Reaching semi-finals is ‘not good enough’ for Manchester United, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is eager for the Red Devils to take the ‘next step’ towards becoming an elite force again.
United booked their place in the last four of this season’s Europa League by beating Copenhagen 1-0 after extra time in Cologne on Monday.
The Old Trafford outfit haven’t picked up any major silverware since winning the competition under Jose Mourinho in 2017, with Solskjaer the latest man charged with restoring past glories.
A Bruno Fernandes penalty set up a meeting with Sevilla on Sunday, which will mark the first time the two sides have met since a round-of-16 Champions League tie in 2018.
The Spanish outfit triumphed on that occasion, and Julen Lopetegui’s current crop will likely provide United with another stern challenge after beating Wolves to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games.
The Red Devils were dumped out of both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup at the semi-final stage earlier in the season, and Solskjaer is determined to avoid more disappointment this weekend.
The Norwegian believes his players will be extra motivated to finish the campaign with a trophy after falling short domestically, as he told MUTV: ‘We’ve had two semi-finals before but we want to go to the next step.
‘Reaching semi-finals is a good effort, decent, but it’s not good enough for Man United.
‘The team has been developing and getting more and more hungry, and let’s make sure that hurt that we felt in the two other cups we went out of can maybe be the marginal difference, in that we want it more than them.
‘When I lose a game or lose at something you don’t want that feeling again, so I would think they’re ready for Sunday.’
Solskjaer went on to insist that the fitness levels will not be a problem in the clash with Sevilla after the 120-minute slog against Copenhagen, while stressing the importance of the mental side of preparations.
‘Physically we’re fine, all the teams have played many games anyway. Now it’s about who is mentally strongest,’ he explained. ‘You can look at the opponent and know they’re tired but you want them feeling more tired than you.
‘You’ve got to be strong mentally, concentrated and focused, and any of these games can be, and will be, decided on a marginal decision or finishing. We’ve just got to keep them [the players] focused with the right attitude.’
Solskjaer added on the revised straight-knockout format the Europa League has taken on amid the coronavirus pandemic: ‘It’s like a European Championships or a World Cup, you don’t get a second chance and you just know you have to leave everything on that pitch which for me is fine.
‘It’s a different set-up to what we’re used to, we’re used to home and away, but for me, this is the best scenario so that we can finish this tournament.’
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