Every word from Carrick and Maguire
Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick and club captain Harry Maguire faced the media on Monday, ahead of our UEFA Champions League clash with Villarreal.
During the press conference, both Carrick and Maguire paid tribute to former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, thanking the Norwegian for his efforts and emphasising that the team is now looking forward as we bid to turn the recent poor form around.
Here's what the caretaker boss and captain had to say, starting with Michael...
“First of all, it’s obviously been an emotional day. Yesterday, for myself and everybody at the club. I’ve been working with Ole for three years now and known him for an awful lot longer than that and knowing the person that he is, the values that he has and lives by and how he treats people. To see Ole unfortunately lose his job yesterday was tough for me. It was tough for a lot of people at the club. You could tell by the emotion that was around the place yesterday and what Ole meant to everyone. We understand and Ole obviously understands. He said it himself, results in this business is everything. As much as you build a foundation and the right culture and treat people the right way, sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve unfortunately. I want to say a massive thank you to Ole, especially from me and the staff as well as the players because I’ve learned an awful lot from him. He taught me a lot and it’s been an absolute pleasure working with him. Sad, sad, sad day initially and I wish Ole all the very best. On the flip-side, football’s football and business is as usual today. We've got a big game to prepare for for tomorrow. It’s a privilege for me now to sit in this position. I understand the responsibility that comes with that and now the focus is to flipping our minds and looking forward quickly. It’s what this club does very well and what this club’s done really well historically and that’s certainly the aim now. We’re very much looking forward to the game tomorrow, going over there with a real positive mind and attitude. The boys will be ready for it, so, yeah, we can’t wait for the game to come.”
Could I get a little bit of your thoughts on what you've been told going forwards, how long you might be in this position and what you’ll bring to this role? Obviously you’ll pick the team tomorrow, do you think there’s changes that needs to be made?
"In terms of what I’ve been told and understand… My thought process and mindset is preparing the team for tomorrow night, give my best. Obviously, I know the boys really well, the staff and the club really well. This club’s been my life for an awful long time now. It’s the sacrifice and dedication that you've got to get and you've got to give and I’m prepared to do that. However long it takes, I’m prepared to do that for… Whether it's one game, whether it’s two games or a stretch longer than that. Right now, I'm not too sure. That's not something that’s on my mind, it’s literally about tomorrow. It's a big game, obviously for us in terms of the group stage and we’re trying to get through on that. I just have to go about the job as I know and trust myself and trust the people who got behind me and the staff and the players, going there positive and look forward to the game, it’s a fantastic game to be playing in, it’s a fantastic game of football. These are the nights you’re tested and remember when you're pushed to the limit. These are the ones where you find out what you’ve got. I'm really looking forward to it. I was looking forward to today, preparing the players and I’m looking forward hugely to tomorrow night."
As one of Ole's coaching staff, you’ve had a first-hand look at how it has unfolded this season. From that perspective, why do you think it has unravelled the way it has? Is there such a huge expectation at the start of the season, with season-on-season progress and the signings you’ve made but it’s just fallen apart. Why is that?
"Listen, we can sit and talk about all sorts of different things. For me, it’s not the time to look back I think. Of course, I know in my own mind what happened and what could’ve been improved. As Harry [Maguire] has already said I think it’s important everyone look at themselves and what we can do better. It's easy to look elsewhere. As a player it was exactly the same, thinking what you can improve on and what’s next. For me, what’s next is that we're about to catch a plane to Spain and prepare the team for the game tomorrow. That really is my focus and I’m really looking forward to the game to come around"
Obviously you were a part of Ole's coaching staff. In your games in charge, however many there may be, will we see a significant change tactically or anything else?
"We'll have to wait and see. I’ve worked closely with Ole for a long time now and we have very similar beliefs like we did as players and obviously as manager. Yes, of course, I've got my own personality to Ole but of course it's going to be similar because that’s why we've worked together for so long. We’ll have to wait and see, I’m not going to give much away, my plans are clear in my head how we want to play and how we will go about it. I’m looking forward to seeing it on the pitch."
