Could you bring us up to date with the situation regarding Raphael Varane and how long he’ll be out for, Harry Maguire’s fitness and who’s going to play in central defence. And also Fred and Cavani and their situation?
Yeh, you know the international breaks, sometimes it’s a time to cross your fingers and hope for the best because as we see with Raphael, he’s got an injury, out for a few weeks, but then again Victor and Eric played in the internationals and got good game-time so that was good for us. With regards to Fred and Edinson, they played a full game this morning. Half one it kicked off! So of course, we’re not counting on them. We’ve got to give them the time to rest and recover, which of course you have to. They played well, and that was a good thing for us, they’re not injured, so hopefully they can be involved again during midweek, during the Champions League. Harry has just joined us on the grass this morning, so that was the first time he’s been on the grass, Amad the first time on the grass today as well, so we look quite strong.
What have you made of Leicester City’s form so far this season?
It’s early on, early doors in the season. Sometimes, you don’t really see the real picture so early and, of course, they’re in the Europa League as well, so they’ve got so many games. I have the utmost respect every time we play Leicester because they’ve signed well again, got good players. Sometimes it takes time to gel. I’ve seen good football at times, and at times, like most of us, they’ve conceded goals that they shouldn’t. As every time we go down there, it’s going to be difficult.
You’ve got a big run of games coming up against difficult opposition, could this actually prove a good run for you?
We’ve added some exciting players going forward, we’ve scored goals, and it’s a nice time to be an attacking player for us. We need to keep that going, keep attacking, keep having the Man United DNA as well as defending well, come together as a team, make sure we’re hard to play against. I can’t think about Atalanta now, Liverpool. It’s only Leicester. And that’s probably going to be the key, that we only focus one game at a time, maybe even spells in games. We’re looking forward to this run. All the best players want to play against the best teams, and we’ve got some of the best teams coming up.
What are your thoughts on the Newcastle takeover? They’re becoming one of the richest clubs in world football. You had a famous rivalry 25 years ago between United and Newcastle, Ferguson and Keegan, what do you make of the takeover and what effect will it have on the league?
It’s not been my focus but I’ve of course noticed that it happened. To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to go through but it has and it is going to change the picture. I don’t know the plans of the new owners, so I can’t say here if they’re going to spend loads of money or what they’re going to do. It’s a fantastic football club with traditions and I enjoyed that spell when Newcastle were up there. Probably short term, it’s going to change them, but definitely long term it’s going to be interesting to watch. As you’ve said, it has been the talk of football in the last few weeks and if they can do that with the results, I think that’s what they want in the end, of course. It’s not my focus, I don’t want to join in that political discussion.
Just a quick one on Marcus Rashford, is he back and will he play on Saturday?
He’s in the squad, yes. If he’s going to start or not, I can’t tell you now because it wouldn’t be right, but he’s worked really hard throughout the whole lay off. He’s been really bright this week, he had a 60 minute involvement behind closed doors last week so he’s fit and raring to go.
Cristiano has been a stand-out in internationals, can you afford to leave him out in the coming weeks?
He’s an exceptional player, exceptional finisher, and a goalscorer, and an exceptional professional. It’s hard to leave him out. You can go play six games in six days and play the same eleven every time, it’d be great. But it’s rotation. We need to get to April and May with everyone firing. Last season we got to May and we were a little bit too tired. I’m the manager, I manage the players, I manage for the club, but, of course, it’s nice to have him on the pitch because he’ll always come up with the goods and the more we have him on the pitch, the better.
It’s your old team-mate Andy Cole’s 50th birthday today. What’s your favourite Cole moment and who in your squad now is most similar to him?
OGS: Yorkie and Cole together, I think that’s got to be the favourite period for Andy. Him and Yorkie were exceptional in that ’99 team. Probably when we clinched the semi-final win against Juventus, or the goal Andy scored when he came on against Tottenham and chipped the keeper. He’s so sharp, he was so quick off the mark and to get in behind players, his confidence in front of goal was brilliant. I enjoyed playing with him because he had something I didn’t with that exceptional pace. Current strikers I’ve got, Cristiano, Edinson and Anthony are a bit different. Probably Marcus and Anthony Elanga have part of that electric pace that Andy used to have, but they run a little bit more off the ball than he did, because I had to do that running for him!
There’s been a lot of talk about Jesse Lingard’s future in the last couple of weeks, could you tell us your thoughts on that?
OGS: Jesse has had a good start to the season, of course. He’s come on and scored a few goals for us; that’s been very important for us. He knows what we want, we want to prolong his contract, we see him as an important player for us. It’s obviously up to him to get more playing time, it may be up to me giving him more playing time because he deserves to, but every time I pick a team, I have to leave some players out. Hopefully, we can get a deal sorted for Jesse because we really rate him, he’s a top player and top person who’s good to have around the club.
