How’s the team looking? There were a few question marks over some players for the game the other day.
OGS: We’ve not had a lot of training since. We had yesterday off so today is the first day back. Hopefully Romelu, Anthony, Alexis can take part in training today and let’s see after they’ve come through. Marcos and Scott are looking like they can take part soon, so it’s looking better.
What’s the situation with Chris Smalling?
OGS: Smalling’s got a sore foot so I don’t think we’ll see him until the New Year, around Spurs probably but you never know.
You’ve made such a big impact in the space of a week, in terms of the perception of the team and and the results and the way they’ve been achieved. But do you look at the situation and think this is not really real, because we’re sixth in the league and there are problems that need to be addressed?
OGS: Yes, of course. There are things that we need to improve and we’re in this position for a reason. We’ve not been consistent enough, we’ve not been able to keep clean sheets, we’ve not scored enough goals, we’ve conceded two goals from set pieces now. Our open play defending has been good but we need to get back in the habit of not conceding goals. There’s loads of things. In a team you always look at different things to improve on. But as I said, I’m coming in from the outside, it’s hard to make a difference. My job has been to speak to the players, to get to know their feelings and know how their confidence levels are and how they feel about their own situation. Every single one has a responsibility to improve.
You’ve seemed to get better performances out of Pogba. Can you do the same for Sanchez and Lukaku because they are two other big players who haven’t performed like they should?
OGS: I think you put it the wrong way because I cannot do anything for their performances on the pitch. Paul has done it himself, the players have done their performances. My chats with Anthony, Romelu, Alexis, whoever, have not felt like they can produce the best of football. I’m here to guide them, to help them on their path, then it’s up to them to do it on the pitch. I don’t agree that I have done that with Paul, or I can do that with Romelu and Alexis. It’s up to them when they get the chance. You’ve got to do it yourself. You can’t look at your… yeh, you won’t help from your teammates and your manager. I gave them some guidelines. There has been lots of talks about freedom of expression but that’s how I’ve always been as a manager. You can’t tell all the players what to do in this position or that position. They’re here for a reason, they’re good players and it’s up to them to use their imagination and creativity and just enjoy playing for this club. This is the best time of their lives.
Paul has shone in an attacking sense in the last two games. Is he showing he can be the player to build this club around?
OGS: I think Paul is a top, top player. He’s one of the top players in the world. Attacking wise, he’s done really well, but he’s a big lad, he’s won headers for us, he tackles. He’s been the same as the others. The attitude has been perfect and that’s key when you have players of this quality. When they’ve got the right attitude, you should be tired towards the end of every single game because you’ve got days to recover. He’s been top class. Yes, he’s someone to build the team around. But there are so many good quality players.
You gave Gomes a run out the other day. Knowing what you do about Manchester United, are you going to keep making sure that young players get a chance coming through?
OGS: As Sir Matt said, if they’re good enough they’re old enough. We’re built on that tradition. We need young players coming through. I think it’s important for the academy knowing that I am looking to progress players. We’ve got two or three top, top talents in the U-18s who are knocking on the door now. We’ve had a couple of injuries, a little bit of fatigue in some of them that would have been involved. They’re ready to step up. Neil [Ryan], Ricky [Sbragia] and Nicky [Butt] keep me filled in.
Valencia was named captain but has only played seven times. Is he still going to be your captain?
OGS: He’s the captain when he’s properly fit. He’ll wear the armband. He’s going through a couple of tough sessions to get him ready for the busy period. When you look at Antonio, there aren’t many better right-backs going forward.
You’ve said you learnt a lot about your experience at Cardiff. You said, like all managers, you made the odd mistake…
OGS: Not just the odd one! I made too many!
I was being polite. I was just wondering what was one of the things you might have learnt from that experience of being in the Premier League?
OGS: When I came here, it was a completely different situation for me. It was in a team that was fighting against relegation, newly promoted. Coming back in to here is a different ball game because you’re expected to win every game. The players expect to win every game. At Cardiff, we were new and had loads of respect for the opposition. I wanted to change things there as well but it was harder than I thought. I would have done less rotation if I had the chance again. In a struggling team, it’s more difficult to come in than what it is coming in to a team that plays attacking football.
Are you surprised at how quickly the mood has changed around here in such a short space of time?
OGS: Whenever you win games everyone’s happy. So let’s just keep that run going. We’ve got to focus on our performance against Bournemouth and get three points. These two games have been fantastic. The first one was my first game so it was new. The second was my first at Old Trafford so it was new. We need to keep that momentum going against Bournemouth. When you lose a game, you won’t see many smiles about.
Watching from a distance, what do you think has been wrong with Lukaku and Sanchez? Particularly Sanchez, who hasn’t looked like the player he was at Arsenal and Lukaku has struggled this season.
OGS: I cannot tell you. I’ve just been looking at the team, there’s so many good players, and when you get them confident and looking forward to games, we have a quality squad. I also said ‘we’ back then, because it is ‘we’. This club is part of me. But it’s a different thing when you’re a fan on the outside. It’s very easy to say ‘he should be playing, he should be playing’, but suddenly you end up with six forwards, three centre-backs, so my thing now is how to fit in Romelu, Alexis, Anthony, Marcus, Jesse, Juan. That’s six forwards. Can you play with more than four at a time? I’m not sure. The rotation and the communication with the players to know that they are going to get chances is important.
The RoM Manchester United 2021-22 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.