The chances you have created, 160, are more than any other side in the Premier League since you came, which shows the progress you are making. Do you think you have a good shout to be the permanent manager next season?
RR: I have no idea and I haven’t made any thoughts on that because my focus is on Sunday, and then the next games against Tottenham and Atletico. To be honest, there’s no time or space for me to think about anything else than the upcoming game.
During your unveiling, you said you were open to at least considering the permanent job?
RR: I exactly know what I said. I said with a twinkle in my eye maybe at one stage at the end of the season I might recommend myself to the club in my role as an advisor. This is exactly what I said.
Do you think say that, with a twinkle in your eye?
RR: I don’t know. It is not the end of the season, and we have another 11 games to play, and hopefully not only one but a few more Champions League games. Right now, we have enough to do to prepare ourselves for the game on Sunday and this is where my full my focus is.
It is your first derby, your first meeting with Pep, what are you expecting?
RR: We know that we are playing against one of the best if not the best team in the world, in Europe. They have developed well since he arrived here. The same happened when he was at Bayern Munich and at Barcelona when he was there, so he is one of the best most influential managers of the last 10, 15 years. So we know what type of team, what style of football we are facing and that’s why it will be about tactical discipline. It will be a lot of defensive work necessary, a lot of sprinting, running with the ball, against the ball, waiting for transitional moments and then taking our chances. This is what it is all about. I think we have created enough chances in our last 10-11 games, and at times we converted them. Against Leeds for example when we scored four goals, but we should have scored more goals especially in the last game against Watford, we should have had one, two, three goals to win the game. I would be more worried if we didn’t create chances but the way we have been playing and the way that we create those chances was good. Also, against the ball, when the other team is in possession of the ball we are compact and didn’t allow them too many chances. That is exactly what we need in the game against Manchester City.
Is Edinson Cavani going to be available to help with the goalscoring this weekend and what is the rest of the team news?
RR: He is back in training since yesterday [Thursday]. Today was his second training session with the team. It looks good so I think he could at least be part of the group for Sunday. Apart from that we have two or three question marks and we’ll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow or on Sunday. But Edinson I think will, as it stands now, be part of the group.
Do you think as a club you are getting somewhere near to Manchester City? They seem to have the structures right, the foundation from chief executive to technical director to manager, it all seems quite fluid. Whereas at Manchester United it’s not seemed like that. I know you’ve got a wider role so will have a wider view, but do you think Manchester United have what it needs in place to get somewhere near to City?
RR: To be honest I haven’t thought about that actually. I don’t even know the structure or set up at Manchester City. I know most of the people here in our club, but again my focus was and still is on developing the current team and getting the best out of this season. What is obvious with Manchester City, but also with Liverpool, is that they have had continuity and consistency on the position of their manager, their head coach for the past five or six years. They have a clear identity and a clear idea of the way they want to play. I know Jurgen in person and I also know Pep from those three years in Germany when he was head coach of Bayern Munich. He also has a clear idea how he wants to play. This idea is the headline for everything that happens in the club, for recruitment and for players they with sign and that they will sell. This is the secret behind their success. They exactly know how they want to play, they have a clear identity and this is their guideline for everything they do. Not only probably for players but also staff members, for experts in different areas of the game that have become more important in the last 10 or 15 years. This is what all the top clubs in Europe have in common and this is something that I think at Manchester United needs to be developed and improved in the next couple of years.
Would you expect next season and the season after the things that you are putting in place, for whoever the new coach is, to be adhered to in terms of style of play etc. by the next guy?
RR: I don’t know, that would depend on the decision regarding the manager or head coach next season. Every head coach has his own idea of football. But as I said, for me it is about consistency and continuity at the highest possible level. Of course it’s also quality. I think we all agree that with Jurgen and Pep are the two best, or at least in the top five, for me they are the two best coaches on the planet, in Europe for sure. This is what it’s all about. In fact it’s pretty easy in football. You need the best possible people, a clear idea of football and stick to that idea and take your decisions always having in mind what do we want to be, how do we want to play?
Ronaldo has one goal in his last 10 games. You’ve had to play him because you didn’t have any other options there. To what extent is it a failure of forward planning at this club that you’re reliant on a once-great player, at 37 whose best days are clearly behind him, and it is clear that he is struggling to play 90 minutes week in, week out?
RR: A few things that happened in the last few months couldn’t have been foreseen. Now with Edinson at least being available for the upcoming games, we have other options. With Marcus Rashford we have another player where I will insist and continuously be behind him and with him, to develop him. We have achieved that with quite a few other young players in the past and I don’t see why this shouldn’t happen with Marcus. He’s got abundant talent, he’s got the pace, the physicality. He’s got everything you need for a modern striker, no matter if he is playing from the wing or in the centre. I will put all my energy in that to help him to take the same pathway that other players did in the last three months.
