How do you go from winning 14 out of 17 to losing seven out of nine?
OGS: That’s football for you, that’s human beings for you, that’s margins, and of course we’ve played, well, many said easy teams in the beginning, and more different teams now. But I think it’s the whole scenario, the whole season, it’s been an emotional season for players and club, we’ve had highs and lows. That’s what you’ve got to deal with as a footballer player, coach and manager, deal with human beings.
Marcus Rashford said after the game on Wednesday night that he didn’t feel as though the players were as together as they needed to be on the pitch? What does he mean by that?
OGS: I think you could see on Wednesday night there’s a team that wanting to play and be there for each other. We weren’t doing our jobs in the game before against Everton. It’s a boy who was hurt, Rashy’s really hurt by losing the derby, we all are. The eye opener was the Everton one and, of course, the last 10 days have been hard for everyone and sometimes you might come out emotional in an interview. But we know for this club to be successful again we have to stick together 24/7 and your standards have to be at that level.
Can this squad stick together in that way? Do you seem them as having all the capabilities and the right attitude and mindset to do that?
OGS: They’ve all seen the reality the last few weeks where we’re at. If you look at the team total points last five seasons, I don’t know if you can give me that average, and the total points is 70 in average over the last five seasons, we’re now on 64, that’s where we’re at, that’s the reality that we’re round about where we’ve been the last five seasons and that’s not good enough. That’s not down to the last six seven or eight games, that’s where we are at the moment. We have a great challenge ahead of us to get us up challenging again.
Are you about to guarantee that Paul Pogba will still be here next season?
OGS: You can’t guarantee anything in football but yes I think Paul’s going to be here, I can assure you that he’s very determined to succeed at Man United.
How do you assess him? He seems to be the lightening rod for this team. When you’re doing well, he’s amazing, when you’re not doing so well, it’s all his fault…
OGS: That’s just the standards he sets because when he’s creating chances, scoring goals, doing loads of work, that’s just media, supporters, everyone looks to Paul. Could you have done better? Paul’s done fantastic for us, he’s a human being as well and we’re all the same. We want him to do well, he’s a leader in that dressing room and on the pitch for us and back to if I can guarantee, I would really, really, say yes, I can guarantee but in life you can never but he will be here as far as I can answer that.
Is he the leader that you feel that Manchester United need? You say he’s got leadership qualities, but if you think back to the great captains like Roy Keane, is United crying out for that kind of a character?
OGS: I think you know as well the world has changed so you don’t have a Robbo, you don’t have a Roy Keane or a Steve Bruce in our dressing room, we’re all different. We have a squad full of talented players and leadership is so many different things, and they had it in one way, and I loved playing under Roy Keane. He was a fantastic captain. Everyone here spoke about Robbo but we’re all different now, society is different, and we are all different in the way we lead. I don’t lead the way Sir Alex did, Van Gaal, Mourinho, we’re all different leaders.
David de Gea is going through a difficult spell at the moment. Gary Bailey said the time has come to take him out of the firing line, out of the side. Is that something you’ve considered?
OGS: No. Not at all.
Why is that?
Because I trust David and he’s for me been the best player United have had the last six or seven years, he’s been absolutely outstanding and going through touch patches is part of a footballer’s career and David will be fine. No worries.
With his contract situation and the fact his future is uncertain, is that having an impact on his form? For a player who has been so consistent, it does seem quite odd.
OGS: That’s something you have to deal with as a footballer, you don’t always have a contract for five or 10 years, or two years or three years. It’s a situation. I think David’s coming in every single day doing what he should be doing.
Will Ander Herrera play for United again?
OGS: I would think so, yeh. There’s three games left. Ander’s been training, he’s been enthusiastic and he’s probably be involved on Sunday, can’t guarantee but he’s trained the last two days.
It’s purely an injury then?
There have been claims that under the previous manager, the players threw him under a bus, and the way it’s going, they’re going to do the same to you. Is that something you’ll say ‘no, I won’t let that happen’, or do you feel it’s heading that way? Have the players let you down?
OGS: That was Roy Keane, wasn’t it? Of course that’s not going to happen.
Will you not let that happen?
OGS: No, I speak to the players all the time and they know my expectations and standards. I’m going to do whatever I can to make this club successful, and we’ll do that together. It’s not the players against the manager here. We’re all in this together. That’s what supporters know, we know that we are doing this together, we are working together to improve.
It wasn’t a claim that the players are turning on the management, it was maybe that the effort, determination and performances haven’t been good enough and the manager carries the can.
OGS: Of course, I’m in charge of this. I pick a team. I decide what we do on the pitch and in training. When you’re in the middle of a season you don’t make too many drastic changes. You can’t turn the screw and work much harder. The fitness levels aren’t good enough for me, so maybe we’ve been caught up with that respect. Pre-season is going to be a big mark for me, and for all of us. I don’t want to talk about pre-season now, because we’ve got three massive games coming up, but I like to answer questions that are honest and upfront. I think you’ve seen that from me, that I’ll answer as many as I can honestly.