It's obviously a very quick turnaround between games. How difficult is it for you to put your own stamp on a team with one training session and 24 hours?
"Yeah, obviously it’s a challenge, of course it is. The initial reaction yesterday, coming to terms with the situation… But quite quickly you have to focus on the responsibility. It's such a great club and working for this club in whatever capacity, nevermind the position I’m in now, I don’t take that lightly in any way, shape or form. I’m going to throw myself into doing everything I can. Of course, it's limited time, I’m well aware of that but it’s a challenge I'm relishing at the moment. Sitting here is a huge responsibility but you look forward to it. I've got great people here helping me and and a great group of players. I know it hasn’t been like we want it to be recently but it’s a fantastic group here.”
I know this isn’t the circumstances you would have hoped to get this opportunity but we all know what happened with Ole when he was so successful, so the question is: do you have ambitions to manage this club longer and is this an opportunity for you to show what you’re capable of?
"First and foremost, it's been literally a day, just about 24 hours since everything unfolded. The game's not much further away in terms of time so all I've been thinking about is the game tomorrow night. I'm not looking past that. Of course we've got another game coming up past that, a big game at the weekend but we’ll address that when we need to. For however long I’m here I’ll do my best to get results and hopefully we’ll get good ones. We should get good ones. I truly believe that we should get good results and we’ll wait and see what happens after that.”
As a former player yourself, normally players like to have a bit of certainty of who’s going to be in charge at the club. At the moment, the plan is to have a caretaker, then an interim, and then a permanent manager, potentially three managers in six months, two managers now. Is there a fear that that could be destabilising to players and is it important that there’s some sort of clarity of who’s going to be in charge and that that is given to players pretty quickly?
"To be honest with you, that's not anything for me to get involved in right now. My sole focus and attention is the game tomorrow night. We can’t go past that whatever. That’s the responsibility I’ve got given by the club and there’s obviously other people deciding what happens next. I’m fully aware of that and I totally respect that. It’s not my position to comment on that.”
I was just wondering if you could talk us through how Ed approached you? What are you hoping to achieve in this time in charge?
"I found out yesterday morning at the training ground. I didn’t know anything at all until then, I don’t think any of us did. As I arrived at the training ground yesterday, I spoke to Ed, and Ole was already here, I'd seen Ole before that. So that’s how it came about. It was a bit of a rush to organise training and carry out the day’s work. It went really well all things considered yesterday. Everyone adapted and reacted really well. And Ole… How he addressed everyone, it was no surprise with the class of the man and how loyal he is, given the situation and then, yeah, as I’ve said it’s about me preparing the team for tomorrow. We’re in good shape, we’re really looking forward to the game. We’re in a good place going into the game and we’ll make sure of that. For this club, whoever’s in charge, the responsibility is to win football matches. That will never change and that hasn’t changed since I stepped in the door and it happened long before that as well and it will continue after me for however long that will be."
You touched on the meeting with Ole and the players that you still have the full respect of the players and I’m sure you’ve had a meeting with players yourself. What have you told them to expect over the next couple of weeks?
"I haven't got into the next couple of weeks at all. As I’ve said, my focus is on tomorrow night anything past that is not for us to think about right now. It's big game of football, you can’t hide from that. We want them to enjoy it, express themselves. For me, it's a new challenge and something I'm looking forward to. Again, that’s what everything’s geared at towards tomorrow night. We've got a few days after this one until the next but for sure, it’s about looking forward to the game tomorrow."
It wasn’t just Saturday, it’s been some pretty bad results over the last few weeks and Ole has repeatedly said the team has trained well and looking good and you’ve said the same thing. What can you say to the fans to make them believe that there can be a change and that these results are not just going to continue?
"The biggest thing for the fans and for us is the results. I can sit here and say all sorts of different things and I would be speaking the truth about the training and how much we want to do well for this club. Honestly, right now, sitting here I don’t think I can say so much, it's about what we do in the next day, over the next few days and getting the right results, how we perform on the pitch, how we carry ourselves, how we behave. There’s a responsibility we have playing for this club which is not at many other clubs and that’s something that we embrace and got to respect massively all the time I’ve been at this club. That's what I expect for the players for sure."
