Could you just tell us, having left an entire team out on Wednesday, is the intention to bring them all back in again tomorrow and what kind of training have you had this week?
RR: Yeh, we literally trained in two different groups before the game on Wednesday. We trained with the team that played against Young Boys in detail to prepare them for the game. The other group that played against Palace, they had a day off on Tuesday and we started to prepare for the game tomorrow on Wednesday, Thursday and obviously today was the last day of preparation of the game.
Can I just ask if there are any fresh injury or illness concerns heading in tot he weekend, I know Aaron Wan-Bissaka had a couple of knocks, any other problems?
RR: Yeh, we have two or three question marks behind players, but since they haven’t shown up as yet, because we only train at two o’clock, we have to wait until after the training session, or at least before the training session, until the Doctor and medical department can tell me what the current situation is like. Aaron, as you said, received one or two knocks in the game, there is still a question mark behind Nemanja Matic, he had sort of a cold, I wouldn’t call it a flu but he was negatively tested with COVID, so I am still hoping he can be available, but we have to wait until we see how he feels today.
I was wondering about Paul Pogba. By the time he’s fit to play, you will have a team maybe playing in your image, playing the way you want them to play. How hard will it be for him to get into the starting line-up and what’s your message to him?
RR: We spoke on the phone two days ago, no I think it was on Tuesday… He’s still in Dubai and is expected to come back today and then we’ll get to know each other in person on Sunday but we had a telephone call for about 10-15 minutes. He told me that he was getting better but obviously still not being fully fit. From what I’ve heard so far, it’ll take another couple of weeks until he’s fit for training again. Then, of course, he has been out for quite some time. So I suppose it will take him another couple of weeks to get him match fit but in the first instance now it’s important for him to get fully fit, to be able to train with the rest of the group and then we have to develop him physically and tactically to be also fit to play in the Premier League.
Could you sum up your first seven days please, what have been the main challenges that you’ve faced?
RR: In the first instance, it was about getting to know the players. As you know we had 45 minutes of training before the game against Crystal Palace then obviously we went through quite a lot of video footage with them, to tell them how we want them to play. As we all saw, they did well in that game, not everything was perfect but quite a few things worked out well, we were always on the front foot and we had control on the game. Now it’s about taking the next steps, it’s a lot about trying to be on field, we don’t have that many training sessions, this week we had a few but with the full group, we always had a couple of players from the U19s and U21s to train with us. But it’s now about taking the next steps. I think the basis of what we showed against Crystal Palace was good, we didn’t allow them to score, we didn’t allow them too many opportunities. We had a clean sheet. This is again the ambition that we have now we have Norwich away. They have improved since they changed managers. They play a little bit more direct, a little more vertical than they were under Daniel Farke. It will be a challenge to play at Carrow Road but obviously we want to improve our performance, build on what we showed against Crystal Palace and then hopefully get the next win tomorrow.
It was reported this week that you had a decision to make over your goalkeeper options. Obviously, we saw Henderson on Wednesday night, so what are your thoughts there?
RR: I mean, we have quite a few top goalkeepers and we could also see that against Young Boys, both goalkeepers did well who played. With David de Gea, we have a top goalkeeper as no.1, so this is a position where we have minimum three, if not four or five good goalkeepers. We will see what the situation will be like in the winter. There might be one or two of them wanting to go on loan somewhere but on the other hand we also have to bear in mind that we have three competitions in the next six months, FA Cup, Premier League and the Champions League. We definitely need three top goalkeepers in order to make up for a player being injured or suspended.
Have you had long enough to assess your squad of players now to know if you need to do transfer business in January?
RR: I’ve got to know them better obviously in this week, I saw most of them play in the two games and had minimum three or four or five training sessions but it’s still too early to speak about what might happen in the winter transfer window. If I look at the number of players we have it’s still a big squad, we definitely do not have not enough players but we also need to make sure that players want to stay here, if they’re not getting enough game time here, it might make sense to speak individually with the players and see if a loan deal might make sense but right now it’s too early to speak about that.
Just going back to Paul Pogba. How much are you looking forward to playing him and what position will you play him in?
RR: I’m very much looking forward to working with him, as I did with all the other players. But in order to know what is his best possible position I need to get to know him in person. I also need to speak with him. It’s also about being fully physically fit. It’s high intensity, transitional movements forward and back, so you need to be fully fit to play that game. We saw against Young Boys in the first half hour was OK, if not even good, but then we were struggling in the second half. I want to say thank you to the fans who backed the team for the full 95 minutes although it was sort of an experimental team. But the fans were outstanding in the way they supported the players. Thank you to our supporters for that. Coming back to Paul, it will take some time, and he will get that time, and once he’s fully fit we will see. From what I’ve seen of him so far I see him as a midfielder and not so much a striker or a left winger. We will see which position is the best for him.
