Having played Villa on Monday, I know it’s a different competition, whether it makes it harder playing them so soon or whether you go in with an advantage having won the game on Monday?
RR: Well, at least we know from experience what the challenge will be and how they are playing. We also know that we were able in a tough and tight game to beat them. Now it’s about showing the best possible performance, bringing the best possible players and best performance on the pitch in order to win the game at Villa Park.
You’ve been here for six weeks, what are your impressions on the Premier League, is it the toughest, most demanding league in the world ? Have you been surprised by anything?
RR: No, I wouldn’t say it’s surprised me, obviously having no winter break, at least that was what I had expected but since we had a couple of games called off due to covid, we had a break. But in that break, we couldn’t train unfortunately because we had to close Carrington for a couple of days. In general, it was as expected. What surprised me a little is the way the teams in the lower ranks of the league are again very physical, tactically very astute, playing in a very organised way. And this is different. In this league, even against the bottom teams, it’s never easy, even the top teams can lose those games whereas in Germany, if Bayern Munich or the other top teams in the Bundesliga are playing the bottom teams, out of 10 games they will normally win eight or nine.
Maguire, Sancho, Ronaldo and Jones missed the match on Monday, will they be available tomorrow?
RR: I think they will be available, they only trained yesterday for the first time, Cristiano yesterday, Harry the day before yesterday. So as it seems now we have to wait for the final session this afternoon but as it seems right now, they should be available for tomorrow.
You said after the game on Monday that Dean Henderson missed out through illness but you also said that he had requested a loan move a couple of weeks back. What is the situation? Will he be staying at United this month?
RR: Well, I told him that I would like him to stay because he’s a fantastic goalkeeper. In training yesterday, he had another couple of fantastic saves. I really like to have him on board, as one of three top goalkeepers that we have. I can fully understand that he wants to play because he’s in an age where, as a goalkeeper, you should regularly play. On the other hand, we are still in three competitions, we need the two and three goalkeepers we have right now. I told him that but I can also, on the other hand, understand his desire to get regular game-time as a number one elsewhere in the Premier League.
What’s the latest on Donny van de Beek, I know you’ve spoken about his position, has their been intestest and what’s the latest on him and could he be allowed to leave this month, after all?
RR: I mean, it’s the same situation as it is with Dean. I’m glad to have him in the squad, he came on in a last 15-20 minutes against Villa in the cup game and he did well. He’s always performing on a high level in training. So for him, I have a conversation two weeks ago after training exactly about that. I told him I would advise him to stay until the end of the season, and then, of course, with the World Cup coming up in winter, he wants to play in the World Cup for his country and Louis van Gaal obviously told him that in order to be a regular starter in the World Cup, he needs to regularly play for his team. Again, I can understand his desire to play, on the other hand, we have a lot of competition in our squad in exactly those positions.
Quite a few times after games recently you’ve said you need to get the balance right between the offence and defence, I wonder what work are you doing to achieve that? Do you feel the players you have are capable of having that balance?
RR: I mean, yes, I was fully aware that this cannot happen overnight, that this is a work in progress. I think we have shown that we have conceded fewer goals than a couple of weeks ago but still, it’s also about controlling the game. Obviously, we have taken a few steps, but things can still get better and that’s what we have to work on, to find the best possible formation. Obviously, with now playing every three days, we have to make sure we not only the best but also the freshest players on the pitch. This means we might even be able to change formations during the game or from one game to the other. As I said, it’s still work in progress, obviously still quite a few things and space for improvement.
You say it’s a work in progress and areas still to improve. What are those areas to improve specifically? Is it certain areas of the pitch, or individuals or tactically
RR: I mean if you want control or to dominate games, you can do it in two areas. One: how do you play if the other team is in possession of the ball, how proactive and aggressive can you be at the same time without being weak on the counter-attack. The other one is you can gain control when you are in possession of the ball. In both areas, I try to work and improve the team and get better. As I said, we’ve taken a few steps but not as quickly as I would have hoped and wanted it to be. As coaches, you’re normally never patient, you always want to develop teams quicker and faster. But now, in the last couple of weeks and in the future, it’s all about results, getting the best possible results out of each game. And this is true tomorrow, this will be true on Wednesday when we play Brentford, and it will be true three days later when we play West Ham. It’s about getting the maximum points out of those games and the rest has to be developed at the same time.
You’ve only lost one game since you walked through the door at Manchester United. I think you’ll agree that performances have not been as good as we all expected. Is that down to lack of confidence in the squad and is that what you’ve got to try and find?
RR: Well, as I said, in the first instance, it was about getting results, getting points and, of course, we were all disappointed about the home defeat against Wolves. Had we won that game we’d be even more on track than we are now. But as I said, it is now is about getting results, especially in the league, collecting as many points as we can. And yes again, it’s about the balance. How offensive can we play, how many offensive players can we play, without conceding too many goals? And at the same time making sure we don’t concede goals, at the same time be dangerous when we’re in possession of the ball, either on the counter-attack, in transitional moments, or when we are in possession of the ball ourselves.
Cristiano Ronaldo gave a very interesting interview yesterday, in which he suggested that there should be a shift in mentality and attitude here among the players if this club is going to be successful again. And he said the younger players don’t tend to want to listen to him as an experienced player. Does Ronaldo have a point there, does there need to be a shift in attitude and mentality amongst the players at the club if this club is going to be as successful as it has been in the past?
