It’s not been long, but do you know any more about Martinez or Varane or any of the players who missed last night?
No, sorry, no. It is not even 24 hours so I don’t have complete diagnosis, so I can’t tell in this moment.
You already said that Varane and Martinez won’t play this weekend. How much faith do you have in Maguire and and how much faith do you have in Lindelof?
A lot. I think we have decent centre-halves and they have proved in the past, they have proved this season. I think we have four or five very good centre-halves who can do the job.
Any players available that were missing? McTominay? Shaw?
For Sunday? Yeh, [there] could be, but we have to see. We have now two sessions to go of training, so I don’t know by now, but it can be that Scott and Luke return in the squad, but not sure.
Obviously, a lot happened last night and with all the focus on injuries, it kind of got overlooked how well Anthony Martial started. He held up the ball and things. Were you pleased with his performance?
When you see the first half, I think we were in a really good shape. Aaron Wan-Bissaka played very well, Antony played very well, Marcel Sabitzer played really well. Bruno played very good and Anthony Martial as well. Also Rapha and Licha, so there were many positives about yesterday’s game.
How difficult is it for you at this stage of the season? You have 11 games to still play, possibly 13 or 14 in the space of seven or eight weeks. You have injuries to deal with as well, so is there any way in which you can rotate the squad or do you just have to go with what you’ve got each game?
We have depth in the squad. We have to use the squad, that’s also what we did yesterday. In the meantime, you have to win games so also you have to have a tactical approach to win the games but I think we have good players and when we have problems, so injuries and suspensions, we have depth in the squad.
What are your thoughts on Nottingham Forest? They’ve got plenty to play for as well, they’re not going to lie down for you…
I know what place they are and we know what we can expect on Sunday. They are in survival mode and they will run for their lives. We have to be ready for that game.
With Martial having played so well last night, have you got an idea of when he will be able to complete 90 minutes? Because it has been a while since he finished a game.
So maybe he can, but it’s a risk and we can’t take that risk in this moment because we don’t have so many options in the frontline with Rashford injured, with Garnacho injured. We don’t have so many options there, so we have to be careful and also in individual prospect, we know when there is a lot of load he gets injured. So we have to build it and, especially when the games are coming quick after each other, the recovery time is less, we have to take that also in mind and manage that very well and very careful.
Looking ahead to next week with Harry Maguire suspended for the Brighton game, is that going to have an impact on your selection for the coming games? That you may not be able to risk certain players who may not be available for Brighton?
We have to take that in mind as well, of course. We know that Harry is suspended but he is good. I think he played very good against Everton, yesterday he came in and also very good. And in the coming games, it is up to him, but around [that] we have to take it in mind that he is suspended for the game against Brighton.
There were some claims from Argentina that Martinez might have a broken metatarsal. Is there any truth in that?
I can’t say in this moment. When we have news we will give it straight to you. But let’s do the medical, do their assessment and fully diagnose, complete diagnose, and then we will give the news. But I think it doesn’t change in this moment.
You have no idea what it might be?
Yes, I have an idea, but I don’t go on speculation.
Forest have played 30 games this season, last night was your 50th. I think that will happen a lot this season, where you come against a team that hasn’t played as many games as you have. Is there any concern at all about the energy levels of your players for this run-in, especially when playing teams who haven’t had the same schedule?
Yes, but I see also an advantage. We had more games but we are also more routines, so we like to play and that will give the energy. I think many, many advantages and we want to go for silverware and we have to give energy. If we want to go and make the season a success we have to give energy.
When you get to this stage in the season and every game seems to have something riding on it, how important is it to have players in the squad like a Varane or a Casemiro who are so used to getting into this stage of the year and playing in massive games, cup finals?
Of course, they have to help the team with their leadership because they have the experience to win silverware, to win, to get the success. So they have to point and to coach the team.
On that point about leadership. Peter Schmeichel after the match said there was a lack of leadership in the latter stages against Sevilla. Do you think that’s fair?
I think the second half, yes, we dropped down our levels, we dropped our standards, and we make some mistakes and, as I said, we had bad luck definitely with injuries. We had bad luck also with the goals, the goals were so lucky, deflected, but you can avoid it and we had to avoid it, so we also have to look in the mirror.
Qualifying for the top four was always going to be a difficult task, but how much harder is it with the injuries you have? And for those players coming in, how important is it that they step up and show the mental toughness needed to get you through this difficult period and keep you on course for the top four?
When you said that question, it is also the answer. Every game is a battle. Every game is a fight and you have to be ready for that fight. We have a squad, I have said all season we have more than 11 starters. So now others are on and when their time is there, you have to show and to contribute to the team. And you have to be ready and that is what we expect and we demand.
But is it difficult for the players that haven’t played that much to come in and be expected to perform at that level?