You keep talking about tomorrow night and Villarreal. Can I ask you about Villarreal? This is the third time the clubs have met since May and the matches have been absolutely fascinating tactically to see. You’ve been there, do you think you’ve learned from those games?
"They're a very good team, very well-organised, very well-coached. Two different games in some ways. In the [Europa League] final I thought we did really well, stopped them for long periods but we didn’t have a cutting edge in the final third and that hurts when you get so close but we weren’t good enough on the night to finish it off. The first game [this season], it was pretty much what we expected. They’re a team that play the ball well, have got some nice connections over the pitch, good technical players who can pass the ball and keep the ball off you at times as well as speed and penetration on the last line, so for them it's a good mix, a good balance. So we respect that, yes, we played them a couple of times so we know each other a bit better, so we go there with a plan to go out on to the pitch and we really look forward to the game. It’s a big game for both teams at this stage of the competition, that goes without saying but one that we go there and really look forward to.”
Hi Harry, hope you’re OK. Can you just reflect on the last 24 hours? Obviously no-one really expected what happened at Watford to happen and did you fear the manager might lose his job?
"Well, like Michael’s said, I think it’s been a very hard time for us as players as well because of the amount of respect we have for the boss and what he’s done for a lot of us over the two-and-a-half year period he’s been here. We've been on a journey together, it’s never nice to see someone lose their job. For him to come in and speak to us yesterday, the emotion around the place… I think yeah it was difficult to be in. All the lads, it shows as a group of lads how much we want to succeed and like you said, the result on Saturday it wasn't good enough. The results recently haven’t been good enough and it's a result business and unfortunately Ole has paid the price for that. Obviously we’ve got to take a big responsibility for that as well."
Hi Harry, is it a case of the players having to take a little bit more responsibility on the football field?
"Of course, the players need to take responsibility for everything, on and off the football field. We are the ones that cross over the white line. We know it’s football, like I say we were in this together. We were a group, the management and the players. Ultimately the manager has paid the price and we're all so disappointed for that but we take huge responsibility. We haven't been good enough. We know that individually, collectively, as a team, as players. We spoke about that and now we’ve got to look forward and make sure we get this club back to where it was in the last two years. Obviously the last few months have been nowhere near good enough and like I said the players have huge responsibility for that as well."
What did Ole say yesterday? Collectively do you feel like you have let him down and have you got together as a group and spoken about it?
"Like I said, as a group of players, we take huge responsibility. We were in it together and as a group of lads we’ve done everything we can. We’ve got a good group of lads, a good spirit and the lads are giving everything. The lads want to succeed. Ultimately the recent performances and results haven’t been good enough. Of course we take a large amount of responsibility for that but that’s football and we know that. The manager come in and he spoke to us and it was an emotional day and everyone’s got a huge amount of respect for Ole and what he’s done for the club. He’s a legend of the club and he will remain a legend for the club. I don’t want to go into too much depth about what he said but he wished us well. He said he’d be supporting us, he said we needed to get back on track, get focused for the game against Villarreal now and make sure we go into it with a positive mindset. One thing he did say was that he’d be supporting us and wanting us to win every game of football which shows the value of the man."
What do you think has gone wrong? Is confidence low and how are you feeling ahead of what could be a tough game against Villarreal? Are you confident you can get out of this slump?
"Well I think in football you go through ups and downs and you go through tough times. I think if you look at the players now at this club, you’ll speak to a lot of them and I think they’ll probably say it’s their toughest time at club level. So we know it’s not been good enough, the recent performances haven’t been good enough. We haven’t been delivering individually but also collectively and when you’re not doing it collectively the results pay the price and like I said it’s snowballed from one thing to another. We’ve got to take huge responsibility for that and we’ve got to find something within ourselves. We’ve got to look forward, we’ve got to move this club forward and find something within ourselves, within the group to find that focus and mentality to produce a good performance tomorrow and get the result we need for this club."