It’s another week with more injuries. We heard about Martinez and Lindelof. Are there any other issues running in to the Chelsea game? How are Varane and Jonny Evans for example?

No more issues. In the frontline and in midfield, we are OK. We have options there. But in the backline, we have a lack of options but the good thing is, this afternoon, back in training are Rapha Varane and Jonny Evans, and Harry Maguire was already back in training yesterday already.

With these issues, we have spoken to you all season about what perhaps is the cause. Are you any closer to knowing why you get so many muscle injuries?

We have an idea but we will work on that. Internally we will deal with it.

Do you want to share the idea?


In terms of the way the last few days have panned out, we all really enjoyed the Liverpool cup tie which was a fabulous occasion, but then to go to Brentford which was such a disappointment, have you spent time this week reflecting on how on earth that happens?

I have been in football long enough to know, and also what some of you should also understand, why that such things happen. Sometimes, you are not playing good but we are Man United and we still have to win. When you are winning, you can’t give it away in the way we did, that is the biggest disappointment for me. But we also have to see the trends line over a long period and I would say, from Christmas on, it has been positive. We keep going.

But from a man-management point of view, how do you handle that? Do you rip in to them after a game? Do you encourage them?

It depends on the situation you are in as a team. Also how the players, how they see it, and how they express it on the pitch. Then you take a strategy on how to deal with it.

Just going back to the injuries and all the problems you’ve had with them this season, have you changed things as the season has gone on? Has the approach changed at all to try prevent all these problems?

You can’t prevent it and you also see it is not only us. The standards that the Premier League, from an intensity perspective, are so high and the overload in the schedule, also with international football, is so huge. We have all internationals in our squad and you see it is not only us. City has problems, Liverpool has problems, Newcastle has problems, there are many other teams. And in this moment, especially the defending department. But, in midfield and in the frontline, the players are available.

How have you had to change then based on the schedule being as punishing as it’s been?

We don’t train because we recover. And then we go on to the next game.

Mason Mount obviously scored at Brentford. What does he have to do now to become a starter in your team?

He is a fantastic football player but it is important, first, that he is getting and keeping fit because he has had three injuries, as we have seen it now with Licha. You want to avoid, so we have to do this very carefully and so that is the first objective, to keep him fit. And of course, at the same time, we want to use him that he can have benefit and contribution to the team, like he did on Saturday, where he had an impact.

Are you surprised that Chelsea aren’t higher up the league table this season?

It is a tough competition and it’s very tight. And also it comes down to which players are available and which players are not. When you are on the right side of the line, I would say you can have a successful season, but in this competition where it is so competitive, it can also be a time where you are on the wrong side you can have a season which is more difficult. For the rest, they have a fantastic team and they have fantastic players, they play also very good football so they can beat everyone and they have already showed that in this league.

Going back to the injury issues, there have been suggestions that your training sessions have been too intense for the players. Have you had to adjust the intensity in training over the season due to the injuries?

No. We don’t train too hard. We need to be fit. This league, the standards, you need to be fit. Otherwise you can’t match the standards required of the game. We don’t train too hard.

You brought in some coaches and analysts with you from Ajax. In hindsight, would it have been more prudent to bring in a fitness coach? A lot of managers bring in a fitness coach. Is that something you lack here?

No. We have good people around with a lot of knowledge. Based on data, we make our decisions.

On the schedule, last season you had a crazy number of games. A marathon season. The same for the first half of this season, just so many games. Since the turn of the year, I think you’ve had 13 games in 91 days. You had 22 over the same period last season. You’re not playing every three days now. Is it in this situation that the injuries are a bit more of a concern now?

No because it still has an effect. The huge number of games we’ve had in the last 18 months still has an impact on our squad. The accumulation.

Is it just that as a manager of a top club, with an ever increasing congested calendar, you’re just going to have to find ways to manage as best as you can?

You need very robust players, that is the requirement. But as I say, when you go around Christmas where we were in a situation with a lot of injuries, and then you have to bring them back, but in the moment they are free from injury they are not going to be match fit. They are not straight back in to form. They need a couple of games before you get back in the rhythm. It still has an impact.

You say about robust players, you look at Bruno who plays all the time, he’s constantly fit, do you need more robust players like him?

I think we have many players who are very robust like Bruno is but that is the type of player you need.

Just to go back to an earlier question that you didn’t really answer, a number of times when we’ve seen good performances we think they’ve turned the corner, then to have such a disappointing performance, fans don’t understand why that keeps happening. What is going on between those two games for that to happen?

I explained several times. We don’t have a consistent team. Every time we have to adjust and the routines are not what they should be. That is because you have to adapt your team with people dropping out. So now, once again, we have to adjust our team.

But that team you had out against Brentford was a very good team.

Yeh, I think it’s a very good team. We started with the same line-up as against Liverpool but then you see with many teams after international break the rhythm has gone away because they played two games with different teammates, with a different way of play with different systems.

Chelsea have been in a situation where they’ve had new owners and those new owners have made an awful lot of changes and it hasn’t really worked out judging by their league position. Do you think there’s a warning there for the new owners here?

I think you need to follow the process. As I say, we have a good frontline, some good young players coming through who are developing very well, so we are in a good way, in a good direction, and now we have to make the next steps and not interrupt this process.

Going back to Mason Mount, when you first became interested in him were you surprised that Chelsea were willing to sell him to a rival like United?

I don’t think they wanted to sell him. They wanted to keep him. They offered him a new contract many times. But he wants to make this step and we were and are very pleased that he is a Manchester United player because he has great abilities. I’m sure he will contribute and become a big player for Man United.

You mentioned before about the overload in fixtures and about the fact that maybe is a throwback to the World Cup, do you think that football has to learn that you can’t keep going back to the well over and over again? That players need a break?

We discussed this early on. Absolutely. The players get overloaded and they can’t bring the performances anymore. We are already over the point of what we demand from our top players.

If it doesn’t change, it’s only going to continue like this where you’re going to have players getting hurt.

So it is. You see this weekend when City is playing without Walker, without Stones. Then also the levels dropping. It was a different team than when we faced them. The levels from teams will drop if you keep going on in this programme that we are now in when you overload the international programme.

The club has been looking in to why you’ve had so many injuries. How confident are you that it’s not going to happen again? Or is that impossible because of the schedule ahead?

You can’t 100% avoid this. It’s impossible. It depends on certain factors. We have national teams, so five times a year you give your players away and don’t have any impact. With some national teams we have very good connections, we manage the programmes, but there are also others who do what they want.

You’re probably going to have to win every league game left to qualify for the Champions League. Would it be a failure for you and the players not to make the Champions League? Or is there mitigation and understanding from the people in charge here about the injuries?

I don’t know. Also, I don’t care. But I have high standards and I would be disappointed if we don’t qualify, and I know it would be very difficult because we are not in a good position. But yeh, we want to win every game and that is the standard that we have from each other. We will keep going and keep believing. That will be the approach for every game. We will keep fighting until the end. But I know we are not in a good position, we have to catch up, and we have had a lot of problems so we have to be realistic. In a competition where it’s so competitive, where teams are so close in levels, you need your players to be available to make a consistent team and to bring in your way of play. That’s a fact. If you can’t do it, every time you have to make compromises, then you will drop levels and you will drop points. If you can play a consistent team then your levels will go up. When you can play the best players in your squad, you will collect more points. That’s a fact. I will be realistic, but nevertheless I will keep fighting until the end, in every game, and I will demand from every game a win because we are United. We have to win every game.