I think then you are finding excuses. And when you are want to find excuses and set excuses then you don’t have to play at Manchester United and you have to look for another club. You have to wait for your moment and when your moment is there you have to contribute and you have to bring your performance. That is what we demand.
You said about Bruno Fernandes and Antony both playing well last night, Antony particularly. And you said you brought them off because the referee had warned you that they could get sent off. Why didn’t you just leave them on and trust them to keep their heads?
Because the next Bruno was throwing the ball away he said: ‘The next he is off.’ And he saved him because the player from Seville did the same in the first half and got booked for it. Antony, finally, I think he started out but don’t come in such circumstances, everything is going our way. Two-nil up, we are playing a good game, so don’t go into individual battles with your opponents. It is not necessary. You heat up the opponent and increase the risk to get sent off. I don’t want to take that risk and it’s easy, afterwards. Where I come from, you call it ‘You are looking a cow in the ass.’ That is what we call it in my region from the Netherlands. That’s easy, but when he gets sent off, you tell me: ‘Why don’t you get him off, why did you go for the risk?’
So you said the first one, with Bruno throwing the ball away and could be booked…
That would be his second.
Antony Martial played really well last night and, when he’s fit, he’s good enough for Manchester United. Can you trust him long-term to be part of this squad because of his unfortunate injury record and also, from your point of view, can he play anywhere across the front: centre-forward, number 10 or in wide positions as well?
I’ll start with your last question. I think he can but for me, he’s best as a centre-forward but I think he can play in more positions. Can play as a 10, or wide positions.
As for his fitness, in the long term, can he be a proper member of your squad next season?
Look, it’s difficult to say because the history shows different but I want him to be because he’s a great player. He definitely has the qualities to play top football. When he’s fit, our team plays better.
Will he be here next season then?
From my point of view, yeah.
With Harry coming back into the team, presumably, he’ll be captain at the weekend, how has the dynamic been between him and Bruno this season in terms of the captaincy and who’s speaking to players from the leadership point of it? Are you happy with that continuing next season, having almost two captains and one captain only starting 25-30% of the games? Is that OK and did you work that out this season, in terms of who does what?
Look, the team needs more leaders. You need a group of leaders. Those are two but we have more, also [Raphael] Varane, also Casemiro, also David De Gea, and also Lica Martinez has developed really well in that perspective, so we have more. They deal with it through togetherness. So one is on the bench and we accept it as the way it is. They respect each other and they come through with togetherness. I think it works out so far.
We’ve seen in recent weeks, when you lose key players, Casemiro, Eriksen, Rashford, now Varane and Martinez, the negative impact it can have on the team. Does it show that maybe you need to strengthen the team in the summer but how difficult is that? Do you need a plan A, plan B and plan C?
You always need that but all clubs have to deal with key players missing but then other players are coming in. Of course, you always want to play your best eleven, especially when you go to the final stages and when they are not available others have to do it. And I think we prove when they are not there. Last week, we were discussing who is going to score the goals. Marcel Sabizter scored two yesterday. We talked a lot about Casemiro. Can the team play without Casemiro? But we proved against Brentford and against Everton that we can also play without Casemiro and win difficult and important games. So, we have to deal with it and we will do and that is now also the case that when he’s dropping out, always, we have to take over and take the responsibility.
Is the plan going forward complicated by what’s happening off the pitch?
You want to always be a full squad where you can pick more easily because you can pick with the perspective of tactics and you can pick the team. And when players are dropping out, sometimes you have to make compromises.
We have a saying in this country which is called ‘knocking heads together’ to get people to work in one direction. In the 50 games you’ve been in charge, you’ve done a lot of that. But last night we saw an evidence that you need to do it again. Where do you think the team is in terms of your idea of the development to become winners this season or in the future? There were some sloppy mistakes made last night when you had the game in your hand.
It’s the truth. We have to face that. But I can’t say only the negatives about yesterday because we played quite good football over a long time in the game but you also have to manage the game. If you want to win trophies you have to be smart, you have to stick to the plan and not allow an opponent to get back in the game. You can’t heat them up or allow them to put crosses in. You have to be aware that the game is over in 90, 95, 96 minutes. And yes, we still have a long way to go, I’m fully aware of it. The team has to know we need leaders in such moments. In many games, I’ve seen it, we have that passion and desire to bring tough games over the line but yesterday we didn’t. So I see this affects momentum but the team has to learn from it, definitely. We will give the team that idea and we will give the team our evaluation. We have to talk about that, how we can avoid this and how we have to avoid this in the future.
Finally, on that, is there a time frame? At what stage do you think the job is complete in convincing them to go in your direction?
I think they already do. They go in the direction we want. Yesterday, we dropped back and I know the team, we are human beings, we can make mistakes and we have to avoid it. Now, certain players have to step up for the team to control the standards.