With the process now underway for a new manager, how involved will you be in the manager selection?
RR: We haven’t spoken about that to be honest. I’ve been to meetings with the head of scouting and with two other people, but I think you will understand I will not speak about that in detail. But about the managerial position for next season we haven’t spoken yet.
I full appreciate your priority in the Champions League and the Premier League and getting in the top four. As someone who has been heavily involved in the strategic planning of football clubs, how difficult is it that the club don’t know the new manager, and the profile of him to actually plan for this summer ahead which is going to be a considerable one. Normally clubs like to plan months in advance. How can the club identify the right profile of player when they don’t know who the manager is going to be? Is it literally going to have to be a case of starting from the beginning of June?
RR: I get your point but again, as I told you, so far we haven’t spoken about that. To be honest I am the wrong person to whom you address the question right now. My focus is on the upcoming games and getting the best out of the current players and team. All the other things either need to wait or when it is the right time to do that I am here and we can speak about that, but so far we haven’t had the time or the opportunity to speak about that.
In your opinion should this not happen again at a club of this status, a vacuum like this? You have to sit here and say ‘to be honest, I don’t really know’. In your view do you want a situation like this to never happen again at a club of this status? It wouldn’t happen at City or Liverpool because they’re organised and know what they’re doing.
RR: Again, I don’t know. I am here for now until the end of the season. For me it is important to develop the players, develop the team. All the other issues will be dealt with at the right moment and at the right time. Of course I’m always there and I will always tell people my opinions. Right now, it has not as yet happened but this does not mean it won’t happen in the next days or weeks to come.
I’m sure you’ve watched Pep Guardiola teams over the last 10 or 15 years and thought about how you’d play against them in theory. How difficult is it to put that into practice?
RR: In the end it is about control, controlling the game, about not letting them play and having the ball just without because this is exactly what they’re looking for. They’re looking to create an overload of players in half-spaces, even with their goalkeeper almost playing like a centre-back with at least one of their full-backs playing in a number six midfield position, and playing with a false nine always dropping back into midfield. We are fully aware with the idea of how they want to play, and for us it is about always finding moments where we can put them under pressure, where we hopefully can take the ball away from them, and taking advantage of those transitional moments. Some teams in the last couple of weeks and months could do that. It is up to us to show on Sunday that we can also do that.
You have the individual players to beat City, we know that, but if you do win, it’ll be regarded as a surprise result. Do you think we’re a long way from a City-United meeting where it’ll be like a heavyweight, real 50-50 game, maybe two years away from that? How do you think?
RR: I don’t know. Last season, Manchester United won 2-0 at the Etihad. In October or November at Old Trafford, Man City won 2-0 in style, it could have been a higher margin at the end. But now for us, it’s confirming the development of the team in the last three months. We’ve been unbeaten for the last 11 games, we haven’t lost a single away game since I arrived but we know this will be the biggest challenge so far. We haven’t played against a team of that kind of quality so far and for us it’s about confirming this development on Sunday against one of the best teams in the world.
Would you see it as a surprise result then yourself, if on Sunday you win, would you think that is a shock result?
RR: I don’t know if I’d call it a shock result, on paper, they seem to be favourites for that game but games are not decided on paper. They are decided on the pitch. I’m convinced that we can win the game, that we can create moments where we create chances ourselves, but it’s highly important that we don’t let them dominate the game as they did in November, and this is what it’s all about in this game.
You’ve got some great individual players, but is this a game where, because of the way City play, your team have to bend themselves into being very disciplined, very tactically aware and kind of bend themselves for the team rather than play as individuals? Is tis the biggest test in those terms?
RR: Of course. We have to be as compact as we can be, we have to play as much as a team as we can. It will be challenging for us, we will have maybe moments in the game where we will have to chase the ball, not have the ball for one or two minutes but this shouldn’t happen all the time and this is what’s it all about. All the teams that managed to do that like Arsenal, like Southampton, also at times like Tottenham, they had their moments. Even Brighton had their moments even though in the end it was a 1-4 defeat at home. But it’s about being on the front foot, being courageous, also creating moments where we can put them under pressure and this is what the game will be all about.
Does it have to be perfect in those circumstances, a perfect performance to beat a team like City, a team like Liverpool?
RR: Well, we need to perform on the highest possible level and I know we can do that, that we have players that can do that but obviously it’s about showing it on Sunday on the pitch.
