Solskjær echoed the sentiment. “Knockout games or games like this that give a chance to go through are big,” he said. “The players are Manchester United players because they have qualities we look for and I’m sure tomorrow night will prove the reason why they are here – they will show it. The character of the group is getting better and better and we’re looking forward to the game. It’s something that we want, games like this.”
United would have qualified already were it not for their shock 2-1 defeat away to Istanbul Basaksehir, with both of the goals they conceded down to dismal defending. “It’s tradition for Manchester United: we never make it easy for ourselves,” said Solskjær. “We look at the games – especially Istanbul away when we could have got three points [but] that’s just the way we do things. We make it hard for ourselves – that’s been true since I played here [from 1996].”
United’s victory at West Ham on Saturday was their fifth consecutive away win in the league after falling behind. Solskjær believes his team’s refusal to surrender may play on Leipzig minds should they again concede the opener at the Red Bull Arena. “We’re just working hard to get into people’s heads that [this] might happen [a comeback] so they can’t switch off,” he said. “Manchester United has a tradition and history of this and opponents would know about that as well. I can definitely see those traits returning – the belief coming back.
“I don’t know how many times we’ve come back and how many goals we’ve scored in the last 10 or 15 minutes but it’s a lot, that’s a big difference from last season. We spoke about that at the start of the season – we need those extra points that can give us. It’s been very important so far.”
Maguire said: “We’ve shown great character to come from behind in all these away games and will need this character, spirit and confidence against Leipzig – a team who are very good at home. But we have great belief in ourselves that we can go there and get the result required to go through to the knockout stages.”
In October’s reverse match United soundly beat Julian Nagelsmann’s side 5-0. “It’s a game we will remember fondly because we did many things right,” reflected Solskjær. “We need to do lots of things right again and we should also correct a few wrongs. We know Leipzig well enough to know they’re unpredictable in their shape and system but, we know the players and the style they play in so know it’s going to be a tough game and we need to be at our best to get a good result.”
David de Gea is fit again after a knee problem caused him to miss the West Ham win, with Luke Shaw also travelling following a month out with to a hamstring strain. Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial have “niggles” so are not in the squad, meaning Solskjær will choose between Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood to lead the line.