Rangnick: We must show our character
Ralf Rangnick is calling on his Manchester United players to show character as the Reds look to get back to winning ways against Norwich City.
United host the Premier League's bottom club this Saturday afternoon and victory is vital as we look to bounce back from last weekend's defeat at Goodison Park and keep our top-four hopes alive.
Ralf spoke exclusively to club reporter Stewart Gardner ahead of the clash with the Canaries and called on his players to show their winning mentality...
Firstly Ralf, you had four players missing at Everton last week, so what is the latest situation ahead of this weekend?
“It hasn’t changed. We are missing five players – Edinson Cavani, Luke Shaw, Fred, Scott McTominay and Raphael Varane. Those are the same five players that were missing by the end of the game against Everton.”
Do you think some of those injuries might keep these players out for the rest of the season or are they relatively minor?
“I think probably with Raphael Varane, he’s the one who can hopefully come back for at least one of the next two games against Liverpool or Arsenal. With the others, I don’t see them coming back within the next couple of days.”
There are massive games coming up, but how important is it that the full focus is on Norwich?
“Very important. We have to show a reaction. For me, this game is also a test of character and mentality and we have to do everything to get the three points and show a far better performance compared to [the one] against Everton. Hopefully if we can win this game it will hopefully increase and improve our situation ahead of those two difficult away games coming up.”
Do you sense from training this week that the players want to show a reaction after a tough day at Everton?
“They have to. We have to show a reaction. It’s a question of pride and honour and also a question of character. We have to show that towards our fans. We also have to show that towards ourselves.”
You mentioned that players are missing [through injury] so, in the remaining games, would you also think about playing a young player or two or is your focus on playing the strongest available team?
“It’s always about playing the strongest available team because they are not friendly games and I don’t think we would do some of the youngsters a favour if we bring them in at the wrong moment. I love to play young players but in a moment when the team is performing well and playing with confidence. Then it could be the right moment to give young players game-time, but not in a situation like we’re in right now.”
Obviously it’s not in your own hands, but do you still believe in the top four and that we can make it?
“Mathematically it can happen, but it doesn’t help us at all if we speculate about that. It’s about us winning our own games, that’s the only thing we can influence and we can affect ourselves – our own performance and results. We need to make sure that we start winning games again. I said before the game against Leicester that we needed nine points out of the next three games. So far we have one point out of six from Leicester and Everton. So there is no point speculating about whether it's possible or not. Yes, mathematically it might still be possible, but we have to start winning games and we need to do that on Saturday.”
When the players see the Champions League games that have happened this week, does that give them extra determination to be back in that competition, because that’s where everyone wants to be?
“In order to do that and to think and behave like that, they don’t need to see the games on TV. For me, it’s rather painful and it hurts to see Atletico Madrid play against Manchester City. We should have been there ourselves. I think everybody knows that those are the moments you play for and you want to play in the Champions League, especially at a club like Manchester United. It’s up to us to make that happen again.”
Norwich gave us problems when we played them back in December – what do you expect from them?
“They are still fighting for survival although they are the bottom team. They will still try to play at the best possible level and win the game themselves. They beat Burnley last week and we have to take them seriously and we also have to be physically ready for the game and make sure we invest as much as we possibly can physically into the game.”
Their main striker is Teemu Pukki - did you sign him for Schalke about a decade ago?
“Yes we did, after we played against him for his team, Helsinki, in a Europa League qualifier. He played extremely well and we signed him in the last week of the transfer window at the time. When we saw each other at Norwich a few months ago we spoke about that time and that moment. The time when he came to Schalke was a difficult time for him, it was not easy to get into the starting XI with the players that were there at the time. But yes, that’s true, it was exactly that moment [we signed him] after the games against Helsinki.”
Finally, there are three home games to go, so how important is it that we show the fans something in those three games to reward them for their support during the whole campaign?
“[It's] not only at home we have to show that in the remaining seven games. That’s why I called it a test of character; we have to show the supporters and the media and the public that the speculation about a lack of mentality and character is not true. Even if I speak about that in the press conferences every week and I tell the journalists that I don’t think this is the case, it doesn’t help the truth because the reality is on the pitch. We have to show it on the pitch.”