You mentioned the win at the Etihad last season, United have beaten Pep’s City six times in the last few years since he’s been here. This is obviously a team capable of going toe-to-toe with City for 90 minutes but they’ve finished behind them nine years in a row, why’s this a team that can turn it on for 90 minutes against City but can’t match this consistency? What has to change to turn this into a fight over 38 games?
RR: This would be a long answer and probably take too much of our time to answer that. As I said earlier on, Pep has been there now for almost six years, he came in 2016, Jurgen I think in 2015 as far as I remember to Liverpool. So, obviously it’s a question of continuity, consistency, knowing exactly how I want to play as a club, as a manager. Having a clear transfer strategy, signing players who fit into that system and that’s what both clubs have been doing in the last five or six years. If I look at their transfer policy and success, they haven’t had many players who at the end after one or two years somebody would have said, ‘maybe that wasn’t the right signing’. They’re pretty successful, both clubs. This is where I think Manchester United has to go again, under Sir Alex they were there until 10 years ago but since then, there’s been quite a few different managers here at the club and in order to close the gap towards those two clubs, I wouldn’t say we have to do the same thing. We have our own identity, Manchester United as a club, we should always go our own pathway but in total, professional football is pretty easy. You have to have a clear identity of how you want to play, how even the supporters want to see you play and this has always been attractive, offensive, proactive, entertaining football and then from there, make sure that the recruitment is right, that you get the best possible players, that you have to be quick enough in the transfer market, knowing the transfer market and then signing the right players at the right moment. Then, on top of that, having the best possible manager, head coach, coaching staff who then can develop those players.
Is it just an issue of the club planning then, rather than any issue with the squad who can obviously turn it on in big games but maybe aren’t doing it over a 38-game season? It’s not an issue for you in terms of players who have proved they can beat City but aren’t proving they can beat every team in the league like City can.
RR: I mean when you have a change of managers during the season, no matter which club and I’m not only referring to Manchester United now, obviously some things have gone wrong, some things have not developed in the way they have been expected to develop. But this is the case all over the world if this happens. For me now, coming here in the middle of the season it was about stabilising the club, stabilising the team, not conceding as many goals as we did at the end of November. This is something we have achieved. We have also created more chances to win more games, we have dropped a few unnecessary points to be honest, we could have easily had four if not six points more after being one or two nil up in games but the steps the development that has taken place, for me, it is obvious but of course it could go quicker and now it’s about sustainably making sure this development takes place for this season, until the end of this season and then obviously take the right decisions for the future, for next season and the upcoming years.
You talk about the challenges and the plans for the future months and future years, clearly there’s going to be a lot of big challenges in the coming months, is the biggest for all for these players? Because it’s clearly going to be a massive summer, there’s clearly going to be players coming in and what not, is the challenge as much as anything for the current lot to prove that they deserve to be part of it? You’re playing to show you’re going to be a part of what Man United is going to be?
RR: It is but this should be the case in professional football all the time, that you have competition and players should know that they have to perform in order to play, in order to either have a new contract, be renewed or be kept in the club, this is something that should happen all the time in professional football.
It should be but clearly it doesn’t otherwise you wouldn’t get people shipped out as much as you do, at any club, would you? There’s clearly some people that don’t live up to it.
RR: This interpretation is a little bit, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s too simplistic to be honest. But as I said, now for us, it’s about getting the best out of the current squad and what I can assure you is that the atmosphere in the locker room, the focus in the training sessions is good. We have no issues whatsoever, so all those side noises about not a good atmosphere in the locker room, the players are not being focused in training is not correct. I wouldn’t tell this if this was not the truth. They get on well with each other, we have a full focus in every training session and now it’s trying with our kind of football and those moments that we have already improved, it’s getting the best results as possible in the next games.
You had that good result in Madrid, this is your first game against a top-four side. Is this an opportunity for you to make a statement as a manger, to show the fans that you’re punching in the right direction?
RR: I think we had another game against a top-four team, against West Ham at the time, but we are all aware how important this game is for us as a club, in the table, for the supporters. We are fully aware that this is a big derby game, and actually we need the points as much as they need the points. They need the points in order to be in the title race with Liverpool and we need the points in order to still be able to finish fourth in the table at the end of the season. So, this is a highly important game for both teams.
You’ve obviously got two routes into the Champions League for next season, I know you don’t like looking at negatives but if you were not to qualify for the Champions League, could I ask what sort of ramifications that might have financially and in terms of player recruitment? You’ve talked a lot about player recruitment, does not being in the Champions League affect that in the summer?
RR: I mean financially, everyone knows what that would mean, you would have less money available for your budget and of course it would be better for all the players, all the staff members if you play Champions League next season and it would also maybe make negotiations with any new players easier, but this is how it is. Right now, it’s up to us to try everything we possibly can to try and qualify for the Champions League.