Solskjaer sure McGinn departure won’t affect Hibs

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
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Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted to arrive in Scotland with his most coveted player but he downplayed the loss of John McGinn to Europa League opponents Hibs.

18-year-old striker Erling Braut Haaland is in the Molde squad for the first leg of the third qualifying round despite holding talks with Red Bull Salzburg, while Hibs head coach Neil Lennon has prepared without McGinn after Aston Villa signed the Scotland midfielder.

Former Manchester United forward Solskjaer said: “He has been one of the main drivers of their attacking play, but I don’t think it will be too different because we come here against a team who are very good at home, loads of enthusiasm, supporters behind their back, and the 3-5-2 is not a normal system for us to play against, so that will cause us a challenge.

“Neil has got the team playing. As he said back when he came in, these boys need toughening up, and he has toughened them up. Their last home defeat was in December so they have made Easter Road a difficult place to come.

“I hope it’s going to be full because my players rise to those kinds of challenges. That’s the highlight of the season for some of these players. There were 400 at Albania in the last round. Then we get Hibs.

“We have been brought up with British football and the atmosphere. Mostly Premier League of course but this is something the players are looking forward to.

“It almost feels like coming home for me because I have spent so many years in the UK, and I know the passion and the atmosphere in these games.”

Haaland, the son of former Manchester City player Alf-Inge Haaland, has scored seven goals in his last five Molde games.

“He’s here, he’ll be involved,” Solskjaer said. “Of course there’s been loads said about him but he’s a young kid who has had many, many big clubs looking at him, some bids. We have accepted a bid and he’s chewing on a contract offer from them but he’s still one of my players.

“They have watched him as have many other clubs but we’ve not had an offer from Man United He’s been absolutely brilliant, and I think that comes from his heritage – when you have a dad who has played for Norway many times, who has played in the Premier League for Forest, Leeds, City, he has had a good upbringing and nothing fazes the kid.

“I’ve had him for a year and a half and the development in him has been unbelievable. He was a mature 16-year-old and now he’s an 18-year-old man who is ready to go to bigger clubs.

“Put it this way, he’s many, many years ahead of where I was when I was 18. He’s got the hunger, he’s got the ability, he’s got the attitude to go all the way.”

Solskjaer also praised Hibs captain David Gray, who was in his Manchester United reserve team.

“Good old David is a great player to coach and he’s had a very good career,” he said.

“David’s a top lad, a very good player. He was captain at times in my reserve side and he’s one of your favourites because he’s a lad you want in your team every day of the week.”