Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick addressed the media on a range of topics, in part two of his pre-match briefing before the Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
The 63-year-old German provided updates on forward Anthony Martial, his team’s current mindset, plus details of how he believes United can be better when in possession of the ball.
With a stern test guaranteed at Villa Park this Saturday evening, here’s every word posed to our boss in the second part of his briefing…
Following Cristiano’s interview yesterday, does he have a point in terms of a change that is needed to help better shape the mentality within this group of players?
”I think this needs to happen in every single training session, in every game and of course it applies when things don’t go our way during the game. We have to behave in a certain manner, but it’s also about being role models, not just the older players like Cristiano, also the younger players too. If I now look back into the last six weeks that I have been here, in all of the games, none more so than the game against Aston Villa on Monday, every player tried his very best. They were fighting for each other in order to fight and get through to the next round, but I also think that, from my perspective, there is always room for improvement. We can still get better, with the young players we have [who are] highly talented. We have enough older players, but in the end it’s a team sport and it’s a ball game where we have to play together. The older players, the younger players, all have to come together and be united on the pitch.”
You said the improvements you wanted to implement would take time. Did you have an initial timescale in mind?
”Well yes, of course, when you play every week or every other week, or even every three days you have to win the games. As I said earlier on, I would have thought the progress would move quicker than it has, but so far we are progressing and developing the team and we have to do that in the next couple of weeks and months. It’s the only thing that we can do and at the same time get the possible results out of these games.”
How do you assess the mentality of this current group of players? Do they have that elite-level mindset?
”In order to discuss that, we need to establish what does mentality mean. As I said so far, if one of our players wasn’t giving his very best and putting his all into it, I would address that to him, you can be sure of that. So far I haven’t seen that, but still, with the some players they start well and slow off a little. If we speak about Marcus Rashford for example, I think in the first twenty minutes of the game against Aston Villa he was good, on fire and was constantly involved. But then after that, he didn’t play on the same kind of energetic level that he did in the first half-hour. Of course we need to speak about that because he cannot do that regularly. Does he need a helping hand? What does it take? But I don’t see any of the players who do not care about the club or do not want to perform at the very highest level.”
Does Marcus need a break away from the team to help his performances improve or will a run in the team only further aid his confidence?
”With strikers, we all know that it’s all about playing well, scoring goals and getting assists. If that does not happen over a period of time, it is sometimes not easy. He is trying to give his very best and he does show that in training. There have been a couple of training sessions over the past few weeks when he has performed at the highest level and that is why I always give him the chance to play again. As long as he does that, he will always make my list to be involved within the starting XI. Of course, it’s about showing that on a regular basis and continuously playing at a high level. For him though, like anyone else, there is still room for improvement. The same is true for many of our young players, we have so many of them and again that brings me back to what Cristiano said, we have to work and develop as a team together and if it’s necessary to speak in a very direct manner to the boys in the locker room, you can be sure that we will, if the boys want to do that or I will also do that directly myself. But again you can only develop individual players if we first develop the performances of the team. This is the only way but we first must get the results and then the confidence will come. The confidence level will then raise and then we can look at developing the players individually.’’
Do you think you have the perfect role model in Cristiano who can help and aid that development you are speaking about?
”Yes, of course, but it’s not only Cristiano. We have Edinson, Harry, we have quite a few older players, David too, Victor, Bruno… we have enough experienced players. They can not only be role models themselves in training but also on the pitch too in the games and in the locker room. Together this could also be done in away games in the hotel, this has to happen. In a United team it must happen automatically and I can only invite and challenge players, the older players to do that on a regular basis. It will help in a team, none more so than the group we have right now.’’
Have you considered making Cristiano captain over Harry on a permanent basis?
”No, not right now. I don’t see a reason to do that because Harry has been the captain so far and as long as Harry is playing, he will be the captain. Then, if he is not playing, Cristiano will obviously step in but this can change from game to game. As I said it’s all dependent on who is playing.’’
Are there any updates on Anthony Martial? Will we see any players that want to leave do so during this month?
”I don’t know. We had some talks about that last week with John Murtough, Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold. We spoke about it but I am not involved in that directly, but of course they will let me know if something happens. The work behind the scenes is being done by John and his colleagues.”
Why do you think the team is still turning the ball over so cheaply in possession? Why is that still happening?
”Yes, I still think that is one of the biggest issues, we lose too many balls in transition when we have possession of the ball and make those wrong decisions. It is one of the things that worries me the most, I’ll be honest. We had quite a few situations on Monday where we had 3 v 3 and in the game before that against Wolves too. We have to learn to make the right decisions and stay calm on the ball, not play the ball too soon, too early. Those are the exact moments where we need to improve and be better. In total, as I said, the team is willing to develop, to work hard on those things. Defending the ball we have been better, but it’s not as easy as that right now to score goals against it. On the other hand we must make sure we are better when in possession of the ball. We can’t allow large numbers of giveaways with the ball and we must learn to make the right decision and not rush the pass. These are the moments we must be better in for the future.”