You’ve said that there’s no quick fix and you mentioned the average points total over the last five seasons has been 70 points.
OGS: Yeh, the last five before this season, and that’s with 81 one last season.
It looks like it’s going to take investment to get players in. Are you confident that the owners will give you that investment? There have been criticisms in the past that they haven’t invested enough in the club?
OGS: You cannot say that we haven’t invested enough money because if you look at the money that’s been invested, they’ve invested loads of money. I’ve been in meetings, we’ve had discussions, we’ve got a time frame and the backing. But it’s not going to happen overnight. You can’t change 10 in one window.
So they’re aware that it’s going to take time and investment to get the club turned around?
OGS: Everyone’s realistic enough to see where we’re at. You don’t just bang go from 70 to 90. Liverpool didn’t, City didn’t. They got to where they are now by stability, consistency and steady investment.
You’ve been here as a player yourself so you’re well versed to know one defeat here and the world caves in. Does it hurt you when a player like Paul Ince, who’s been a captain here, saying you’re not up to the job?
OGS: Do you think I can feel hurt by every single “expert” there is. So, no, it doesn’t bother me at all.
You just block that out?
OGS: I don’t read it. You just told me and if you’d said someone else, maybe.
You’ve talked about the rebuild that you’ve got to do here and how it’s going to take a few windows to do. But how difficult is it to plan that with uncertainty over key players like David and Paul, and contract issues going on? Do you need them sorted to start the rebuild?
OGS: There’s always decisions to be made in a squad. You just don’t know from day to day. Someone might be injured, there might be contract issues, there are loads of issues. There are players we might have expressed an interest in and they’re not available for sale. It’s not playing Football Manager this, you know.
How hard is it to attract players to the club when star players are out of contract in a year or two?
OGS: I don’t pay too much attention to what’s in the media. I don’t think players pay attention to rumours because, clearly, there are stories being made up right, left and centre. I think the players are clever enough to see what we’re doing.
Despite your losses, Chelsea and Arsenal have thrown away points. Do you feel like this is a real second chance? Despite all the doom and gloom, you’ve still got a good chance of getting in the top four.
OGS: That’s the ironic part of this. Three weeks ago, if you’d said we’d lost the games we have, I’d say we’d be out of the chase. You think you need 76, 77 points, and then suddenly strange results happen. We’re in with a chance. Every single one of these players, if we just start from now, and wake up with the reality that if we beat Chelsea we’ve got a very, very good chance to get in to the top four, everyone would have taken it. So that’s one way of changing mindsets on what’s happened. You can’t do anything about what’s happened in the short term anyway. You’ve got to look forward to the next three games.
Is it harder to attract players to United now than it was? In the past, they were the top team and everyone wants to play for the top team. But now you’ve got half a dozen top team in England, Real Madrid rebuilding, PSG throwing money around, Bayern Munich doing the same. Is it tougher now to attract top players?
OGS: Probably, because of the money being thrown around. But that’s not the type of player we want anyway. If they say ‘that club 20% more so I’ll go there’, we have to have the right type of player. The right quality, but also the right personality. All my life, I’ve always believed in human beings, and what drives people makes you successful in the end. If they’re driven by money or fame, they’re not right for Man United, or my team. I need players who can reflect me as a person and my values.
Sir Alex Ferguson is your mentor, he taught you a lot of good habits. When you look in the eyes of your players, do they get what Ferguson achieved at this club? Do you think it’s too much for some of these players?
OGS: Everyone knows that times has changed. What the gaffer did was unbelievable. But we are doing things differently to the previous managers. We can’t try to copy Sir Alex but he was unique. We’ve got to do it our own way. We’ve got a different generation of players. Maybe some of them couldn’t have handled the way Sir Alex way of managing, but we are looking to do it our way. They know the history of the club and that it means a lot for everyone. But we can’t linger on. The clubs underneath us are chasing us. We shouldn’t be looking back at being chased by the Evertons, because we should be chasing the top teams, that’s the reality of where we’re at.
Even Sir Alex at that period at the start where things were tough. Is that something that you reference, that things can change?
OGS: I think all managers know that taking over a team that there are two scenarios. They’re either not happy with what’s been happening, or the manager has been so successful they’ve gone on to better things. Clearly, when you’re at Man United, I took over when it wasn’t up to the standards that everyone wanted. It’s not as if we’ve inherited a championship team that’s going to keep on winning. So you need time to rebuild and put your own stamp on it. You can see City and Liverpool now, it’s hard to say, but they’ve set the standards. Klopp and Guardiola have done a fantastic job, they’ve had their bedding in period, and now they’re putting their stamp on it.
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