Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United have “no excuses” heading into Wednesday’s Carabao Cup clash against Manchester City as they look to reach a cup final at the fourth time of asking.
Having lost to Pep Guardiola’s men in the final four of the competition last season, the Red Devils went on to lose at the semi-final stage of the FA Cup and Europa League.
But Solskjaer is confident of taking that important next step when leading in-form United into a fourth successive cup semi-final against rivals City at an empty Old Trafford.
“The next game is always important but of course a semi-final is a chance to get to the final, to get your hands on a trophy in the next round and for this team it would be a very, very big step getting your hands on a trophy,” the United manager said.
“We’ve developed a lot in the last six months, last 12 months since the last semi in the Carabao Cup so of course 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 are confident, we are going into the game with good form so there’s no excuses.”
Solskjaer won medals aplenty during his playing days at Old Trafford but has yet to pick up silverware since taking over as manager in December 2018.
“Of course, you play football to win,” said Solskjaer, whose side are level on points in the Premier League with leaders Liverpool.
“You play football to win trophies, to get your hands on a trophy – even though when you win that trophy you move on to the next one.
“But it gives you hunger to get more, so of course the squad is focused, we’re ready to give it a go. I think we’ve prepared well for this game.”
United have had two more days than City to prepare for Wednesday’s match, when they will only be without suspended striker Edinson Cavani and long-term absentee Phil Jones.
“You have two teams who want to get to the final,” Solskjaer said. “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 rotations made, that’s going to be important this season having fresh legs.
“You could see with City against Chelsea (on Sunday), the freshness and sharpness and intensity they played with after the break they had – it showed.
“That was a quality game and physically one of the more intense games there has been in the league this season and I don’t think there’s any 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 (December’s 0-0 draw) showed two teams with respect for each other.”
Wednesday will be United’s first match since Solskjaer added popular former midfielder Darren Fletcher to the first-team coaching staff.
“He’s got the Man United DNA and there was a spot open because Mark Dempsey has moved to the academy,” Solskjaer said.
“We felt he was so valuable there, he’s been brilliant in the academy and helping out.
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“Then when this opening came, Darren has been away from the club a few years but then he’s come back doing coaching with the 16s and with his experience of being here through both successful and difficult times, we felt it was right now for Darren to come in and give us that input.
“I think it’s also important that we bring ex-players that have been somewhere else.
“I’ve been somewhere else after having worked under Mick Phelan, Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Carlos (Queiroz). We know one way of the coaching but they’ve been to different clubs and got different ideas.
“Fletch, with his ideas and thoughts will improve us in the backroom staff.”