Solskjær insists he meant no disrespect with remarks that riled Roma fans

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted comments he made about Roma may have sounded disrespectful to Manchester United’s Europa League semi-final opponents, but said that was never his intention.

United host Roma in Thursday’s opening leg hoping to reach a first final in five attempts under Solskjær. The manager was asked about the Italian club after knocking out Granada in the previous round and is believed by Roma fans to have said: “I don’t know them and I haven’t seen them play.”

Roma supporters have placed a poster featuring those words and Solskjær’s image at their club’s training ground, together with the message: “Make sure he remembers us.”

Solskjær said on Wednesday of his remarks: “That was straight after the game and with all the games we’ve had I was just relieved we’d gone through. I’d watched them but hadn’t analysed and hadn’t seen them in depth to give them enough respect, probably. It’s a fantastic club with a great history.

“I’ve actually got two prized possessions back home [from when he played]: a Totti shirt and a De Rossi shirt that I’ve swapped with them and they’re actually signed, so I know about the history, I know about the quality.

“With Chris [Smalling] being there last season, we followed them – then they signed Chris and we’ve not watched them as much but we have analysed them down to the ground since we drew them. We are ready for them. It was not meant as any disrespect; I think everyone knows that. I’ve got loads of respect for them.”

Last week United pulled out of the European Super League after the club’s owners, the Glazers, joined a project they perceived to be an improvement on Uefa’s club competitions, the Europa League and Champions League.

Solskjær was asked whether this meant that if his side won the Europa League it would be devalued. “We have had a great night in this tournament before at the club [2017’s triumph] and we know how much it means for a team and the whole club,” he said. “Our focus now is to get to the final and make sure that the end of the season can finish with a celebration.”

Fan disgruntlement at United’s proposed joining of the ESL caused a minor protest involving abuse outside the Cheshire home of Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, last week.

Meanwhile on Monday Eric Bailly signed a contract until 2024. Solskjær said he has no concerns regarding the defender’s injury record: “Eric’s been showing he is more and more resilient, more robust. We want to get the best out of Eric. He’s improving with the ball, he’s improving his buildup play. I’m very pleased he’s going to stay.”