Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gets his Premier LEague campaign back underway after three long months against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday night, and while the race for the Champions League places was high on his agenda, he took time out to highlight a bigger issue on a global scale.
The United coach heaped praise on Marcus Rashford for his work to help feed vulnerable families during the coronavirus crisis, saying it was more important than anything he would do on the pitch.
The Manchester United striker has helped raise around 20 million pounds for charity and this week persuaded the British government to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays.
Solskjaer said it had been “fantastic” to follow Rashford during the coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s not only that he got the Prime Minister to change his mind, but also what he’s done over the last few months,” the Norwegian boss said at his prematch video conference on Thursday.
“Marcus is such a top, top human being and he’s brought his own experiences as a kid into this conversation and changed the lives of so many kids.”
Meanwhile Solskjaer said he also was proud of the way the Premier League was throwing its weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement in the battle against racism.
Players, who are wearing “Black Lives Matter” on their shirts in place of their names, made a powerful gesture of solidarity on Wednesday by taking a knee before kick-off in the first two matches after the restart.
“I think we all know that this shouldn’t happen in 2020,” said Solskjaer.
“What’s been happening and that players, Premier League teams that we all make a stand and say enough is enough, I think that is good. I don’t expect anything different from ours.”
Fifth-placed United will come up against former manager Jose Mourinho in London, with both sides battling for a Champions League spot.
Solskjaer confirmed Rashford and Paul Pogba would be available after lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Odion Ighalo can be called upon for the rest of the season after United agreed a loan extension with Shanghai Shenhua, but talented teenager Angel Gomes’s contract is set to expire at the end of the month.
“He’s a top, top kid that we’ve had in the club for so many years and we’ve offered him a deal,” Solskjaer said of the academy graduate.
“Hopefully he’ll take that. If not, I wish him all the best.”
Norwich City v Southampton, 9pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United, 11.15pm
Watford v Leicester City, 3.30pm
Brighton v Arsenal, 6pm
West Ham v Wolves, 8.30pm
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace, 10.45pm
Newcastle v Sheffield, 5pm
Aston Villa v Chelsea, 7.15pm
Everton v Liverpool, 10pm