Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits matchwinner Anthony Martial was ‘begging to come on’ as Manchester United beat LASK 2-1 at Old Trafford, the club sealing their place in the Europa League quarter-finals with a 7-1 aggregate win over the Austrian side.
United headed into the second leg of their last-16 encounter with a five-goal advantage and Solskjaer opted to rotate his options, handing starting opportunities to the likes of Sergio Romero, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Odion Ighalo in a much-changed XI.
The absence of several first-team regulars saw the lacklustre Red Devils fall behind to Philipp Wiesinger’s fine strike from distance, before Jesse Lingard scored for the second successive game to draw the sides level.
Substitute Martial scored a late winner with just four minutes remaining, combining with Juan Mata superbly before slotting home his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions.
Solskjaer was delighted to see his side progress to the last eight and admits it was important to provide minutes for some of the club’s squad players, the Norwegian having rarely rotated his preferred XI since the Premier League‘s restart in June.
“It is that sharpness that you lack when you don’t play regularly,” Solskjaer told MUTV. “Of course, some of these haven’t really played since the lockdown. They played the last time against Norwich, which is more than a month ago, so for me it’s a good exercise: job done, minutes under the belt, and we’re ready to travel [to Germany].”
The United boss also spoke of the importance of maintaining their strong recent form with another victory, admitting leading scorer Martial was desperate for his opportunity to add to his impressive season’s tally, the Frenchman scoring four minutes after his introduction.
“We needed to win the game. Of course, I wanted to but I couldn’t get all of them [the substitutes] on. We want to win, and Anto was begging to come on. But he promised a goal as well, so well done!”
United will meet FC Copenhagen – who eliminated İstanbul Başakşehir 3-1 on aggregate – in the next round, the Danish side managed by Solskjaer’s former international teammate Stale Solbakken.
Solskjaer admits he is relishing the prospect of taking on ‘a good friend’ on Monday evening, the two having studied for their respective coaching licences together in Denmark.
“I know Stale really well,” the Norwegian said. “A good friend of mine. I did my pro licence study with him in Copenhagen, so I know what there is to know about Stale probably. And he probably knows what there is to know about me! I’m looking forward to it.”