Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rotate his squad when Manchester United resume battle with Liverpool in the FA Cup, with the Norwegian hoping history repeats itself having made a key impact in the same fixture in 1999.
Having only last weekend met for the first time in a year, that tense 0-0 Premier League draw at Anfield will be swiftly followed by a fourth-round clash at an empty Old Trafford this Sunday.
Liverpool head into the tie wounded by Thursday’s shock 1-0 home defeat to Burnley, whereas United welcome Jurgen Klopp’s men top of the table thanks to their 2-1 victory at Fulham on Wednesday.
Solskjaer plans to lean on his squad players in the FA Cup, which provides the 1999 treble hero with another shot at his first trophy in the dugout.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 22, 2021
“We’ll rotate, that’s for sure,” Solskjaer said. “We’ll put a decent team together of course, a team I feel can win the game.
“Of course you want to get your hands on that first trophy, but it’s always the league position that’s the measure of how far you have come.
“Anyone can have an easy cup run, I’m not one of those. I never get an easy cup run!
“I’m never going to watch a draw ever again because we always seem to pick out the difficult opponents. In a cup run, sometimes you can get to a final without really playing any of the top ones.
Manchester United and Liverpool resume battle this Sunday (Michael Regan/PA)
“This time around, we’ve picked one of the favourites and we know this is a big one if you want to go all the way.”
United have lost four semi-finals in the last year and Solskjaer is still looking to get the better of Klopp at the fifth time of asking.
But the Norwegian enjoyed his fair share of success against Liverpool in his playing days, including netting the winner against them in an FA Cup fourth-round tie on January 24, 1999.
That triumph helped build momentum in what proved a remarkable campaign and Solskjaer hopes this Sunday can be a catalyst for success as the sides meet 22 years to the day later at the same stage.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates scoring the winner in the sides’ FA Cup fourth-round clash in 1999 (Peter Wilcock/PA)
“Of course we can transform a few things from that season,” he said. “We know that there’s tight moments, very fine margins.
“We know in that season we were close to going out against Liverpool. Peter Schmeichel saved a penalty from Dennis Bergkamp in the semi-final in injury time.
“Those moments, I think they gave us the mental advantage, especially in the semi-final.
“But against Liverpool as well in that fourth round, when you get that boost of turning 1-0 down to a 2-1 win against a big team, it’s massive.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is mobbed by his team-mates after his goal on January 24, 1999 (Peter Wilcock/PA)
“The FA Cup is a run we’ve got to enjoy as long as it lasts. We got to the semis last year and as I said, we’re going to make a few changes but we’ll put a team out there that I hope can go through.”
Solskjaer has rotated impressively during the hectic winter schedule – a period in which Victor Lindelof has had to be managed due to a nagging back issue.
The centre-back impressed in last Sunday’s goalless draw at Anfield but missed the win at Craven Cottage.
“Victor will be fine for the weekend,” Solskjaer said. “It was just too quick a turnaround we felt with the travel and with his back.
“I wanted to play Eric (Bailly) today when Victor’s not ready anyway. Now we’ve got four days extra.
“Victor got his treatment (on Wednesday) and a little bit of light training so he should be ready for the weekend.”
There have been some defensive improvements at United recently but there remains areas to improve on, with right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka caught out positionally at times recently.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is Manchester United’s first-choice right-back (Clive Rose/PA)
“I think Aaron’s one of the best one-against-one defensive full-backs in the world,” Solskjaer said.
“I think he’s getting better and better on the ball, doesn’t give the ball away a lot.
“He’s not been asked to venture forward as much as earlier in his career. Last season was a learning one for him.
“We see Luke (Shaw) who’s two or three years older and he’s really hitting good form now. Aaron’s got the time ahead of him and we’ll give him time. In a year or two, you’ll see a top, top full-back there.”
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