Following the postponement of our last two Premier League games, Ralf Rangnick has spoken to the press ahead of our match against Newcastle.

The obvious place to start is where everyone’s focus is at the moment. What is the current situation for you and your squad in relation to covid?

RR: As you know, we had the last training session last week on Thursday. On that day with eight outfield players and three goalkeepers, and then we closed down the training ground for four days in order to break the chain. Today was the third day of training this week. We started on Tuesday then trained yesterday and today. We had 25 players, apart from Paul Pogba who is still missing out. The development over the last week has been extremely positive.

Would you feel you’re in good shape for the next fixture? You’ve got a couple more days until the trip to Newcastle.

RR: We will train tomorrow then there will be a day off for the players on Christmas Day. Then we have the last training session on Sunday then will fly on Sunday afternoon to Newcastle.

There has been a lot of talk about the players and player welfare, five substitutes, and various ways of helping the players over this period. What do you think should happen?

RR: As far as I remember, it was decided that every team could substitute five players when covid started. I think it was the right decision to do that, to have more options to change players and save energy for players, especially if they’ve only just recovered from covid. The same is true right now. We have a similar situation to the one we had one and a half years ago so I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be like it was. As far as I know, in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs. In the other four big leagues in Europe you can substitute five players. On the other hand, you’re still allowed to have eight players on the teamsheet. If you can only replace three of them you’ll always have five players on the bench who cannot play.

Obviously, you’ve only just come to England, but what is your view of having to play a game on the 26th, then two or three days after. Do you think something should have been with the calendar to help teams?

RR: You know better than I do what a big tradition it is in England to play on Boxing Day and the games on the 26th, or 30th and 2nd. I think this is a big tradition and we should stick to the tradition. I’m looking forward to it. It will be the first time in my coaching career to be part of that. There might be two or three others issues that could be discussed, which have been discussed in the past. I think England is the only country in the top five leagues that plays two cup competitions. I think France abolished one a few years ago so currently we are the only country to play two cup competitions. This is something maybe we could speak about. I know the reasons for it. I know the League Cup has been still kept for third and fourth divisions to improve the financial situations of those clubs. But I think if we speak about the tight calendar and having to play too many games this is something we could discuss. I think there has been a change in the last two weeks, the FA Cup won’t have replays after a draw. I think this is a good idea. In other countries you play extra-time and penalties and never have that replay situation. These are issues you could speak about.

Just how challenging has been to prepare a side. Yes, you’ve had a break and come back staggered, but just how challenging has it been to get everyone back in to the training ground. For the Newcastle game, what is the availability?

RR: As far as I could see in training today, they’re all in good shape. They all did their homework. They had their schedule to train at home and they’ve all stuck to that. From what I saw today, I can say most if not all of them might be available. I’ll have to make some difficult decisions on who should be in the squad and the starting XI.

The Premier League met earlier this week with managers set to meet later. What are your senior players hoping to hear about player welfare and substitutes?

RR: Most of the things we have already spoken about. It would be a great help to have five substitutes. This would improve the situation, the emotional situation within the squad, because it’s a big difference if you can give five players game time. I would be in favour of this and in other countries they do that. I haven’t spoken to my players about that but I don’t need to because I know that most of the players would be in favour in that. Apart from that, the Premier League will try everything to keep the league safe, to keep the players safe. The club do it regularly, to encourage them to behave in a disciplined way in terms of contacts, we will make sure we have most of the players vaccinated. As far as I’m aware, we have a good record of players being vaccinated at our club, but the past two weeks show even if you are being vaccinated, you can catch the virus, especially the new virus. You are being protected from severe symptoms. Most of our players who tested positive had weak symptoms and didn’t suffer from that.