The Red Devils head coach was back facing the media after the international break and ahead of Saturday’s tie against Watford and here is everything the Man Utd boss has to say about the team, His future and Jesse Lingard’s future.
Obviously, there’s a lot being written and said about you over the last fortnight. Have you spoken to Ed [Woodward] or anyone at the club or are you just getting on with the job basically?
“Yeah, of course, I’ve been in contact and communicated with the club as we normally do all the time anyway. It’s been a long international break but one we’ve utilised to our benefit, we feel. The response from the players when they came in [has been good], and we’re ready for the Watford game.”
Do you feel as though going back to Norway helped clear your mind a little bit because it’s been fairly intense, the position you’ve been in after the City game?
“You know, international breaks are always periods to refresh and keep working on different things. This time around we had a few players having to pull out of internationals, so quite a few of them have been here through individual sessions, recovery sessions, rehab sessions. Some players were allowed to go abroad and visit their families. It’s the same case every time when we come in, in the week before we start the games again. Everyone’s bright and ready. I’ve got to say this week has been a good week. We’ve had a chance to work with more or less everyone on quite a few things.”
Can I ask you about Jesse Lingard? It was reported this morning that talks over a new deal for Jesse had stalled and that he was looking to go elsewhere in January on loan. Are you able to clarify that for us at all?
“Jesse is training really hard, really well and he’s ready and available for me, definitely. He’s disappointed he’s not played more, of course. In regard to the contract situation and talks, I’ve not been in them very, very closely. For me, Jesse is still a big part of this club, an important part. He gives energy to the group every day.”
Given his lack of minutes this season, can you understand why he may be frustrated?
“Every player wants to play as much as possible. The thing with Jesse and all my players, you know, they are working very hard and you can’t fault their attitude and they’re ready when they’re called upon when they’re playing. Jesse’s done well when he’s played for us. He knows, with all the games coming up, he’s going to play a part.”
You were saying there how tough the last fortnight has been during the international break. With that in mind, how important is the game against Watford to set the right tone now moving forward?
“Of course, we know, with a poor run of form we’ve put ourselves under pressure. But that pressure should be a joy, it should be something that makes us a better team, makes every player perform at the best level and a game we should go into and enjoy. You know, we’ve had, I don’t know how many games away from home… we lost against Leicester away from home but the unbeaten run we accumulated before that is something we need to draw some confidence from, that run. There are three away games now and that [Watford] is the one we’ve been focusing on, preparing for and it’s a very big game as every game in the Premier League is.”
What state is the squad in?
“Yeah, good. I have got to say this week has been really positive. Of course, there’s a couple of doubts with illnesses and small niggles. Paul is out still for a while, Rapha is out for a while still. Apart from that, players will be coming back in, [let’s] call it, the near future. Some this weekend and some during the week. But that’s the same for every team that misses players.”
Obviously, you’ve been away yourself and had players gone away on international duty, some of them doing really well. Do you feel they’ve had a change of mentality and come back refreshed?
“I can’t say they’ve changed their mentality, that’s a wrong way of saying it. They love playing football, they enjoy playing football. Of course, when we left each other 12-13 days ago, no one was happy when they left Old Trafford. But then, there’s another game. They’ve enjoyed the competition for their countries and now they’re ready. I have got to say this week has been a very determined and focused group. We’ve worked on a few things that we feel we need to improve on and hopefully we can see that against Watford.”
How difficult is it after a defeat when your players go away on international duty, because I’m sure you’d try to get them all together to work on the big games that you’ve got coming up?
“Yeah, you’re right. The first thing you want to do after a defeat is to get back to the training ground and work on things. To be honest, as I said when we left for the international break, we feel it was a good time to refresh our minds. Some players have, as I said, stayed here working on individual recovery, some have been allowed to go home to their countries to freshen up their minds. Everyone’s kept in touch with staff and that’s one of the things we’ve learned over the last couple of years, with the technology, with the Zoom or Teams. My staff have worked really hard to get everyone ready. From Monday onwards we’ve worked really hard. We’ve corrected a few things, put a few things right. We’ve made sure we’ve prioritised a couple of things that needed to improve the most. I’m sure we’ll see a reaction and a good team performance tomorrow.”
There have been so many rumours about your future in the latest weeks. Some are claiming that your time is coming towards an end and that you’re at Old Trafford on borrowed time. How do you feel? Do you feel safe in this situation? Do you feel the players and the board and everyone is pulling in the same direction?
“Yeah. The players, the staff, myself, the club, we’re all working towards one goal and that is to improve and get better results. The fans are still supporting the team and the club. They’ve backed the team through the rebuild, of course. You know, when we lose a game, we’re always disappointed and under pressure. We’ve been communicating well, openly and honestly, as we always do. It’s one game now that matters but it’s also what comes after that. We’re all refreshed, this week has been really good in training and we’re ready for tomorrow.”
I assume you’ve had some time to reflect after some of those dreadful results. What do you think has gone wrong and what’s going to change in the next bulk of games? And what fills you with confidence that you can get it back?
“We’ve been through periods like this before. Our away form should give us confidence, what we’ve done. We’ve just gone 30 games away and lost one or whatever we have. Last season, we turned it around as well on a run with 20 games and one defeat. That’s the kind of run we have to get back to. As I said, this week we’ve worked on a few things, we’ve prioritised a few things that we have to improve on. We know the run of form hasn’t been good and that performances haven’t been good enough. We know we can do better, we know we should do better and we think we will do better. It’s down to performances on the day. [Players are] human beings, sometimes you hit the post and it goes out and sometimes it goes in. That can change the mood, the atmosphere. We just got to focus on getting a good start tomorrow and build on a good start.”