Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects Manchester United to be without Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay for Sunday’s trip to Southampton as his side look to prove they have found some much-needed consistency.
Neither Pogba nor McTominay trained with their team-mates on Friday morning but there was better news on Marcus Rashford, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
“Scott and Paul, they didn’t train this morning, they were not on the grass,” Solskjaer said.
“They are very unlikely for the weekend. Marcus, Victor and Aaron, they came through the session so hopefully they will be OK, although they are not 100 per cent.”
🗣️ Ole on Southampton: "They've done well and have made great improvements.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 27, 2020
Solskjaer did not offer details of Pogba’s injury but said it was a separate issue to the ankle problem that troubled him last season.
United head to the south coast seeking a third straight league win and fourth in all competitions, a run which has lifted them into mid-table, still with a game in hand, after a poor start to the campaign.
At St Mary’s they will be coming up against a Southampton side unbeaten since losing their opening two Premier League games of the campaign.
Southampton held United to a draw twice last season, and Solskjaer said the match was a good opportunity to prove his side have improved since then.
“Of course we want our run to continue but we know how well Southampton have done recently,” he said.
“We have a very good away record and have been up there as well since January when we had some ins and outs in the transfer window, that was a turning point for us and since then we’ve been pushing up the table.
“We’re getting that consistency and this is a nice challenge, a good test for the team now to see if we’ve really learnt our lessons from the games we played against them last season.”
If January was a turning point for United, much of that can be put down to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, who has continued to be a vital presence in midfield for Solskjaer.
Asked if his impact was comparable to fellow Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, Solskjaer said: “He does have that presence, that influence on his team-mates. Look at the results we’ve had since he came in.
“He is a team player, which is key for us now.”
Solskjaer compared Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, as he credited him with injecting aggression into his side.
“It’s similar to when Jurgen came to Liverpool,” he said. “He’s a coach who likes pressing, being on the front foot and aggressive, which is of course more difficult to play against.
“It’s very interesting to watch the progress Southampton have made under Ralph. You know you’re in for a game for 96, 97 minutes. They scored in the 96th minute against us last year. I’m a big admirer of the physical attributes he has in his team.”
With a relatively long gap between Tuesday’s Champions League win over Istanbul Basaksehir and Sunday’s fixture, Solskjaer was able to give his players the increasingly rare treat of a day off this week.
And the Norwegian admitted the relentless schedule at present offered an opportunity to the likes of Southampton and others to push up the table this season as those with European and cup commitments find themselves stretched to the limit.
“I think this season is going to be a very unpredictable one,” he said. “Of course there are sometimes advantages in having a full week of training.
“But we want to be in the Champions League. I would rather be there and facing congestion than not having that. That’s just the situation that we have to get used to and make the most of.”