Obviously the Wolves game didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to and since then there’s been much debate about the atmosphere within the club, whether it is as it should be. Give us your thoughts on where the club is and how you feel about the squad.
RR: Well, I can only tell you about the squad obviously, I don’t know about the atmosphere inside the club. I can only speak about the players, the locker room, the coaching staff. Obviously everybody was very disappointed after the game, not only about the result, but also about the performance, especially in the first half. Now we have four days of training, yesterday, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, before the Aston Villa game. My job, our job is to make sure we show a different performance on Monday against Aston Villa.
Do you feel the players are behind you and the new coaches? It has been a big change – do you feel that the players are listening to you and buying into your ideas?
RR: They are at least trying. I’m sure that they are listening and I think we showed in the last games, against Palace, also against Burnley and also in the away games against Norwich and Newcastle that they are trying to follow the advice that we give them, that I give them. We conceded less goals than before, I think we have an average of – let me check if it is true – it is 0.6 in those six games, but yes, still, it’s about balance. We need to find the best possible balance between offence and defence and we still have something to do to get better on.
How have the group reacted to the loss? Did it make you understand how results can be amplified at arguably the biggest club in the world?
RR: Well, yes, as I said, all the players were disappointed, like myself, like the coaching staff, because, especially in the first half, we didn’t get a hold of the build-up game of Wolves. Again, the second half was better but we just didn’t score, we didn’t score the first goal, we conceded it 10 minutes from time and as I said, it’s a question of balance, of offence and defence. I think offensively we have the quality, we can show the quality, but at the same time we need to find the best possible balance, offence and defence.
There’s a lot of talk this week about the dressing room being unsettled. Is there a problem, regardless of the coach in the United dressing room?
RR: This is not only an issue with a club like Manchester United. When you have a big squad, and we have a big squad, at least in the last two games we had most of those players available, we had an issue with three centre-backs missing against Wolves but in general we had most of the players available apart from Paul Pogba, and if you have that many players and only 10 players can play and 3 substituted, then, of course, you have quite a number of players, in our case 10, 12, 13, 14 players who don’t play or are not even in the squad. That those players are not happy about that situation is obvious, it’s clear. I think in total we have a big squad. I tend to explain to players every two to three weeks why they are not playing but I obviously cannot do that in every game. That is an issue in our team as well as in other clubs.
Do you think the players not knowing your future is having an effect on the performances?
RR: We have players with contracts expiring in the summer, we have maybe also players who still want to leave although they are on a contract. Even if we come back to the question I just answered before, it’s about the players to deal with that situation in a professional way. Everybody has the chance and the objective to show in training and then to get the chance to play. If this is not the case then the player, together with the club and the agents, they need to discuss the situation. But as far as I can tell so far, the players have been dealing with that in a professional way so I cannot say anything else. If I realise that this is not the case, I will address that with the players directly.
Do you feel you and your coaches are making progress, and how important is the FA Cup to your side this season?
RR: Yes, we have some made progress, but obviously the game against Wolves was again a step back. It was maybe even a relapse to habits that the team had shown in the past and therefore we need to insist, emphasise every time, that we have to work together. We can only get better in those moments, in possession of the ball, in possession of the other team, and in the two transitional moments, together. We have to do the same things at the same time, we have to do it simultaneously and of course we also have to do it with passion, emotion and intensity and this was the problem against Wolves, especially in the first half. We were only escorting them. If we look at it really, it was only David De Gea who objected them to going easily to our goal. David was the one who kept us in the game in the first half. In the second half, it was better, when we changed formation to a back three. But again, it’s about finding a sustainable balance for the future and this can only be done together.
What role can Cavani play in this team going forward? Any word on his future? Have you spoken to him?
RR: We spoke for almost half an hour. He told me he will definitely stay. Edi said that I can rely on him to stay until the end of the season and that he will continue to give his very best in order to be a role model for the younger playersHe’s a role model for the other players if he should play from the start. When he’s available, he’s happy to play. But even if he’s not playing, he will be trying to be the best possible role model for the other players. For me, this is good news. Edi is one of those players, with his vast amount of experience, with his mentality, with his work ethic, who could really be a perfect role model for all the other players.
You said earlier you’ve obviously got a big squad. Have you had the time to sit down with each of your players individually and tell them what you want from them?
RR: I haven’t had the time to do it with everyone because we had the covid situation, we had the closure of Carrington, and we still have an issue with covid in the building. When the players get changed for training they do it in different locker rooms. But I’ve spoken to quite a few of them. Most of the players know what they have to do. We spoke to the players today before the training session about what we have to do in each position. What their jobs are offensively, defensively, so I think the players know what they have to do. But obviously, with only ten players being able to play, and three to be substituted, there will still be a huge amount of players right now who don’t get the game time that they would like to get.
Can I ask about Paul Pogba? Is there any update on his potential return?
RR: Well, a week ago I was told it would take another four or five weeks. I’ve seen him this morning before the training session but currently I don’t know how long it will take. He’s not training with the team yet. As far as I know from the medical department, it will last another three weeks, four weeks and once he is then fit for training it does not necessarily mean he is also match fit. So, it will probably take a couple of weeks before he is really able to compete for the first team.
Does the pressure on the players playing for Manchester United, the biggest club in the world but nowhere close to winning the title, is not affecting how they’re playing?
RR: To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve only been here four or five weeks. Yes, the pressure is on at a club like Manchester United. I’m pretty sure the players are aware of that. I mean, in the end, it’s still about showing up when we play in front of 75,000 and we showed that against Burnley. We also showed it against Crystal Palace. The team is able to dominate games, to win games. And in both games against Burnley and Palace that was the case and we dominated the game. This is exactly what we have to try to achieve in the next weeks to help the team develop into a dominating team. This can only be done in possession and out of possession if they do things together.