LASK Linz vs Man United - Solskjaer understand if season was curtailed due to coronavirus

Posted Thursday, March 12, 2020 by PA

LASK Linz vs Man United - Solskjaer understand if season was curtailed due to coronavirus

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would understand if the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

Football matches are being forced behind closed doors and even suspended across the continent in a bid to quell the alarming spread of Covid-19.

United’s Europa League last 16 first leg at LASK is among those affected, with the Austrian authorities announcing restrictions on Tuesday that will mean only 500 people can attend Thursday’s Linzer Stadion clash.

The Old Trafford giants released a statement on the eve of the match saying that “all home matches are currently scheduled to go ahead as planned”, with the club monitoring the evolving situation.

But the spectre of English football being forced to shut up shop looms large and huge question marks are hanging over competitions, both at club and international level.

Asked if he would understand it if the Europa League and Premier League were cut short and not played out, United boss Solskjaer said: “I would understand yes, under the circumstances.

“It’s up to the experts to decide and the main concern must be the health of the general public and the decision that will be made we’ll back.”

Solskjaer faced the media just 90 minutes after the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, with the virus dominating the press conference previewing the LASK match.

“The players are focused and just concentrated on the job,” the United boss said ahead of leading his side out at a near-empty ground.

“Of course, these are difficult circumstances – not just for football, but in the whole society.

“So, for us, we just have to do what we’re told and get on with the game if the authorities think that’s what we should do.

“We are going to have to create our own atmosphere within the team, within the game.”

Solskjaer does not believe any of his players have been tested for coronavirus and the United boss is unaware of any plans to play next week’s return leg behind closed doors at Old Trafford.

He said: “We play in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford, so obviously it will be strange playing a first-team game like that.2

Anthony Martial is among the absentees in Austria, while Paul Pogba is not ready for full training as he recovers from a long-standing ankle issue.

LASK president Siegmund Gruber expressed his frustration that the “biggest match” in the club’s history will be played behind closed doors.

Under the measures announced by the Austrian government on Tuesday, the crowd at LASK’s eagerly-anticipated Europa League last-16 first leg was reduced from a 14,000 sell-out to just 500 spectators.

The Austrian Bundesliga leaders could have sold out their Linzer Stadion three times over such was the interest in a match that will now be what is known in German as a ‘Geisterspiel’ – a ghost game.

“For us it’s the biggest match but not most important in history – that was when we were promoted from the third division,” LASK president Gruber said.

“But it would be a reward for the club, for the city, for the people here to stage this important match tomorrow in front of our supporters. It’s a pity that it can’t take place like that.

“We would have loved to see and enjoy the atmosphere here in the stadium playing against such a great opponent as Manchester United is.”

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