RR: I think this needs to happen in every single training session, in every game and of course it’s also about what happens in the game when things don’t go our way during the game. We have to behave in a certain manner, but it’s also about being role models, not just the older players like Cristiano, also the younger players too. If I now look back into the last six weeks that I have been here, in all of the games, and you could see that against Aston Villa, every player tried his very best. They were fighting for each other, they were fighting to proceed in to the next round, but I also think that, from my perspective, there is always room for improvement. We can still get better, with the young players we have are highly talented. We have enough older players, but in the end it’s a team sport and it’s a ball game where we have to play together. The older players, the experienced players, and the younger players, all have to come together and be united on the pitch.
You said you had made steps of improvements but they haven’t happened as quickly as you hoped. When you came in did you have a timescale in mind?
RR: Well yes, of course, but if you play every week or every other week, or even every three days you have to win the games. As I said earlier on, I would have thought that the progress would go quicker than it was, but so far we are progressing, we developing the team and we have to do that in the next couple of weeks and months. This is the only thing that we can do and at the same time get the possible results out of these games.
You’ve worked at many clubs with many players before. How do you assess the mentality of this squad? Because that’s what Cristiano was getting at yesterday. He was saying there needs to be a big improvement in that respect. Do you think these players have got that elite-level mindset at the moment?
RR: I mean, in order to discuss that, we need to establish what does mentality mean. As I said so far, if one of our players in the game wasn’t giving his very best and putting his all into it, I would address that to him, you can be asured of that. So far I haven’t seen that, but still, with the some players they start well and slow off a little. If we speak about Marcus Rashford for example, I think in the first twenty minutes of the game against Villa he was good, on fire, he was involved, he was emotionally involved. But then after the first 30 minutes he got worse, he didn’t play on the same kind of energetic level that he did in the first half-hour. Of course we need to speak about that because he cannot do that regularly. Does he need a helping hand? What does it take? But I don’t see any of the players who do not care about the club or do not want to perform at the best and very highest level.
In the case of Marcus, is it a case of continuing to play him so his confidence gets back or does he need a bit of a rest or a time away from the team for that?
RR: As a striker, we all know, and I wasn’t a striker, but we know it’s all about playing well, scoring goals and getting assists. If that does not happen over a period of time, it’s not so easy. He is trying to give his very best and he does show that in training. There have been a couple of training sessions over the past few weeks when he has performed at the highest level and that is why I always give him the chance to play again. And as long as he does that, he will always make my list to be involved within the starting XI. But of course, it’s about showing that on a regular basis and continuously playing at a high level. And again for him, as one example, there is still space for improvement. The same is true for many of our young players, we have so many of them and again that brings me back to what Cristiano said, we have to work and develop as a team together and if it’s necessary to speak in a very direct manner to the boys, it helps a lot in the locker room, you can be sure that we will, if the boys want to do that or I will also do that directly myself. If Cristiano, for example, or any of the other experienced players, address that to the players directly, on the pitch or in the locker room, they’re more than welcome to do that. I will do that myself as a coach, with my coaching staff, in the pre or post match conference, and on the pitch. But again you can only develop individual players if we first develop the performances of the team. This is the only way and this is about results. Get the results and then the confidence will come. The confidence level will then raise and then we also develop the players individually. It doesn’t work the other way around.
Do you think you in many ways have the perfect role model in Cristian, if terms of being a professional and a winner, who can help and aid that development you are speaking about?
RR: Yes, of course, but it’s not only Cristiano. We have Edinson, Harry, we have quite a few other older players, David de Gea in goal too, Victor, Bruno… we have enough experienced players. They can not only be role models themselves in training but also on the pitch too in the games and in all those conversations in the locker room and in the hotel for home games or away games. This has to happen. In a United team it must happen automatically and I can only invite and challenge players, the older players to do that on a regular basis. Because is helps in a team, none more so than the group we have right now.
Cristiano captained the team in Harry’s absence. Have you considered making Cristiano captain over Harry on a permanent basis, given his reputation?
RR: No, not right now. I don’t see a reason to do that because Harry has been the captain so far and as long as Harry is playing, he will be the captain. Then, if he is not playing, somebody else will have to be the captain. This Cristiano will obviously step in but this can change from game to game. As I said it’s all dependent on who is playing.
Are there any updates on Anthony Martial? Will we see any players that want to leave do so during this month?
RR: I don’t know. We had some talks about that last week with John Murtough, with Ed and Richard. We spoke about it but I am not involved in that directly, but of course they will let me know if something happens. But he work behind the scenes is being done by John and his colleagues.
You’ve talked about the need for more control. Why do you think the team is still turning the ball over so quickly and cheaply in matches? And often, it seems at times you really need to retain possession and they attempt passes that aren’t on and give the ball away. Why is that still happening?
RR: Yes, that’s one of the biggest issues, we lose too many balls in transition when we have possession of the ball and make those wrong decisions. It is one of the things that worries me the most, to be honest. We had quite a few situations on Monday where we had 3 v 3 and in the game before that against Wolves too. We have to learn to make the right decisions and stay calm on the ball, not play the ball too soon, too early. Those are exactly moments where we need to improve and be better. In total, as I said, the team is more than willing to develop, to work hard on those things. Defending the ball we have been better, but it’s not as easy as that right now to score goals against us. On the other hand we also need to make sure we are better when in possession of the ball, that we don’t have too many giveaways, we don’t have too many situations where we take the wrong decision and play the ball too early, or not precise enough. This is exactly the moment where we need to get better in the future.