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Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken fearing the worst ahead of Manchester United clash

FC Copenhagen head coach Stale Solbakken knows he faces an uphill battle to upset Manchester United and former apprentice Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in their Europa League quarter-final.

The new-look, coronavirus-shaped final eight tournament kicks off in Germany on Monday, when the two Norwegian managers face off in sweltering Cologne in search of a semi-final spot.

This is Copenhagen’s first ever European quarter-final but Solbakken knows a thing or two about shocking United, having led the side to victory against them in a Champions League fixture nearly 14 years ago.

‘In order to do that we have to play perfect,’ he said at Stadion Koln, reflecting on that 1-0 win in November 2006.

‘We need a bit of luck. We maybe need a United that doesn’t fire on all cylinders.

‘We need to be perfect defensively. We need to take that one or two or three chances we get during a game like this.

‘The chances are not great but it’s an advantage for us that it’s over 90 minutes and not 180 minutes.

‘We have a good feeling. After the season, we managed to get a week break and when the players returned from that we have managed to get a couple of players able to play who have been vital to us before.

‘We have a good feeling after the 3-0 victory (against Istanbul Basaksehir) but you shouldn’t put your house on us tomorrow. But we will give everything.’

Solskjaer was in the starting line-up for that defeat in the Danish capital – the striker’s last season before retiring and moving into coaching.

The 47-year-old spent time shadowing Solbakken in 2011 at Copenhagen, who the United boss was linked to after his compatriot spent stints at the helm of Cologne, where this match is being held, and Wolves before returning to Denmark.

‘We are friends from the national team in the 90s, where Norway was the second-best team in the world,’ said Solbakken, who has former United full-back Guillermo Varela in his squad.

‘You won’t believe that! We were ranked number two in the world, so we played in a World Cup together.

‘He took his coaching badge and I think he came to me before the last-16 against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2011.

‘We have a good relationship. We are not close friends but I can say we are good friends.’

Asked who is the better Norwegian coach, Solbakken said: ‘I don’t know who is the best but I know that he is now in charge of one of the biggest clubs in the world.

‘At this moment in time it is difficult to compare us. As a Norwegian we should – even me as a Liverpool fan – be proud that we have a manager in one of the biggest clubs in the world and that he has been able to steady the ship and been able to put his authority into the club.’

While Solbakken is a fan of United’s bitter rivals, the Red Devils have a fan in the shape of Copenhagen captain Zeca.

‘It’s just because since I’m young, it was the team I liked the most,’ the midfielder said.

‘I liked the way they play. I love the stadium, the atmosphere. It would be a dream to go there and see a game at least in this stadium and support them.

‘It would be very, very important for me and I want to go one day to this stadium and watch a game because since I’m young it was my favourite team.’

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