Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes that winning the Europa League would be the start of “something more” for the club.
United take on Spanish side Villarreal in Wednesday’s final in Gdansk, looking to win their first trophy since a Europa League success under Jose Mourinho in 2017.
Having finished second in the Premier League this term – their highest finish in the Norwegian’s three seasons in charge – Solskjaer is aiming even higher as he looks to restore United to their former glories.
“These are big nights for us, it might be the stepping stone for something better to come,” Solskjaer told a news conference on Tuesday.
“It is a bright future for this team, a young team, it’s a team we’ve rebuilt over the last few years. Hopefully, this is the start of something more.
“When players sign to play for Man United, they sign to win trophies. They accept the challenge of being the best, because this is the best club in the world so that’s the pleasure of the pressure of Man United.”
Former manager Alex Ferguson, who won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during his United tenure, travelled with the team to Poland.
Solskjaer is looking to lead United to glory 22 years to the day since his winner in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich completed an historic treble under Ferguson, and the Norwegian welcomed the presence of the club’s most successful coach in Poland.
“He’s a special man and he’s like an encyclopaedia of football, even though I got him on a quiz question yesterday,” Solskjaer added. “One of the players got the answer before him, I’m sure he’s not happy at that.
“Just to have him around when we eat, if the players wonder about something they can ask him, he’s always available for a chat because this is the club of his heart.
“I hope he enjoys tomorrow night because I owe most of my career to him and this club.”
Solskjaer is set to be without captain Harry Maguire for the big match. The 28-year-old sustained ankle ligament damage at Aston Villa 17 days ago and was using crutches until last week.
On Tuesday evening, Maguire sat out training as faint hopes of the defender leading the side out against Villarreal were all but extinguished.
Maguire headed to the dugout rather than the pitch as his team-mates started training.
Solskjaer went over to him 15 minutes into the session, before the United boss returned to the main group as a forlorn Maguire watched on.
Bruno Fernandes has been the linchpin of Solskjaer’s side since joining in January 2020 and if United are to be successful in the final, the Portugal playmaker will have to shine again.
Boasting 40 goals in 79 appearances for United, many opponents have found it impossible to keep Fernandes quiet – but those who have succeeded have also got a positive result from the fixture.
The job of keeping Fernandes on the periphery in Poland will be a team effort but Etienne Capoue – who started the season playing in the Sky Bet Championship with Watford – will have to be at his very best if Villarreal are to shackle United’s key man.