Obviously there was a strange instance after the last game where Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts on the decision to rest Cristiano were aired online. Does that kind of thing bother you at all? Or are you quite relaxed?
OGS: I’m quite relaxed about it. It’s not really fair on the gaffer that something like this gets broadcast. You always have opinions. You speak to people in confidence. I disagreed with the gaffer quite a few times and I told my wife how I disagreed with him. But that never made headlines when I was a player. Sir Alex knows it doesn’t bother me. We all want to see Cristiano. That’s not a problem. Everyone wants to come and watch him. But the plain fact of it is he cannot play in every single game. That’s human physical nature. He knows how difficult this job is, the gaffer, and he didn’t always play the same XI. He did take risks at times, resting Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney or David Beckham, the best players we had. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
On Marcus, you said he’s completely injury-free now for the first time in a long time. Have you noticed a difference in him? I know it’s very early days, but does he look sharper, has he bulked up in the gym? Does he look like a different player to perhaps what he was before his injury?
OGS: He does look fresh. He looks keen and fit. He’s bulked up a little bit with some muscle. Of course, he had to bear a lot of the responsibility for us. At such a young age, he’s done so much for the team. He’s done so much off the pitch as well. I think that time away was a time for him to focus on himself. Marcus Rashford running around with that enthusiasm and not having to take on too much responsibility is a great sight to see. For us now, he comes back in to a different team. He’s got Jadon here, Mason has grown, he’s got Cristiano. I want to see that nice grin and enthusiasm he’s shown so many times. When he comes on the pitch, if he starts or if he doesn’t, I just want him to enjoy himself and express himself. That’s what Man United players do and that’s what we want.
You mentioned Harry training this morning. Does that mean he’s got a chance of playing in the game tomorrow? He doesn’t necessarily need loads of sessions to get back playing. If he isn’t fit, is it a case of Eric and Victor or are there other systems you might try out?
OGS: Eric and Vic played internationals so they’re fit and ready. Phil has played in behind closed doors game. So if Harry’s not playing I should be well off anyway. It’s part and parcel of it. But Harry is a big lad and of course we’re looking forward to getting him back.
Just coming back to Fred and Cavani. Did you get an explanation on why that match was played on a Friday? They played on Friday, Sunday, Friday, which is quite a big gap, and you’re left without two of your key players because of it.
OGS: It’s long travels over there. They lost one international window and they’ve got to catch it up somewhere. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. But Fred played really well, played in a great pass for Neymar, so he will have got lots of confidence from showing how good a player he is. Edinson needed minutes. We lost a few weeks at the start of the season and that was important for him. We should be able to deal without them for this game and they should be back midweek.
Cristiano walked straight down the tunnel, obviously disappointed, after the Everton game. Gary Neville said that show of disappointment could put extra pressure on you and transmit to the players. Have you had to speak to Cristiano about the way he reacted?
OGS: No, not at all. I know him from before. If you lose two points, like Cristiano felt like, that’s natural. I want my players to not be happy with the situation. I spoke to him before the game, I spoke to him after the game, he was ready to come on when he was called upon. Unfortunately when we don’t win, Cristiano is not happy, and that’s exactly the mindset we want from a player. No problem whatsoever.
You seem to suggest that Marcus has had to carry a burden at a young age and without that we may see the best of him.
OGS: I know we’ll see the best of Marcus in the years to come. He’s done remarkable things at a young age but he’s now coming in to the best age for a footballer. He’s learning, he’s getting more and more experience, he’s had time to reflect what he’s done off the pitch as well. He’s done some fantastic things. So now to be able to prioritise his football and focus on football. He’s got a challenge on his hands here at United and a challenge to play for England. Marcus is one of those who takes up those challenges and he’s going to express himself and his talent. He knows we want a lot from him but we’re going to give him the time to get back to what he was and what he can be.
You said in the summer you can’t win the title in the first few months of the season but you can lose it. Do you feel, given the Everton and Villa results, that you have no margin for error in the league now? There are quite a few games against title rivals.
OGS: Of course you can’t keep losing points and expect to be winning at the end, that’s true. But to not lose points you have to show up every single game. Aston Villa and Everton are very good teams and they’ll be times when we’ve come away with more than we deserved, like Wolves away, I would’ve taken a draw, but we deserved more against Everton and Villa. The narrative is out there that we aren’t playing well because we didn’t get the points. But if you look at the games, we deserved more points in both of them. Performances don’t always gives you titles or trophies, so we need points to be in and around in April and May. That’s what we’re aiming for, but our full focus is on Leicester and nothing else. It’s not about Tottenham, Liverpool or City. We know that they’re coming up but we’ve got enough time between every game to rest and recover and be ready for them.