The last time you stepped out at Old Trafford, it was the darkest day, in your words, you’ve had at Manchester United. How much do you think the players have managed to get that result and experience out of their system ahead of the weekend stepping out at Old Trafford again?
OGS: We’ve moved on from that one, of course it’s going to be in the history books, but we’ve had a good week with good results away from home in difficult games and the mindset is positive. Of course, we have to go into this game believing we can do good things. It’s a local derby and everyone knows what’s at stake.
Speaking about the Manchester derby, obviously it’s a huge game for the people of Manchester, and City and United fans. You’ve had many experiences of it, a lot of your players have as well. How special is this game and how important is it? Is it bigger than Liverpool these days?
OGS: It’s a special one of course, the last time we had a Manchester derby with fans in the stadium the atmosphere was electric. I think everyone will still remember that one probably more so than any dark moments we’ve had. When Scott scored that winning goal in extra time, that was a special moment. We know it’s a one-off game, it’s one of those you have to start on the front foot, start ready, because a lot of it depends who gets on the front foot.
There was also a team meal this week after the Atalanta game. I just wonder how useful an exercise that was for team bonding and how it all came about?
OGS: The team is very close together and they know they need each other, it’s team bonding, and the team spirit is important. We’ve got a great canteen up here as well, but they’re probably fed up of Mike’s [the chef’s] food!
I also wanted to check on how Varane is. How long out, do you think? And how much of a problem does it cause you again?
OGS: With all the technology now, you expect him to be out four or five weeks with the scans and the pictures we’ve seen of him. Of course, it’s a blow for us. Raphael has come in and been really, really influential, but then Eric came in last time and was excellent, so that’s why you have big squads, so you can cope with absentees sometimes.
Just on the injuries, how is Victor?
OGS: He’s still a doubt but hopefully he can come back in tomorrow and say that he’s ready. I would expect him to be ready, put it that way, but I can’t promise you.
Just on Cristiano, obviously, before you signed him, there was a lot of talk that he might go to Man City and that clearly didn’t happen. What kind of an influence is he and how much of a difference can he make to your team in terms of where you finish this season, because people say he can be a negative, even though he scores so many important goals…
OGS: He’s one of the best players that’s ever walked on this planet and his impact so far, on and off the pitch, has been absolutely immense. The goals he scores, the way he conducts himself in and around the place. So, how people can say that is a negative, I can’t see that one. We’re really, really pleased he has started off as well as he has, but that’s what he does. He scores goals, he works for his team, and he’s a top, top professional.
Going back to that Liverpool game, you have been under what seems like constant pressure since that defeat, with speculation around your future and your position. How is it for you working under those kind of circumstances and how important do you feel the result is in this derby game also, in terms of your own future?
OGS: When I stepped in the doors here in December 2018, three years ago, there’s been speculation ever since so that’s no problem. We’ve moved on from the Liverpool game. Of course, it’s always going to be there as a dark moment in our careers, but we’ve had a good week, with two good results away from home and we’re ready for this game. You don’t expect an easy ride when you become manager of Man United, so that’s how it is.
Your head-to-head against Pep Guardiola is probably one of the best since he came into the Premier League. Is that something that you think about, or do you forget it and move onto this derby, obviously at the weekend?
OGS: You look at the next game. I’m not one to talk about what I’ve done. I’ve got a great respect and admiration for Pep and what he’s done. We’ve had a few good results against them, we’ve had some good games, tight games, and we need another performance like this. Sometimes you need luck, and we know this is a game where we’ll have to work hard and suffer a lot, but we have to believe in ourselves, we have to trust ourselves. We’re at home, as you say, we’ve had a few good results and let’s hope that continues, but we don’t take that for granted. We know we need to earn it.
When you play Edinson and Cristiano together, as you did against Spurs, how much more does that give the opposition to think about and how threatening is that as a combination?
OGS: We’ve not been able to play them together for two many games. Those two players are two of the best centre forwards that have been in European or world football the last 15 to 20 years. They’ve got a lot of respect for each other and work well off each other so that’s something we hope to see more often, and it’ll blossom. Sometimes, we’ll obviously have Marcus, Mason or Jadon with one of them, but I’ve got loads of forwards. Anthony Martial is one who’s always done well against Man City.
If Cristiano was wearing a Man City shirt at Old Trafford tomorrow, how would you be feeling?
OGS: The good things it would never, ever happen and there’s no chance of that happening. So I’m happy he’s wearing red and hopefully he can be the difference again.
You were a United player when Beckham helped England qualify for the World Cup and then his club form seemed to tail off after that. Given how well Harry and Luke did, where they were probably the best in their position, do you see a similarity? By their own acknowledgement, their form has dipped this season.
OGS: They’re two very good players and they had a great Euros. Harry had been out for a long time before the Euros but I thought he came through that tournament fantastically. Luke, of course he scored a goal in the final, but I thought he was better for us during last season than what he was for England in the summer. I wasn’t surprised. By both boys’ admission, they’ve not been in their best form, but that will come. They’ve been working hard, they’re good lads who want to do well for the team. It’s difficult to compare. I’m very sure they’ll be turning the headlines very soon.
Thinking about the emotion of tomorrow’s game, how important is it that you win? In terms of the table, you could be more points behind Chelsea or you could be level with City and in the top four?
OGS: Important game, of course. With a win, we’ve got the possibility to close up to the teams in front of us. We’ve got to keep picking up points and get further away from what we did against Liverpool. The Tottenham game was miles better but we need to improve. We need to improve in all the aspects of the game. It’s only the start of November, so we’re not going to talk about the end position in the table, but every game in this league is massive. If we can manage three points, that’s a good job done.
Sir Alex famously said “not in my life time” when asked if City would ever eclipse United. Given they’ve won five of the last 10 league titles and the financial might they’ve got, the players they’ve got, can you ever envisage a time where they eclipse United in terms of their dominance?
OGS: No, I can’t. But you have to show respect for what they’ve done over the past 10 years, of even more so the past four or five in England or Europe. But we’re Man United, we are always going to come back, we’re always going to think we’re the number one club in Manchester and also in the world.
You’ve seen Mason Greenwood has been left out of the England squad. What kind of conversations have you had with Gareth about that? Have you spoken to Mason? Is it part of a plan or were you surprised given he’s been in very good form this season?
OGS: I haven’t spoken to Gareth since the last international break. We had a very good conversation a couple of months ago. Mason is on the path of being a very good player for Manchester United and England. I know Gary believes that himself and that in due time Mason will force his way in to the national team squad.
For whatever reason, is there a danger that Jadon Sancho could be this season’s Donny van de Beek in that he’s a very good player but doesn’t get much of a look in?
OGS: Jadon is going to play a lot of games. He’s going to get better and better. In the last couple of games, he’s suffered from the system we’ve played, but it’s not going to be a permanent 3-5-2 team that we’re always going to see. So you’ll see Jadon play a lot and he’ll do well for us. He knows what we want from him and I speak to him regularly. So that’ll be fine. We knew what we signed when we signed him, and we believe he’s going to be one of the top forwards for many years, the next decade at least.
You say you’ve moved on from the game two weeks ago, but what have you learned from that to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
OGS: That’ll show, if we’ve learnt enough. We’ve moved on from it. We’ve taken the deserved flack. It was nowhere near good enough on many levels. We’ve had a good week and now we’re going to play another good team. It’s up to us to show it. It’s no good me just talking about it. There are too many that talk a good game, we have to play a good game.