What lessons were learned from game one and how important is the players’ attitude considering what happened in Istanbul?
“Well, you know that when you go away to the Turkish champions, you know that’s going to be a difficult game anyway. We have experienced that at Man United a few times before. Nothing unexpected there. The level of concentration needs to be better. We know that the two goals that we conceded were on bad breaks and counter-attacks. In one or two other moments we caused our own problems with our organisation when we had the ball. We need to be… not patient in our approach, more disciplined in our positioning because any little lack of concentration and they’re up and running. The first goal was obviously the worst goal to concede. The second goal as well was a counter-attack. Then we’ve looked at the game and looked at the ways we should break them down.”
Have you seen over the last few games the sort of response from the players that you were looking for, bearing in mind that there probably were words after the Istanbul match?
“Of course, we played really well against Everton straight after, then there was an international break. Then we start with a win against West Brom – a clean sheet again and could have scored a few more. We’ve got two wins on the bounce and, of course, we want to carry that momentum on.”
How is the squad looking? Obviously there’s a tight turnaround and you mentioned that you weren’t sure if [Paul] Pogba was going to be available for this match – how’s he looking?
“We hope he’s going to be available. He trained this morning and we’ll see if there’s any reaction when we report tomorrow. Still Luke Shaw is out. [Phil] Jones is out. Jesse [Lingard] is still self-isolating after being in contact with a positive case [of COVID-19]. There are one or two little things that we need to look at in the morning, but hopefully everyone else is available.”
Can I just clarify the situation with Luke because you mentioned after the Everton game it looked serious and he might be out for between four to six weeks. Is it likely to be closer to the four-week period or the six?
“I hope nearer to four, but with any occurrence of hamstring injuries you can’t risk anything and he’s still not near training with us. We’ll see how he reacts to the progress and the rehab work. Hopefully nearer four, but more probably closer to five or six.”
Your old player Fredrik Gulbrandsen has been in good form recently after scoring three goals in his last two games. How do you see him as a player and how many problems could he cause Manchester United tomorrow?
“Obviously I prepared a team last time… you have to prepare a team against different types of players. Demba Ba was the more likely striker to play but I also mentioned to all my coaches here that Fredrik is a real threat with his pace, his directness and his quality. He came on in their last game and scored two goals. Great strike for the first goal; the second goal was also a good goal. [He’s] quick and strong – that’s the Fredrik I know. He’s one of the better volleyers of a ball that I have ever coached. I’ve prepared my team again for him. He came on last time and he showed his pace. We’re prepared for both, against two different types of striker, because they are very different.”
Will Dean Henderson get another start tomorrow night and how pleased have you been with him since he’s come back into the squad? Do you think that rivalry is helping to push David [De Gea] onto the levels that we know he is capable of, as we saw against West Brom?
“I’ve been very happy with the competition that Dean has provided for David, and the response from David. Dean has not really put a foot wrong. He’s developing and he’s maturing along the way, which I am very happy with. I’m not going to give you the team now, [if] it’s Dean or David, I’m not going to say. But I’m very happy with the reaction of both players, I have to say.”
Anthony Martial scored a lot of goals last season – he never went more than three games without scoring. He seems to be finding it a lot more difficult this season – what is the reason for that?
“You’re right, Anthony really did develop last season. I thought he took big strides towards becoming the striker that we know he can be. Then again, Anthony is no different from other players in the team in that he’s not had a pre-season as normal. He’s working to get to his peak form. Obviously, he lost three games, well, three-and-a-half games… almost four games with the suspension and that was very early in the Tottenham game. He’s lost too much football. He scored against Basaksehir last time [with] a good header. We hope that he’s just going to keep working hard to get to his best again.”
Before the last game against Istanbul Basaksehir, you mentioned that United are getting closer to the principles of play that you want them to do. Could you elaborate on those a bit? What’s your ultimate long-term vision for this United team and how you want them to play?
“How long have you got? Because that deserves more than just one sentence and I don’t think we have that time. Of course, we look at Man United throughout the history, we’re a team that wants to attack; we want to be good on the break, we want to have quick attacking players to cause problems when we’ve defended well. But, then again, more and more teams when they drop back and you want to be the team that can break teams down. I think we showed that against Everton the type of team we can be. We scored from crosses, from long attacks that we built up and we scored the winning goal on the counter-attack. So, we don’t want to be defined by just one style of play. We want to have positive players, expressing their talents and of course we want to dominate games. We’re working on it and the players are developing.”
