really proud of. Players like Tom and Danny have been brought up on everything about this club, the history, the tradition… they are the heartbeat of the club.
What do you do when you have a player coming into the club already at the level of Robin van Persie? What can you do for him as a coach?
It’s such an exciting challenge when a player like Robin arrives. Our first job was to help make sure he settled in quickly. It was an advantage to us that we knew what sort of player he was. The biggest challenge for us was to, as quickly as possible, create an environment whereby Robin understood what the club is about, what the training is about and what the expectations are. It could not have gone any better – he’s been absolutely brilliant, and hopefully that will continue for the next two months and beyond.
What’s given you most satisfaction about the way United have performed this season?
I can tell you the biggest disappointment: losing to Madrid. We all know what happened at Old Trafford and what an impact that had on the remainder of the tie. That was very disappointing as I felt there was a strong belief in the squad that we could go all the way this season. Other than that, I can only be pleased at the way we have, after the massive disappointment of last season, bounced back and said to ourselves: ‘We’re going to do all we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again’. There has been a certain determination in our performances… I’ve sensed it in training as well. The players know we’re on a mission. We’re now at a stage where the end is coming into view and the challenge intensifies. We’re certainly very satisfied to be in the position we’re in and hopefully it can only get better because I think the players feel we need to not only win this trophy back but make a statement in the way we hopefully do it.
The players always talk about this being the most exciting time of the season. Is it the same for the coaching staff?
Absolutely. We will never forget what happened last season – there is nothing more disappointing for everyone involved when you work so hard to stand there empty-handed at the end of the season. I don’t want to feel like that ever again. That experience has an unbelievable after-effect. Everyone couldn’t wait to get started again this season. We are so fortunate to work for a club of this size and for a manager that has achieved so much and is still as hungry as he was before he won his first trophy, and that transmits itself to us and the players. The biggest lesson you can learn is that success in the past is not a guarantee for the future. If you