I think United fans would like to know about the players coming back. Anything positive to cling on to?
OGS: Of course I would like to tell you positive news. We’ll see on Sunday who’s come through the last two sessions because there are players here that have just started training, just on the verge of coming back, so I can’t really say.
Moyes sat where you were sitting and said Liverpool were favourites coming to Old Trafford five years ago. He was criticised for that. Is that now the reality that they come here as favourites on Sunday?
OGS: They’re doing well in the league, that’s for sure, but we’re looking forward to this game. It’s a perfect game for our players and it’s a perfect game for our fans. We’ve had a tough time lately so I’m sure we’ll give them a good game.
There is a stat that your record over the first 29 games that you’ve been Manchester United manager is slightly better than Klopp’s first 29 games as Liverpool manager. Do you hold on to things like that? Is that an example of how quickly things can change? Because nobody is giving you much of a hope in this match.
OGS: No, I don’t hold onto stats like this. I’m just working as planned, business as usual. We’re trying to improve the team, we’re trying to work towards something, but of course we’re heading somewhere, we fell. But we need results and I expect the players to come out and prove why they’re at Man United.
You’ve said when you came in to this room it was very noisy because people are excited about this fixture. Can you give an impression of what the mood has been around the club in the lead up to this game, despite the start to the season and the injury problems you’ve got?
OGS: Of course there’s been loads of players away, which has been the case for everyone, but the mood here is always good. We’ve come a long way on what you call the culture. The environment we’re working in is a positive one, it’s working towards something. The staff and players know when it’s Liverpool coming up it’s a game that’s going to be watched by so many, and when you sign for Man United this is the first one you look forward to. Every year when the fixture list comes out against one of the main rivals. It’s always been a big fixture. It’s a chance for them to, as I did, a couple of times, to get in the history books. If you can score a winner against Liverpool there’s always going to be there with them.
Is there a confidence around the club as well despite the form and injuries?
OGS: The mood in a football club is always affected by results but it’s been better than expected within here. The people that you meet can see what we’re trying to do but winning games is the biggest thing, that breeds confidence. That’s when you get the good mood and can smile happily. It’s a determined bunch of players and determined club but you can’t say we walk around smiling all the time at the moment.
Ed Woodward has said that you’re the right man even though you’ve had a slightly rough patch. Does that help you the know you’re their man?
OGS: I speak to Ed loads of times and we speak regularly. We do have a plan. We know we have made some decisions that maybe in the short-term that harm us but in the long-term would benefit us, and that’s part of the plan. Results are always the main thing and we can move forward quicker if we get results and performances. I am sure we will get there. But there is planning for the next transfer window and the summer transfer window and how we see the team moving forward.
How was De Gea’s scan? I presumably he’s definitely out on Sunday?
I don’t expect him to play but it wasn’t as bad as feared. When I saw the game I thought, ‘that’s him out until the next international break’. We’ve had some long term muscle injuries. But it’s not as bad as feared.
What gives you the confidence that you can turn this situation around? Has there ever been a point during this bad run where you’ve thought the job may be too big for you?
OGS: [Laughs] No. I’ve never felt it’s too big for me, no, and I’m confident in what we’re trying to do. I’m confident with my staff. The coaching and what is happening every single day, I’ve been so impressed. Michael, Kieran and Martin, Richard, the coaching improvement is there to see. Of course for us it is about starting to win games and start scoring goals. We need to create more chances because at the back I think we’ve looked solid, but haven’t been adventurous enough or taken enough risks. If you watch the best teams around they risk the ball more often than we do, they make more runs in behind, and maybe that’s part of the process for the boys when they lose confidence maybe they want to play it a bit more safe. It’s my duty to say it’s not safety, at this club you do take more risks.
Everyone expected you to have some difficult results but what has been surprising is that the performances have been flat. Newcastle for example. Is that because of the injuries? With this brand of football you want to play, fast paced and attacking, hasn’t been there. You’ve got 10 or 11 injuries. Is that a fair mitigation? Have you been surprised yourself?
OGS: Of course when you lose the majority of your front creativity that we started with you’re going to struggle to create as many chances as you like. In the Newcastle game, you’ve got 75% possession but you can’t carve that opening. The pressing up high has been very good, all the attitude and desire has been very good, but as you say, not enough chances created, and not enough taken. Sometimes that’s confidence, human nature. You see players missing chances that they wouldn’t normally miss but it’s up to us to keep working and get the ball between the posts. That goal never moves. That’s the easiest bit, because you know where it is.
Things quickly unravelled last season after a bad start. You saw the state of the club when you came in. What’s different this time and makes you confident that won’t happen?
OGS: The culture I’m seeing every day. The attitude during training. The desire that we see in the players that are here. They want to give absolutely everything for us. Last season, I didn’t feel at times that they had the robustness and the mentality at times. For us, we’ve been working really hard on the physical robustness, the conditioning. Of course we’ve had injuries, but maybe that’s a part of the process. I remember when Jurgen came in to Liverpool, he also seemed to get a few injuries because of the workload and intensity he wanted his team to play in, but you don’t see that anymore. He can play with the same XI every week. We’ll get there.
Paul was pictured with Zidane. It’s an innocent picture and just bumping in to each other. You did say there was no point keeping players who didn’t want to be here and he did imply he didn’t want to be here in the summer.
OGS: I’ve not heard Paul say he doesn’t want to be here. Paul wants to say here and play well.
He said maybe he wants a new challenge. His agent was maybe trying to engineer a transfer. His professionalism has been impeccable. Is it because of the midfield situation that you feel you have to make an exception to keep him here?
Paul is part of our plan going forward and he knows that. I’ve spoken to him about it so many times. He’s been playing through the pain barrier and has been criticised right, left and centre. He came back against Rochdale and Arsenal but he could have easily opted not to try to play. But when he came back he wanted to play, try to get back, but it was too painful and he had that scan. Now, he’s on the way back, he’s mending, he’s recovering. He’s been on a few days off working but he’s away from here, and it’s a picture. That’s just the way it is when you’re at Manchester United, there’s speculation. I don’t have any problem with that at all.
You said earlier you made some decisions that maybe in the short-term will harm you but is part of a wider plan. Is the challenge in the short term to ensure that you’re not harmed too much that you could unravel at a pace you’re not expecting? That players could lose confidence and that you don’t buy yourself that time to achieve your longer term targets?
OGS: The time is always right to make the right decision, and it was the right decision, then it was the right time to go on with the squad we have. The injuries didn’t help. We’re getting players back now. I’m sure between now and Christmas you’ll see a full strength squad and we’ll get the results. But the last few weeks have been difficult and hard. But it’s not as if two or three weeks will tell me it was the wrong decision. It was the right decision.
Have you taken too much of a gamble by letting a lot of players go?
OGS: Listen, the culture we want to build meant we had to make those decisions. That was it.