Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes Anthony Martial will be involved for Manchester United against Manchester City but Paul Pogba’s absence is set to continue.
Fresh from Wednesday’s impressive 2-1 win against Tottenham, the Norwegian leads his side across Manchester to take on the reigning Premier League champions.
Martial was a doubt for the Etihad Stadium encounter after picking up a knock last weekend against Aston Villa that for Solskjaer expected to see him out “for a little while”. But the France forward looks set to return against City, although compatriot Pogba remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 6, 2019
“We hope to have Anthony definitely for part of the game – I’m not sure if he’s able to start,” Solskjaer said. “Paul probably won’t be, no.”
Asked when he is expecting Pogba back, he said: “As soon as possible, as quickly as possible.
“He’s out on the grass training. I said in 2019 so hopefully we’ll see him before the New Year definitely.”
While the pre-match press conference focused on the Manchester derby, the subject of Corriere dello Sport’s “Black Friday” headline was also discussed.
Former Manchester United team-mates Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku were pictured either side of the headline on Thursday’s front page of the Italian daily ahead of Friday’s clash between Roma and Lukaku’s Inter Milan.
Both players have criticised the headline and Solskjaer was appalled by it.
“First of all, when you see that paper you say: ‘Wow. Really? Is that possible?’, ” Solskjaer said.
“It’s the worst front page I’ve ever seen. It has to be.
“Of course we have been in touch with Chris, just so he knows that we’ll back him and we support him. And with Romelu as well.
“I don’t work in your line of business but, wow, that’s incredible – and at least we don’t see that here. We can see lots of different things but we don’t see that, so that has to be stamped down (on).”
Smalling has impressed during his time at Roma and Solskjaer expects him to come back to United at the end of his loan spell.
“Chris has been fantastic, but we know sometimes that if you change the environment it can go both ways,” he said.
“But Chris is the type to relish these challenges. He’s cultured, he enjoys life down there, it’s a different life and a new experience for him.
“He’s a boy who couldn’t be here without being a regular and we decided on that.
“I am so, so happy for him because we can see the top player he is.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2019
Asked if he expects Smalling to return to United, he said: “Yeah.”
As for the here and now, Solskjaer is up for the challenge posed by City in this highly-anticipated encounter.
“At least we play every year now! It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself,” the former striker said.
“But it’s changed in a way. Of course Man City are a better team now than when I was playing.
“I think football has changed quite a lot. I think it was allowed a few more proper tackles – with every little angle, everything being scrutinised now, it’s more of a technical, tactical game than physical and mental one.
“But, still, a derby should be played as a derby. We don’t play basketball, so we’re ready for that if that happens.”