Basically, for Man United, Pogba can be absolutely brilliant and world class. But at other times he can be uneven, not quite as good, whereas for France, the view is that he’s always brilliant. Why might that be?
RR: To be honest, I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what he’s being asked to do for the French national team. The only thing that is of interest to me is how do we get him fully fit and in which position can he play for us. Now he’s still injured, once he’s back in training, he’ll probably be out for three months, so no one can expect for him to be fully fit after one or two training weeks for our style of football.
When you look at the make up of your squad, is it as good as any in the Premier League, and it’s just going to take you time to show that to everyone?
RR: Again, too early to say that. I know most of the Premier League squads from TV, I haven’t played against them directly. I’m pleased with the players I have currently and I’m also happy with the performance they showed last Sunday. Now it’s about developing, learning by doing, most of that has to happen on the pitch in games because there is not that much training time in between. That’s what we are trying to do, get better with every game that we play, produce as many clean sheets as we can, and with the group of players that we have we will always be able to score goals. I’m not worried about that at all, it’s about making sure as many clean sheets as we can get.
On Paul Pogba again, he’s now entering the final few months of his contract at the club. How much of a role can you play in trying to convince him to stay? You said before about talking to players who might go out on loan, are you one of these coaches that if a player doesn’t want to stay that he isn’t worth keeping?
RR: I wouldn’t say he’s not worth keeping, but of course a player has to want to stay and play for a club, even more so for a big club like Manchester United, so if a player doesn’t want to play for Manchester United in the medium or long-term I don’t think it makes sense to convince them to change their mind. This is such a massive club, fantastic supporters, I don’t think anyone at the club should convince a player to stay. So let’s wait and see. I’ve spoken to him for 15 minutes on the phone, let’s have him come back, get fully fit, train with the team, and then we’ll see where we stand. He can be an important player, I’m fully aware of that, but that is true of other players that we have. I’m not just the coach of Paul Pogba, but all the other players, and my ambition is to make them better and develop each individual player, and this is only possible by improving the performance of the whole team. In football it’s impossible to develop players individually without the team being successful and develop the team in a sustainable way.
You said earlier this week that Chris Armas would come in as your assistant coach. Mike Phelan is currently the assistant manager. Does that mean Mike’s role is going to change?
RR: Since Michael Carrick is no longer on board we needed someone to replace him so Chris Armas is one of two assistant coaches, along with Kieran, who helped me to prepare training sessions and discuss video footage. Mike Phelan is not watching the training session, he also didn’t do that when Ole was in charge, but he’s also part of the staff but he’s never on the pitch when we train. Chris will not replace Mike, but Michael Carrick.
You’ve said over the past week that the January transfer window is a difficult one ordinarily. If there was any opportunity to bring a player in, is it fair to say that the defensive midfield or a holding midfield position is one that you would look to strengthen?
RR: My opinion on winter transfers is clear. It needs to be a player who improves the quality, who helps the team to get better. It needs to be a high quality player, no matter which area of the pitch. On the other hand, it needs to be a player who, if they were available in the summer, they’re available for similar conditions in the winter. Then it might make sense. It needs to be the right mentality as well as the right quality. For this competitive league, we need the best possible mentality. He needs to be mature enough, have a winning mentality, and for me the mentality in this league is even more crucial than in any other league in Europe.
You mentioned Paul’s been in Dubai. How comfortable are you in principle with players doing rehab away from the club?
RR: I cannot answer this question right now. In my former club, I always tried to make sure the rehab happened in the club itself. So far as I can tell, the medical department is really good, very good, with many different approaches towards rehab. I would not want players to do rehab abroad. But the decision on Paul was taken before I came. For the future, I’ve already spoken to the medical department that if we have long-term injuries in the future, I want them to stay here.
You’re about to enter a busy period of fixtures, it’s the busiest period in English football, I just wanted to ask your opinion on that fixture list.
RR: It’s new to me. It’s the first time I’ve worked in England. In Germany we used to have a longer winter break until a few years ago, now it’s only a short break of two weeks, but at least the players are off for Christmas. Here, we don’t. We maybe have one or two days off and the rest is training because we’re playing against Newcastle on the 27th. So it’s a new experience for me but the players are used to it and it’s for us it’s getting the right balance between recovery after the game they’ve played and preparing the players for the upcoming game.