Difficult times, with one win in the last five. I know it’s not a crisis and you’re still smiling, how do put some perspective on it?
OGS: You’re never happy when you don’t win games, but it’s been a period now where we’ve played some good teams, we’ve had some good performances but haven’t had the quality or belief in front of goal that we should have. Against Wolves and Arsenal, two leagues I can mention, we should have won with the amount of chances. We’ve been practicing. As a striker I know how important that little bit of belief is and trust in yourself.
Is that as far as it goes? Before that you were banging them in left, right and centre.
OGS: Sometimes you don’t have that little feel, that little confidence. You have to do it in training and hope that it comes out again in the games. We have been fantastic but lately we haven’t been ruthless or clinical enough in front of goal.
You’re missing a couple of full-backs, how else are you doing injury wise?
OGS: We’ve got another couple of full-backs who’ve been out for a while. Antonio. But Matteo will be available for us. Rojo is available. We might just have to look at other options.
OGS: He’s still out. He won’t be available. I doubt Nemanja is available because of his illness, maybe, because he’s a worrier and he really wants to join in and help his teammates. Let’s see after today. He trained individually yesterday.
What is the situation with Ander, in terms of the reason he’s out. There’s lots of talk about him at the moment.
OGS: He has been working really hard to get fit from his injury that he sustained against Liverpool. Then he came back and he got a different one here in training. He has been really putting a lot of work in. Unfortunately that has come at a time when there are contract talks but that is ongoing so I cannot really comment too much on how far they have come down the line and what he is deciding.
You say it’s ongoing, so is there some hope that he could still stay?
OGS: You have to ask him. I don’t know how the last few talks have been. But we have let him focus on his fitness as well because he loves to play and he is not very happy when he cannot help his team-mates. He has always given his all. It does not matter if he has got five years left of his contract or five weeks.
I get from that, that even if he said he was leaving you’d carry on picking him. You don’t think his focus on anything would be affected in that way?
OGS: Maybe the future might have been worrying him and maybe that’s part of the reason he’s injured. Who knows? He doesn’t know, because he got a different injury in training. Hopefully he can be available for round about Chelsea or City, but I’m not sure, because he’s got another muscle injury.
After the Wolves game, you said you needed 15 points from 18 minimum. I assume that means you think this game, given the games that you’ve got, you have to win this game?
OGS: Well, we need as many points as possible. I think if we do get 15, we’ll be top three, because then hopefully in those games we’d have beaten Chelsea as well, but now it’s about West Ham. We go in to this one, only focussing on a good performance that will give us three points. We want to be in that race. We want top three, but top four is also an aim if we don’t get 15. We should aim for 15 points.
Is Alexis Sanchez fit?
OGS: He is training with us, he’s trained twice. He’ll train today. I’m not sure if he’s going to be available, he’s injury-free, but not sure 100% ready for tomorrow. Maybe more likely for the Barcelona game. So, let’s see.
When you look at your squad and see the injuries that you’ve got, can you now afford to rest players ahead of the Barcelona game, knowing the importance of this West Ham match?
OGS: I’ve still got options to rest one or two. There are games coming up, loads of games, and they’ll all play a part. We had players on the bench on Wednesday night, like Jesse, Anthony, that normally start. There will be a couple of changes. Let’s see what we decide on.
After a good start, there have been more difficult results. Do you think that shows the extent of the job you’ve got here in getting the club back to where it wants to be and the rebuilding process that’s going to entail?
OGS: I’m under no illusions that this is going to be plain sailing. It’s going to be hard. It’ll be survival of the fittest, or survival of the best. That’s how ruthless we have to be in the end. We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means the culture in the dressing room, inner justice, everything we do every single day here to make us challenging again. Liverpool and City are too far ahead at the moment. We played against a Barcelona team, which is one of the teams that set the standards in European football. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be anything other than hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick and the club.
You talked about full-backs earlier. We know Antonio is going in the summer. Now you’re the permanent manager, have you decided on the captain for next season?
OGS: Well, we’ll see who’s here for next season. I’ve got a couple of players in my head who are in a group of captains. We’ve had Antonio, he’s going, we’ve had Ashley, we’ve had Paul, we’ve had David, Chris. There are players here who can be captain on the pitch, but we need to decide who’s going to be the club captain, who’s going to be the voice.
Is there any criteria behind that?
OGS: There’s always certain criteria. He has to be one of the cultural architects. It’s someone you look up to, someone who’s got the right standards, habits and personality to do it.
Have recent weeks shown how independent the team is on Paul Pogba?
OGS: I think he has made a difference for us in a few games. So has Romelu, so has Marcus. There have been different players in different periods who’ve made the difference. That’s what happens at Man United. It’s not just about one player. It’s not just about Paul. He had his highest ever output physically. He’d never run as much in a United shirt as he did on Wednesday night. That was brilliant that the effort and attitude is there.
You just mentioned you’ve possibly got some difficult decisions to make in the summer. Are these players now playing for a place in your team for next season?
OGS: They’ve done that since I came in. We said that we have a certain standard here, we got a great boost, now it’s more challenging times with the results and performances. So now you want to see players who step up and say, ‘I want to be a part of this.’ You see Fred and Scott the other day, they took the mantle, that’s what we expect from all the players. When you win 5-0, or are 3-0 up, or win five games on the bounce, then it’s easy. But it’s not always easier. You go through tough times, you lose games, and then your character is revealed.
You mentioned Ander’s injury could be linked with concerns over his future. You’ve got several players who are in talks over their contracts. Can that sort of thing impact on your mindset and the way you’re playing?
OGS: It never did for me. You’ve got to be able to focus on what you do. You’ve got to deal with it, and if you can’t, park it and get on with it. You have to focus on your performances. Ander has been very good in that respect. You have to ask him what the reason is for the injuries. When you get one, sometimes you work harder, then get another one in a different place.
Do you think Paul’s head may have turned at all? There’s a clear campaign from Real Madrid to get him this summer. Do you think his focus may have been affected by that interest? It’s evident that there’s a campaign to get him to Real Madrid.
OGS: There might be, it might be press. But in my talks with Paul, he’s always been positive here. I don’t see a difference in him when I chat with him. He’s focussed on performing. As I said, he’s a proud player who always gives his best. After 15 minutes, first half, we speak about Fred and Scott, but I think Paul made us play. He settled us down first half especially. We just fell away towards the end. But the effort he put in physically was tremendous.
Mike Phelan mentioned he could be a potential technical director. Would you prefer him as your assistant?
OGS: I want to work with Mick Phelan and I want him to do the job he’s doing. Sometimes people in this country are more concerned with the job title than what you do. What Mick does is more than just being an assistant manager, even if he’s an assistant manager. He’s a fantastic guy to have around.
Is his future any closer to being resolved?
OGS: I think so, yeh. I hope so.
Unfortunately there’s been a lot of racist incidents this season. Only last week Danny Rose said he can’t wait to retire from football because of racism and the video yesterday with the Chelsea fans with their discriminatory song against Salah. What are your thoughts on this happening in 2019?
OGS: I’ve said it a few times, it’s unacceptable. In 2019 we should have a society that accepts anyone, whether you’re from Norway, Sweden or England or Morocco or Egypt or whatever country you’re from or beliefs you have. It was sad to hear Danny Rose’s feelings about it. He has probably loved playing football since he was a kid and if we take that away by behaviours in the stands, then it’s shocking. It has to be clamped down on. I know the clubs are working hard on it.