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Carabao Cup: Solskjaer confident as he eyes first Man United final

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident his team can reach their first final under him on Wednesday.

The Red Devils face local rivals Manchester City in a Carabao Cup semi-final at Old Trafford as Solskjaer seeks to break his personal jinx.

The United manager led the club to the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and UEFA Europa League semi-finals last season but lost all three.

“How important is it? Then I can answer: very,” the Norwegian said during  his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. 

 “The next game is always important but a semi-final is always very important and a chance to get to the final and to get your hands on a trophy in the next round. For this team it would be a very big step, getting your hands on a trophy. 

“We’ve developed a lot in the last six months, or 12 months from the last Carabao Cup semi. It’s not just learning to win semis, we’ve also earned the right to feel we can go all the way with our performances. We’re confident; we go into the game in form. There are no excuses.”

United finished third in the Premier League last season and are second this term almost halfway into the campaign, but Solskjaer is keen on winning trophies now.

“You play football to win trophies, to get your hands on trophies,” he said.

“Even though, as soon as you win a trophy you move on to the next one. It gives you the hunger to get more. Of course, the squad is focused and we’re ready to give it a go. I think we’ve prepared well for this game.

“We’re disappointed not having Edinson [Cavani] involved. He’s probably the only one that’s not – and Phil Jones who has been out for a long time – they’re the only two that are not available for selection, which is a good position to be in.”

Manchester City defeated United in the Carabao Cup semi-final over two legs last season on the way Pep Guardiola’s third straight trophy in the competition.

This time, the semi-finals are over one leg because of COVID-19 and fixture congestion.Solskjaer is expecting a tough game especially as both sides played a 0-0 draw in the league at Old Trafford earlier this season.

He added: “Well, you have two teams who want to get to the final. We’ve had four days now after Villa so, hopefully, we’ve got more fresh legs. It’s a difficult season, but I think we’ll benefit from the rotation we’ve made. 

“I thought it was going to be important anyway this season, having fresh legs. You could see that with City against Chelsea, the amount of fresh legs, intensity and sharpness after the break they had. It showed, and that was a quality game – physically one of the more intense games that’s been in the league this season. I don’t think that’s a surprise there because they had a few extra days to prepare for that one. 

“Two teams that want to go through. I think the last game showed two teams with respect for each other. They weren’t as much possession-based against Chelsea, they were more counter-attacking. They’ve got quick players on the break – of course, we have to be aware of that, as well as their possession game.”

The former Manchester United striker insisted that losing three semi-finals would not hinder his team mentally.

“Well if you get to a semi, you’ve done a lot of good work to get to a semi-final,” he explained.

“Naturally, you play against better and better opposition and I feel that we’ve improved immensely in a year since the last semi. Even since we were in Europe in August. For me, it’s a step closer to get to the final. We’ve developed a lot. It’s easy to say: have we learned? But it’s not about learned, it’s about fine margins in those semi-finals. When you win games of football you don’t think about if it’s a semi-final or just a normal league game, or a quarter-final. You just think about this game and you want to win it.”

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