Just wondering what the situation with Marcus Rashford is? What was the injury? Will he be available for the Newcastle game?
I’ve got hope. He trained but he had to do some treatment, some individual training, and today he joined in with group. So I think we have one more day so I have a good hope he’s available, I think so.
What was the issue? And secondly, there’s been some talk about contract negotiations, are you able to offer any information on how negotiations are going?
We never do. It’s an internal process. We focus on winning games. We, of course, are also planning for the future. It’s about agents, it’s about John Murtough, but we are focussing now on performing.
You’ve spoken about not wanting to get in to Marcus Rashford’s future but news today suggests Luke Shaw has agreed a new long-term deal. Is it a reward for his performances?
If he’s signed, I don’t know, I haven’t heard. John didn’t inform me so I’ll have to wait for that. But if it’s true I’m really pleased. Definitely, yeh, we want to keep him, because he’s a really important player for our team.
Is that the same for Rashford and David de Gea? You’d like them to remain at Manchester United?
Marcus is having his best season since he broke through at Manchester United. What do you put that down to? What have you done or what has he done himself that’s made him transform his form to where he was a year ago?
It’s not about just a talk – I’m not Harry Potter! It’s like a process, so there are many tools that you are putting in in your management to let people get to their best form and best shape. So, it’s about line-up, way of pay, coaching, formal or informal talks, it’s about coaches working with him. And especially, it’s a lot about himself, because he’s the one, he has the skills. When he has the best attitude, the best mentality, then he will score goals.
Is Martial available to play this weekend?
He is training. So, for two weeks now. And I think he can be in the squad for Sunday.
He’s not played a lot this season and Wout hasn’t scored many goals, McTominay has had a pretty terrific week for Scotland, he played as a striker as the academy. Would there be any scenario where you would consider him playing as a striker? You played him as a striker when you brought him on against Chelsea. But would you do that more frequently?
I think Scott can play in many roles, it’s clear he has scoring capabilities for Scotland but also this season for us he’s a really good finisher. But I see him as a midfielder so I think I’m happy with what Wout is doing. Because when Wout is in the team the team is performing better.
Marcus has scored a lot of goals but if there’s one thing the team is short of, a player to be scoring like he is? Because Marcus has got 14 in the league but the next best is five. Is that what you’re short of?
I think we have players like Bruno, like Jadon Sancho, like Anthony Martial, like Scott McTominay, like Antony, so I think we have players who have the capabilities to score goals.
The problem is Martial is never available, so you can’t have that scenario going in to next season?
But what I said previously, I work in the back on next season, but we are working now on this season. So, first of all, make sure that everyone is available, that everyone is fit, keep improving the way of play that gives us the best chance that we will score more goals.
On Sunday’s game, you mentioned before the cup final that Newcastle irritate you with their tactics with time wasting. Is that a concern going in to the game on Sunday?
Concern. We know they delay, yeh. And it’s something that is what the referees don’t want, they want to have tempo in the game. That is the aim of the Premier League to have tempo in the game. So they then also have to be consistent to let the game go. Do and act what the policy is.
Is that their only tactic that irritates you?
You said now the question, but it’s about us, like we did in the two previous games. We want to dictate and control the game. We play against a good opponent, we are aware of that. They have a great season. With their manager, with their way of play, it is really a team that’s hard to beat. But we are looking forward to the challenge. We’ve had many challenges already this season and we have shown, the evidence, that we can beat them.
Rashford gained attention this week because he was in New York. But lots of other players go on breaks and do similar things. Do you have a problem with that as a manager? Does it concern you that players are going on exhausting flights when they’ve got these breaks in a season?
I think it’s positive. I think with Bruno, he was playing the most games of the whole squad and I think Manchester United are playing the most games across Europe. Our internationals are mostly not on the bench, they are playing, so our players have played the most games. This is a crazy season. They need time that they can have a breather and collect energy. For me, it’s positive he took that time to turn off from football. I have seen him back this week and he has shown a lot of energy, a lot of motivation, so his training it was a good spirit and a lot of focus, so it was good.
