do that the boys will be happy.”
His holistic approach has paid dividends with the previously high-maintenance Pogba. “Paul knows my feelings for him and about him and how important he is for the team,” said Solskjær. “He’s allowed freedom . With his qualities, when he’s fit, he’s unstoppable.”