COLOGNE • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes his team can make it third time lucky and reach their first final of the season after steering United to the Europa League semi-finals after a 1-0 extra-time win over FC Copenhagen on Monday.
The Red Devils laboured to dispose of the Danish side in regulation time and needed a 95th-minute penalty – their 21st of the season and converted by Bruno Fernandes – to book a semi-final clash with either Premier League rivals Wolves or La Liga outfit Sevilla, who played each other yesterday.
That semi-final will take place on Sunday in Cologne and Solskjaer, chasing his first silverware as United boss, believes his side must learn from their League Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City and FA Cup last-four loss to Chelsea.
“We need to be more clinical in knockout games,” the Norwegian said. “I am delighted we are through to another semi-final for this team and the next challenge is to go one step further, and then hopefully, win the last one (the final), too.
“We have worked hard throughout the season, and come quite a distance from where we were in terms of fitness, but mentally, that is where they (the semi-finals) are decided.”
Solskjaer, however, admitted he was concerned by United’s muted display against unfancied Copenhagen, whose goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson made 13 saves, the most by a ‘keeper in a single Europa League game since 2009.
While United had plenty of chances, their finishing left much to be desired – they twice hit the post while two other strikes were disallowed for offside – as the players struggled to cope with the energy-sapping conditions.
“We’re used to having the best facilities around in the world for recovery and preparation,” Solskjaer added.
“But not this time. We just have to make the most out of a difficult situation in conditions that are really hot, humid.
“We’ve got six days to prepare. It’s not often that we have six days to get ready for a game.”
On the speculation surrounding Jadon Sancho after his club Borussia Dortmund claimed he would be staying till the end of his contract in 2023, with United reportedly missing a deadline on Monday to agree terms, Solskjaer remained tight-lipped.
THE MISSING INGREDIENT
We have worked hard throughout the season, and come quite a distance from where we were in terms of fitness, but mentally, that is where they (the semi-finals) are decided.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Manchester United manager, wants his team to be more clinical in front of goal.
“I can’t comment on other teams’ players,” he said. “I can’t do that. You know that. I never do.”
In the other quarter-final of the day, former United striker Romelu Lukaku grabbed the decisive goal for Inter Milan as they beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.
Nicolo Barella opened the scoring for the Italian Serie A side, while Kai Havertz pulled one back for the Germans. Inter will take on the winners of the last-eight clash between Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk.