Whether all the problems we’ve had with Covid across the country, have Manchester United been effected? Any problems with the players?
OGS: We’ve done well to follow the protocols. We’ve had the odd case. Facundo Pellistri has tested positive. He reported that on his Twitter. We don’t usually comment on who they are. Facundo is well and will be back with us soon. He’s been with the U-23s and he wasn’t in our group over Christmas. Apart from that, we have a full and fit squad.
How has the reaction been among the group to Wednesday? And how do you view this game on Saturday, given you’ve got the chance to go top of the league on Tuesday?
OGS: The reaction has been as expected. Of course you’re disappointed when you go out. We wanted to go one step further. But we’ve shown many times this season that we can react and bounce back after disappointments. We did it after the defeat against Arsenal, after Tottenham, after we went out of the Champions League the boys reacted well. I don’t envisage another other mindset than going in to the next game and wanting to win, and that’s what we’ve got to do. We enter this competition to win. There are a few players who’ve had a few knocks so they’ll be a few changes but we’ll still field a team I feel confident in.
Will Odion Ighalo come in against his former club? I presume he’ll leave at the end of his loan.
OGS: It’s special for him against Watford. He will be involved. He’s in the squad and he’s been training really well. I don’t know how many goals he scored today but he was by a mile the top scorer in training. He’s not lost any of his sharpness or his quality. It’s been difficult for him to be out of the squad. He had done really well up until the summer and this season he’s not had as many opportunities. But he’s never let himself down as a professional or a human being. In training he always works hard and he’s been a positive influence on the dressing room. He’s in the squad. Hopefully I don’t need to put him on, that we need goals, but he can join in.
We’re seeing lots of positive cases from Premier League clubs at the moment. Do you feel safe with the guidelines as they are and do you feel comfortable to carry on playing?
First of all, of course you worry about what is happening in society around the country. That’s a big thing. I personally feel safe within our bubble. We’ve taken all the steps that we’ve had to following all the protocols. The players have been following as well as they can. What’s happening at different clubs and in society is frightening. We have a responsibility and a duty to do our best to stay clear and stay in the bubbles. I hope we can continue playing because I think it has a positive impact on everyone in the lockdown. Even I feel it at home when you don’t have a game yourself, you’re looking forward to watching a game on telly. The mental wellbeing of football has been positive I think.
There were reports Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo were back in Argentina in January. What is your update on their futures and can we expect to see them in a United shirt again?
OGS: Both of them have contracts until the summer. They’re not going to be extended. We’re looking for them to find clubs. Marcos has been given time to go home so he’s still in Argentina. Sergio has been back home as well to see his family but he’s back in England now. They’re professionals, they’re working hard and they’re ready if they’re called in for us.
How excited are you by new signing Amad Diallo and how long will the process of integration take until you can think about playing him?
OGS: He’s still not been with us in the training group. He’s doing the last bit of the paperwork. I’m excited by all new players coming in. We’ll give him time. I’ve seen there’s been lots of expectations on Amad and rightly so. He’s an exciting player. He’s got some fantastic attributes that we look forward to developing and giving him a chance to succeed here. It’s important that we give him the time to settle in. He might play his first few games in the U-23s to settle in or he might go straight in to the first team group after training with us. We don’t know yet.
There has reportedly been some interest in Brandon Williams during the January transfer window. Will he be featuring on Saturday? He started his career in the academy at right-back so do you see his future in the first team possibly on that side?
OGS: With the signing of Alex Telles and the form of Luke Shaw he’s not really had a look in on the left. He played in all three semis last season and he had a great first season. This season has been more difficult for him. He’s put his head down and worked really hard. He will be involved tomorrow, he’s in the squad. He’s shown me he’s got the desire to fight through this which is the biggest thing. When you sign your first big contract and do well, can you bounce back from not being in the team as much? Brandon has shown that lately. So hopefully he’ll keep carrying on as he does. He knows my view on him and we believe in the boy.
Do you expect Tim Fosu-Mensah staying this month? He’s out of contract at the end of the season and he’s not got the plus one option to get him a new contract. If you were to get a fee for him it would have to be this month. Are you expecting him to stay until at least the end of the season?
OGS: I’m not sure if Tim is going to stay or if he’s going to take an option now. He’s not played enough so of course he’s been allowed to speak to clubs with a view to leaving now in January. It’s difficult when you’ve got talented players and you can’t give them game time. He’s now at the stage where he needs to play again. It might be end of January or it might in the summer that he finds somewhere else. He’s working hard and he’s ready for a move to any club he feels ready for.
Cavani’s ban drew a strong reaction from the Uruguayan players’ union. Yesterday, the FA published their written reasons for his ban. Despite the commission stating there had been no intent by Cavani to be racist or offensive, and they accepted he was replying affectionately to a friend and could not have reasonably known any offence could be caused. Are you baffled as to why he was ever charged in the first place? Do you feel like an education course alone would have been satisfactory?
OGS: He’s almost finished with his ban now and it’s no good me moaning about the three-game ban. We felt Edinson had no intent of discrimination of any kind. For him personally, I know he must feel good about his fellow teammates and countrymen because they know what kind of person he is. We had to accept the reasons behind the ban. We know Edinson well enough to know this was a friend of his and it was a nickname. We need to understand the cultural differences between countries. We know he never meant any harm. It’s hard to go through all different scenarios of what could have been done and said. We move on now.
Does the outcome on Wednesday put any more pressure on tomorrow or change your thinking in any way for Watford?
OGS: Not at all, no. It’s a competition we’ve entered to go as far as we possibly can. We’re all disappointed because of Wednesday night and were ready to go again on Thursday morning. You’ve got to bounce back and there are still many games to go. We were in the quarter finals in 2018, the semi-finals in 2019, so hopefully we can go one step further this season. To get there, you’re going to play so many games and so many good teams so we’re just focussing on this one on Saturday.
When was the last time Pellistri trained with you and have you had a run of negative tests since he tested positive?
OGS: Yeh. Everyone played today. Facundo was with the U-23s. He had some time off over Christmas. We don’t usually comment but since he’s done it himself we can say we’re confident that everyone else is clear.
Van de Beek has again had to wait for his chance. Ronald de Boer said he should leave United to safeguard his place in the Dutch team at the Euros. Can you understand that thinking? How do you reassure Donny that he does have a role to play going forward because he has had to be patient?
OGS: I’ve answered this question so many times. There are so many examples of players needing a little bit of time, quality players, where sometimes it takes time. You don’t expect people who care for him to be quiet, especially when they want the best for them. Donny is going to play tomorrow. That’s another chance for him. I’ve spoken to him and reiterated how much we rate him. He’ll play tomorrow and it’s a good chance for him to kick on.
Both goals you conceded against City were from set pieces. It’s not the first time. Are you surprised that a back line that contains basically England’s best central defender, your captain Maguire, Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, international players, isn’t good enough? There’s going to be the odd mistake at set pieces but it seems like basic stuff to defend that. Are you surprised at this?
OGS: It’s something we’ve addressed that we need to do better at. When we don’t get the first contact we’ve been punished quite severely. We’re quite good at the first contact but when we haven’t we’ve conceded too many goals. We’re very high up there in the stats for when we don’t get the first contact we concede. That’s a worry of course. We have defended really well at times but against Man City, when you defend as well as you do in open play and don’t concede too many chances, you’re disappointed when you lose that bit of focus. We do have a good record of winning the first ball but when we don’t it seems like it goes in every time.
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