Ander Herrera has spoken publicly for the first time regarding his ongoing contract standoff with Manchester United.
The midfielder could leave the club this summer on a free transfer despite having become a fan favourite since arriving at Old Trafford in 2014, making close to 200 appearances for the Red Devils.
There has been increasing speculation of a move to Paris Saint-Germain, while Arsenal are also thought to be interested in the Spaniard.
Herrera has previously been discussed as a potential United captain and has worn his heart on his sleeve regarding his love for the club, but admits negotiations over a contract extension have stalled.
“It’s true that I only have two months on my contract left and, today, Manchester [United] and I aren’t thinking the same and there is no renewal agreement, but my duty is to keep listening to United,” Herrera told ABC.
“What I have clear is that I’m going to continue playing in a big team.
“I take care of myself, I work hard and I want to squeeze as much out of football for as long as my body allows me to, because the day after I retire I will start to regret having retired.
“I will listen to United, of course, but also to other clubs. I do not close any doors.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains convinced Paul Pogba will be at Manchester United next season.
Pogba was a huge disappointment in the last-16 first-leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain, sent off in the 2-0 home defeat before United overcame the French champions 3-1 in the return without him.
Solskjaer is now demanding more from the mercurial midfielder, once pursued by Barcelona themselves and now linked with a summer switch to Real Madrid.
The United boss said: “It’s not about one player, everyone has to perform at their best level and, at Paul’s best, he can run a game like this and that’s what you expect from him: that he really puts his stamp on a game like this.
“Paul’s job is to be the creator, and when we win the ball that he drives forward, so I expect him to perform.
“Paul is looking forward to tomorrow. He’s a Man United player. He’s one of our, of course, big performers and on a big stage. He knows the game against PSG was not his greatest moment.
“So, he is only focused on playing well tomorrow against Barcelona and I cannot see him not playing for Man United next season either.”
Solskjaer knows it is not just Pogba who needs to perform, but the team, as they try to blunt Barca’s brilliant attack, led by Lionel Messi.
19 - Top 5 assists among French players 🇫🇷 in the top 5 leagues since the beginning of last season— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 9, 2019
19 - Paul Pogba
18 - Dimitri Payet
17 - Antoine Griezmann & Florian Thauvin
15 - Karim Benzema
King. @ManUtd @paulpogba pic.twitter.com/bVXGquHzIp
Having already faced Juventus and PSG this season, centre-back Chris Smalling was bullish as he said: “I say bring it on. It’s something to relish, I think.
“This season I’ve been lucky enough to face [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Kylian] Mbappe and they’re all challenges that I think I definitely relish and I think players at this club relish.
“These are the ties we look forward to. All the hard work in the group stages, this is what it’s about. We players are all itching to be on that field and show what we can do.”
Surprisingly, Messi has failed to score in any of his last 11 Champions League quarter-final appearances, last netting against PSG in April 2013.
And Solskjaer, who is hoping Marcus Rashford will be fit to bolster United’s attack, added: “He’s a fantastic player and he will go down in the history [of football] as one of the best individual players ever. I have to say. He will be difficult to stop, but it is never impossible. It’s not like it’s Messi against Man United – it’s [Luis] Suarez, [Philippe] Coutinho, [Ivan] Rakitic, [Arturo] Vidal.
“There’s so many good players, we cannot just focus on one player.
“As Chris says, we’re looking forward to it, to relish the opportunity, but this season we’ve played against Juventus and Ronaldo, PSG with Mbappe. We’ve had Chelsea and [Eden] Hazard, Neymar didn’t play against us.
“I think the better an opponent… Suarez as well and Coutinho and Messi will keep our defenders on their toes, so let’s see how we manage tomorrow.”
The win in Paris will offer hope, just as the first-leg loss at Old Trafford will provide a chastening experience, as Solskjaer said: “When you get a Barcelona, with the history and traditions of that club with the quality of their team and individuals, we know we need to step up our game.
“We know we need to perform at our best level, which we didn’t against PSG in the home game.
“But I think the outcome of the second leg has given players belief, supporters belief that it is possible against Barcelona as well.
“Confidence is high. The result and what we did against PSG and how we climbed the [Premier League] table clawing back points, the players have given themselves and supporters great confidence and belief that we can do this.
“The mood before the PSG home game was a little bit different – because they’d won so many games – but we’ve learnt from that PSG game.
“Players have talked about it, how we got dragged into making fouls, how European football is. You’ve got to be more patient in tackles. Some of these players will have some tricks up their sleeves, streetwise players. We’ve learned from that game.”
Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia were conspicuous by their absence as Manchester United trained on the eve of their Champions League quarter-final meeting with Barcelona.
A week after losing 2-1 at Wolves in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are preparing to bounce back when Barca visit Old Trafford for Wednesday’s first leg.
Herrera, Bailly and Valencia missed United’s last match through injury and look set to be unavailable once again, with the trio absent from the open part of the session at the Aon Training Complex.
Matic was an unused substitute at Wolves, but was another notable absentee on Tuesday morning.
Alexis Sanchez was back with the group after a knee injury picked up against Southampton five weeks ago, while Marcus Rashford was involved in the session after missing the trip to Molineux with an ankle complaint.
However, the 21-year-old’s fitness is unclear after starting the session doing individual work before joining in with the main warm-up.
Youngsters like Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood trained separately from the main group.
Chris Smalling is due to join manager Solskjaer for the pre-match press conference at Old Trafford at 2pm.