Did you say a lot of your players don’t start for their international teams?
No, I said they start. Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Bruno, Casemiro, they are starters for their nations. So they have the most games. That’s what I want to emphasise, they have the most games across the season so far. We played an extra round in the Europa League and in all the cup games.
So you think it’s important for your players to have a switch off mentally as well as physically?
Yeh, I think so.
You just said that the team plays better when Wout is in it. Could you explain why and does he have any chance of maybe becoming a permanent Manchester United player for next season?
Of course. I think he is doing a lot of elements of football really well. He is doing a really good job for us in pressing, so he is the leader of the process in pressing. He’s the leader of the press, he starts the press and he is very good in the backward pressing. He is taking other positions and his link-up play, he is doing really well. He creates movements and makes good movements. He is also good in the set plays. So he is really a contribution to the performance of this team and this team after Christmas, we played 25 games and we lost two games. So you can see and he played nearly almost all those games. He was really a part of that success.
When it comes to signing new players in the summer which you clearly are going to be looking to do, how vital is it that you can offer them Champions League football? How vital is it to finish in the top four when you have got others who are going to be looking around the same pool, Liverpool, Newcastle, people like that? If you can offer them Champions League football, that gives you a clearly vital edge ahead of them?
But let’s make one thing clear, we have to play Champions League football and a club like Manchester United has to play in the Champions League. So there is no misunderstanding.
Does that mean for all it’s great for the fans and everything to give them one cup and ideally give them another couple, but you’ve got to be in the Champions League? Is that the be all and end all if you want to be in the market for the players you want to be in the market for? You’ve got be able to offer them that?
Of course, we are more interesting when we are in the Champions League, but when we are not, we are still attractive for players. I have noticed that also last year when we were not in the Champions League but I want to make my point clear, we have to be in the Champions League. So we have two parts, one is via the Premier League and be in the top four, or by the winning of the Europa League, so that is the two parts.
You spoke about last summer attracting big-name players to the club. How were you able to sell Manchester United to players like Casemiro, Antony, when you were in the Europa League? Was it that vision that you would return to the Champions League eventually?
I think that is a very good example with Casemiro. He won everything, Champions Leagues but also that he is willing to come to Manchester United, even when we were playing in the Europa League. Because this club attracts people and it is very interesting for them, and they want to be part of this club.
You’ve been an outstanding cup team this season, now you have three league games. Has there been a difference in approach or the levels do you think between the league and the cup games?
We want to win every game and I think that is when we talk about culture. To construct a culture you have to win every game and I think that is the approach we have in every game, so we will prepare every game 100%, and we don’t want to miss things in any game. I think that is what people can expect from us and that is the demands we have to set.
You have mentioned a few times this year about how seven or eight teams could be able to win the Premier League of which Newcastle are probably one now. They have almost unlimited wealth available to them in the transfer market and wages and things like that. How hard is it to compete with that over the long term and what do you need to be able to do to compete with that when at least a couple of teams in this league have monies that others don’t?
But money is one thing but the thing is also strategy. When I was at Ajax, we had a low budget in comparison with many opponents in the Champions League and still, we won the groups, we came to the semi-finals and we were really close for the final. It is also possible with a lower budget to beat teams with a higher budget.
And is the strategy right at this club do you think from what you have seen over the last year? Do they have the right strategy in place to succeed?
So from my analysis, we are in a good direction, in the right direction. I think we are building a base this season and from here on, of course, we have to progress and develop. You can do that by developing a team and that is every game, you have to play a better game, so every training you can develop your way of play and that is what we are doing. We are also setting, every time, high demands and standards to our players, and then for the rest, in the summer, we will see. That is not, in this moment, a focus point, the focus point is now on the way of play and to make a better way of play so we have a better chance to win our games.