Ralf: I know what it means to the fans
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has spoken to club media ahead of the derby with City at the Etihad Stadium.
The boss answered questions from MUTV's Stewart Gardner about a number of topics relating to the short trip across town for the Premier League clash, which kicks off at 16:30 GMT.
He revealed more detail on the team news and the way City play, discussed the form of Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga and offered his view on the upsetting situation in Ukraine...
“Well it’s good to have him back. We have one more alternative in a central attacking position but he has been out for three weeks. That’s also something we have to bear in mind. I don’t think he could play for more than, I don’t know, half an hour. He’s ready for that, for coming on as a sub but I don’t think he can be in contention to start that game.”
We saw pictures of Scotty in training as well after he missed last week. Is that a boost as well ahead of a big game like this?
“Important to have him available. He’s been training the whole week. He’s been out one week only but he was really seriously ill and lost some weight. I think he could be in contention for the starting XI but I will decide on that on Saturday after the last training session.”
It's your first Manchester derby, what do you expect from the occasion really?
“I played quite a few derbies with Schalke against Borussia Dortmund and I know what that means to the fans. Sold-out stadium, fantastic atmosphere. It’s an important game for both teams and I’m looking forward to it.”
You obviously haven’t been in Manchester that long but do you get a sense of what it means to supporters, particularly supporters in this city?
“Yeah because I regularly meet fans either in the city, or in restaurants or after the game at Old Trafford when they wait for some autographs. I’m fully aware what that means but as I said, the derby of Schalke-Dortmund is one of the biggest derbies in Germany, if not in Europe, so I’m fully aware what that kind of game means.”
I don’t think you’ve faced Pep in Germany as a manager, but how much of a tactical challenge will it be playing one of his teams?
“Very challenging, because they have a very specific idea and style of football. Trying to create overloads in the half spaces, even including the goalkeeper. I think they are one of the few teams in Europe who use their goalkeeper as a centre half or centre back and with their false nine, with Cancelo for example playing like a six, they try to create overloads in midfield. We need to be aware of this and at the same time not let them play their kind of football all the time. We need to be on the front foot. We need to be proactive and always in a position where we can take the ball away from them or at least intercept and don’t let them be in possession all the time. This is the biggest challenge. We will see if we are ready for that. I think we’ve become more stable in defence. We haven’t conceded as many goals as the team did until the end of November. We create enough chances in the last couple of games and now it’s about showing that against one of the best teams in the world.”
I’ve noticed we’ve created the most chances in the league recently. Is it just a case of finding the cutting edge? What can you do to remedy this, because the chances are being created as we can all see?
“Yes, it’s a question of being clinical. It’s also a question of being focused and making sure we don’t think ‘OK, maybe the next opportunity will come up, it doesn’t matter’. No, you have to be clinical. I don’t expect us to create as many chances against Manchester City as we did against Watford so maybe we create three, four or five of them but then you need to be clinical if you want to win. These kind of games you need to make sure you reward yourself.”
Our own Player of the Month award went down to the wire between Sancho and Elanga. Jadon has won it, he’s got the most votes from fans. What would you say about his upturn in form after quite a difficult start to life at Manchester United?
“I knew him since he was 17, when he flew with the English Under-17 team to Portugal. I watched him together with Hudson-Odoi playing in the same team when I was with Leipzig. Then he decided not to join us at Leipzig but to go to Borussia Dortmund. He had four outstanding years there and became one of the best players in the Bundesliga. It took him some time to get used to this different league and a different, more physical kind of football. The Jadon Sancho that we’ve seen recently in the last eight weeks is getting closer to the one I knew from Germany. There is still more space for improvement for him. He could even get better: scoring more goals, being more influential on our game. I think he’s on the right pathway right now.”
Anthony got a lot of votes as well. Since that unfortunate shoot-out against Middlesbrough, does that say a lot about his character and the way everyone has supported him?
“Yes, he’s a fantastic person, a great character. Again, he’s also a player with talent, some weapons but he’s not a finished product. He knows that and that’s the good thing about it: he knows he can get better and has to develop as a player but I don’t see why this shouldn’t happen. If I look at the way he’s developed in the last three months since I came here, I don’t see why this, all of a sudden, should stop.”
After David De Gea won three successive awards, is it good to see attacking players featuring again? Is that a sign that area of the team is improving?
“Yes I think it’s obvious the team has improved in different areas. We’ve reduced the number of goals we’ve conceded and created a lot of chances. I think we are in the top three with regard to expected goals but in the end football is a game of results and you need to get the points. I think we could easily have four, if not six, points more. We’ve dropped points after being 1- or 2-0 up and we’ve had games like the one against Watford where we should have easily been 2-0 up at half-time and it should have been a 2- or 3-0 win. But we didn’t and this is why we are under pressure now in a game like this, against a team like Man City. Not only because it’s a derby, not only because it’s important for our supporters but it’s important for us in the table. So we need to, if possible, take three points from that game. We’re fully aware we need a top performance to achieve that.”
You had the idea of making that peace sign before the game against Watford and both teams rallied around that message. Are you pleased with the way football has basically reacted in general to the situation in Ukraine?
“I think this is something for everybody in the world… Together with the league, who are organising that in a good way, we have to stand up and show the world that this completely useless war should stop as soon as possible. I think nobody could have imagined that this could happen in the middle of Europe, only two-and-a-half hours away from where we are right now. I think it’s the duty of everybody, of us in the business of football, but also everybody else, to make it clear and to tell everybody that this has to stop.”