How important is it that you win this game tomorrow given the make-up of the group? I know that you’re top at the moment, but it could change quite quickly given the strengths of the other teams in the group…
“It’s always a good question. The short answer is: very. We know the look of the group. We’re disappointed by losing the last game against Istanbul. We need at least 10 points to go through, definitely, but maybe it’s even likely that you have to have 12 points. We’re going to go into this game trying to win it and then try to win it well with a good performance because we’ve got games coming up thick and fast. Getting to 10 points as quickly as we can was always the main point, and defeat was a big blow last time.”
Bruno Fernandes has played a lot of football since he came to the club and there haven’t been many opportunities to rest him. Do you see a game like this as an opportunity to maybe rotate in his position? With the five subs rule, are you embracing that in the Champions League, given it’s not available in the Premier League games?
“Five subs isn’t a relief, but it gives you the chance to rest players earlier because if you want to make two subs at half-time, you’ve still got the chance to make subs and rest players. It’s going to be a long season and it’s not just about this game, but it’s the whole accumulation of football. I like the five subs and I also like the size of the squads because the players feel they’re involved, especially during lockdown when sometimes you’re told you’re not in the squad you’ve got to stay at home, you’ve got no one to see. You can’t go and see a friend and see the game with your friend. It’s another [aspect of] mental welfare that we have to look after the players. The Champions League, I like it. Bruno… he’s not going to be able to play very single game, that’s for sure. When he only played one-and-a-half games for Portugal during the international break, I was very happy.”
Just going back to Anthony Martial, if you look at Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane scoring 20 to 25 Premier League goals a season, that’s the kind of standard you expect from a Man United player, the type of standard you need. Can Martial do that for you? Can he get into that category of being prolific in the league?
“I think Anthony last season showed that he’d made big strides. Now it’s time again to make even bigger strides to develop more. He scored 23 or 24 goals last season which was a big return. Every season is a challenge and you can’t rest on your laurels as a right-back, or left-back, or centre-forward at Man United. There are demands in any position. We want Anthony to kick on. I thought for France against Portugal, he showed his qualities as a centre-forward getting into position. Then [Rui] Patricio made a few good saves and that might have affected Anthony’s confidence. For me, it’s him getting the chances, that’s the big thing, because I know his conversion rate has always been good. Maybe at the moment the keepers have made a few saves against him, but that will change quickly.”
Back on Dean Henderson – if he doesn’t play tomorrow night he may potentially only have one more appearance this calendar year, in the League Cup. How do you keep an ambitious young keeper happy with that limited number of appearances. Is there any concern on his part because he’s made his England debut and the Euros are coming up. Can you understand how he’s desperate to play more?
“Dean wants to stay at Man United and play for Man United. I can’t see the logic in him having only one more potential appearance before Christmas. Do you know how many games we’ve got? So I disagree completely if tomorrow is a make-or-break for Dean. He’s come back in and trained really well. He’s maturing, he’s had some games. He’s training with, for me, one of the best keepers in the world. He’s got potential to be one of the best keepers in the world. It’s great competition between them, so I don’t buy that argument that it’s a make-or-break for him. It’s not up to me to keep everyone happy, you know? I’ve said that a few times that the performances will always be the deciding factor for if you play or not. I think every position that you play for Man United it’s your duty, or your responsibility, to make me and the coaches happy so there’s a bigger chance that you can play next time.“
You said after the West Brom game that sometimes the three points are more important than the performance, but United have often seemed to struggle against the smaller teams that defend deep. What do you think about that and is that something that you are worried about?
“We’re trying to develop the squad and the team to become good at all different phases of the game. I thought the Everton game was the perfect example of when teams drop into their own half, how to outplay teams. I think the first two goals were long attacks built from the back with loads of passes and then crosses. The last one we scored from a quick counter attack when we had to defend really well at the time. The first goal decides what type of game it becomes. If you get the first goal it’s a different type of game. It’s always decided on different moments of games. I feel we’re moving in the right direction.”
Source: man utd.com