Rangnick: I admire Hodgson’s longevity

Saturday 26 February 2022 09:00

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has spoken of his admiration for Roy Hodgson’s footballing energy and longevity, ahead of today’s Premier League visit of Watford.

The 74-year-old came out of retirement exactly a month ago today, when he was appointed as the Hornets’ new manager on a deal until the end of the season. 

Now, he’s set to bring his Watford team to Old Trafford this afternoon (15:00 GMT kick-off) and will go up against Rangnick in England’s top flight for the first time in the process. 

In our exclusive pre-match Q&A, we asked Ralf about Hodgson, Nemanja Matic, the top-four battle and the FA Youth Cup.

Scroll down to read, and watch, the full conversation that the boss had with our very own Stewart Gardner prior to today’s fixture...

Rangnick's matchday Q&A Video

Rangnick's matchday Q&A

Ralf discusses this afternoon's keys to victory, building momentum and more in his exclusive pre-match interview...

Ralf, first of all, you were at Old Trafford on Thursday night and you saw the Under-18s make it through to the semi-finals of the Youth Cup. Have you been quite impressed by their efforts?
“Yes, I’m happy for the boys that they qualified for the semi-final. For me, it was the first time I got to see them play in a competitive game. Very technical football, very technical players with a lot of talent obviously. Now, it will be interesting to see in the future, in the next one, two, three years, if we will see some of those boys play in our first team. It’s a big step as we all know and in the end it’s all about determination, about mentality. But what I saw technically yesterday was really good.”

Do you think those lads could be inspired by someone like Anthony Elanga, who a year or so ago could have been playing in the Youth Cup and now he’s playing in the Champions League?
“I hope so. He’s the best example of what can happen in two or three months. When I came here at the beginning of December, he had already had on his own mind [that he was leaving on loan], almost left, it was only about to which club he should go on loan. For me, it was clear after the first training session I saw him that this was an interesting player, and we should rather consider to keep him in the club. This shows what is possible in football with a top mentality, a professional mentality and hopefully he can be a person they are trying to improve and develop their careers in a similar way.”
Just a word on the team news Ralf, you didn’t have Scott McTominay or Edinson Cavani in Madrid, what’s the situation for this weekend?
“It’s exactly the same [the situation as it was before the Atletico game]. He hasn’t been training with us, so he won’t be available for tomorrow’s game. The same is true with Scotty, he is still ill, he hasn’t been training with us. So, hopefully they can start training with us again next week, but for tomorrow’s game they will both not be available.”

Obviously, you put a lot of physical effort into that game and didn’t get back until sort of three or four in the morning. Will that be in your mind when you’re picking the line-up, trying to get some freshness into the team?
“Yeah it could be, but to be honest yesterday we just had a little bit of a recovery training for those who played, so I will have to see them this afternoon to take the final decisions. In order to do that, I need to be speaking to the players themselves, to the physios, to the medical department and they have the same situation at Watford. They played at home against Crystal Palace at the same kick-off time, yes they didn’t have to travel, but they have to travel now to Manchester. I don’t think there is much difference in recovery times between the two teams.”
Part one: Ralf's Watford press conference Video

Part one: Ralf's Watford press conference

In part one of the press conference, Rangnick discusses UEFA's decision on Russia, facing Watford and Anthony Elanga...

Your substitutions have been really important in games, not just in the last week, but we’ve seen that throughout your time here at United. How big a part of management and coaching is that, the use of the bench and the way to change the game?
“Yes it’s obviously a big part. I would have loved to have five subs as well in the Premier League, but unfortunately this is not the case. I can still only hope, and I think it’s not only me but most of the other managers of the other clubs as well, that they change their mind at one stage and allow five substitutions. That was important for us in the Champions League game. It’s one of the jobs of managers, that they help their team to win games, and it’s important that we could change and regroup at half-time and in the second half by bringing on fresh players and all of them helped to improve our performance in the second half.

One of those was Nemanja Matic, who doesn’t often get the headlines. He came on and seem to calm things down in that midfield area, how important is he a part of the squad?
“Yes again, [he’s] very important, a very experience player, very positive in his approach. But also critical, he speaks up when he has got something to say. It’s not only that he calmed down the game, but we had more options in our build-up, we had our full-backs positioned higher from that very moment. He was more or less playing like a quarterback, and we could build up with himself and the two centre-backs. Our full-backs were positioned higher, we had more verticality, more speed, more movement with Anthony and Jesse [Lingard] later on and that’s why it was a completely different game from our perspective in the second half.”
Part two: Ralf's Watford press conference Video

Part two: Ralf's Watford press conference

Watch the second part of Ralf's media briefing for his take on Dean Henderson, the top four, Marcus Rashford and more...

In terms of the top-four battle, this week we saw Tottenham lose and Arsenal win last night. When you look at it, do you think it is going to go all the way to the end of the season?
“It could be, yes. I never expected it to be safe three or four games before the end of the season but it’s all up to us. We have to put our own focus on our own games and winning games, this is what it is all about. We are now unbeaten for 10 games although we didn’t always play on our highest possible level, and now it’s about keeping that momentum, winning the game [against Watford] and then being ready and full of confidence to play a difficult away game at Manchester City. We are fully aware of that. But our focus now is on tomorrow’s game, and we have to try everything we possibly can physically, tactically, technically to play on the highest possible level tomorrow and beat Watford.”

Roy Hodgson has been a manager for 46 years – 1976 was his first job and he’s still going. Do you admire that sort of longevity?
“Yes, I admire him for his energy and it’s still a difference if you are a manger in England with that many games to play without a winter break, so I admire him for that. I’m not so sure if in my 70s I still want to be in charge as a head coach, no matter in which country, but this is what I admire him for. He’s a fantastic person, whenever I saw him in the past, whenever we spoke, it was always great fun to speak with him and he’s just a nice character.”