Ralf Rangnick

Every word from Ralf's press conference

Friday 21 January 2022 13:30

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has hinted that the Reds could look to play with a three-at-the-back formation more often in the weeks and months ahead.

After starting with a 4-3-3 system, Ralf withdrew a forward, in Cristiano Ronaldo, for centre-back Harry Maguire at Brentford on Wednesday, as United looked to hold on to a two-goal advantage in London.

The German had previously admitted that he should have done the same at Villa Park last weekend, when we were eventually pegged back by Aston Villa despite leading 2-0 going into the final 15 minutes.

However, the tactic worked against the Bees in midweek – although the scoreline ended 3-1 rather than 2-0 – and Ralf is open to deploying three central defenders more often, after some work on the training ground.

The 63-year-old also touched upon the Ronaldo substitution in his Friday conference, while giving updates on Jadon Sancho, Victor Lindelof and Jesse Lingard. Read the transcript in full below...

United v West Ham: Rangnick's press conference Video

United v West Ham: Rangnick's press conference

Get ready for Saturday's huge Premier League match by watching part one of Ralf's press conference...

Good afternoon Ralf, how are you? Could we start with some team news please? There were quite a few out in your previous game against Brentford. Sancho, will he be available for selection tomorrow?
“He didn't train yesterday because he still asked us to be able to not train. He attended that funeral on Wednesday. It's still affected him quite a lot. He is expected back today at three o’clock. Right now it’s not sure if he will be available for the game tomorrow because it was an important member of family, someone he was close to all his life. Therefore I have to wait and see. I’ll speak to him during training and after training and then we will make a decision on whether he will be available for tomorrow.”

In regards to the other night, we’ve just heard Victor Lindelof’s house was broken into while his family were at home. How is he and how is the club supporting him and his family?
“I spoke with him at length on our flight back home from London. Also this morning we spoke for about 20, 25 minutes this morning. He told me what had actually happened and that this was a traumatic event especially for his wife and three-year-old son. He said to me that he right now needs to stay at home. He doesn't want to leave his wife and family on their own, which I can fully understand, being a father of two children myself. We agreed that he will not be training today and won't be available tomorrow for the game.”

There’s been lots of talk this week about Jesse Lingard’s future and lots of speculation linking Manchester United to all manner of players. What is the latest on Jesse and, in an ideal world, I know January isn’t the easiest market but would you like to make a January signing?
“With regard to Jesse, it's the same as with quite a few other players. He’s a really good player, I see that in every training session, for me it's normal that other clubs like, for example, Newcastle show interest in him. I'm not the one who is dealing with that. I know there might be some interest from other clubs but if you ask me now what will happen in the next 10 days until the closure of the window, I can't answer that question I’m afraid.”

Hello Ralf, can I ask you about Diogo Dalot? He’s not someone who was playing so much before you came but he’s become far more regular. What’s he doing right to stay in your team? In which areas is he impressing you and where does he need to improve?
“Offensively, he has a lot of assets. He’s somebody who can deliver crosses from the wing and he can take on players in one on one situations. The areas he can still improve, where there is space for improvement, is obviously in his defensive work. He's not that much of a defensive full-back but more of an offensive full-back. This is normal, there are quite a few other full-backs in other clubs where it’s the same. Quite a few of those full-backs formerly played as right or left wingers. So far, with the development since I’m here of Diogo and Alex Telles I am happy. They get more game time right now because Luke is injured and Aaron is still ill. So yeah I’m happy to have those two players available. As I said, offensively both of them have their assets and their strengths but defensively there is still some space for improvement.”

Hi Ralf. Just going back to Jesse, is it just the case that he’s simply worth more to you in the squad – should you need to call on him in case of illness or injury – as opposed to any potential fee, permanent or loan, you might be able to get this month?
“As I said, it’s also a question of what does the player want, what options does he really have? Does he see a chance to get more game time? Those are all questions that I cannot answer for him or for other players. This is something that has to be done by the players and their agents themselves. What I can say is he’s a very good player, a technical player and of course he can play for many Premier League clubs on a regular basis. Here at Manchester United it is not so easy as we have other players who can also play in that position and we can't change from one game to the other five or six positions. As I said, for him, I know his contract is expiring in the summer but the question is what does he want to do? Does he want to get more gametime from now on? Therefore it’s quite legitimate to speak about other options, but I wouldn't be unhappy if he stayed until the rest of season. I know he is a player who can always play, even if we need to play him from the start. I know what kind of level I will get from him. That’s how I would describe the situation.”

If Man United are going to wait until the summer for transfers, how big of a building process is that going to be? Not knowing whether you’re going to be the interim manager next season or whether it’s going to be somebody else…
“Well my full focus, as I have indicated early on, is to win games with this team. In order to win games we need to develop as a team and we need to improve in some areas. I think we've done so in the last couple of weeks but there is still more space for that in vast areas of our game. This is where my focus is and I'm not that much dealing with other things that might happen in three or four or five months. This is an issue that is not top of my list. Top of my list is how we can win the game with West Ham and after the international break, the upcoming games: in the cup against Middlesbrough, Burnley. We are playing Southampton at home, Brighton at home. This is where my focus will be.”

Good afternoon, Ralf. I’d like to talk to you about your comments you made about moving to three at the back. You said you wished you had done it during the Aston Villa game and then you did implement that during the Brentford game. How are you finding the adaptation process during games and knowing when to change these areas as it were and how to bring your methods to this Manchester United team?
“Well in a way football is a little bit like chess. Things can change so quickly during a game. Watching last night’s semi-final in the Carabao Cup [between Arsenal and Liverpool] you could see things can change from one minute to the other. Some parts of the game you are dominating the game and pinning a team back into their half and their box and all of a sudden it can be different. Therefore it's also important to be able to react to what a game needs and what a team needs. In fact we had exactly the same constellation [of players] at Brentford that we had at Villa. We played 2-0 up against a team that will not give up. Even in the Premier League at 3-0 down teams tend to not just give up a game. For me it was logical, with the negative experience we had at Villa Park, to do it differently this time. It was clear that we bring on Harry and then defend this 2-0 result. In the end we even scored the third one on the counter-attack and from then on it was clear we were going to win the game.”

This method of experience, are we to understand that if this constellation would appear again that you would go for the same method of three at the back?
“Yes, I think all teams in football should be able to play different formations. You’ve said with that constellation, we should always be able to play with a back three. Even under Ole, he played at times in the Champions League against Atalanta or in the Premier League away at Tottenham with a back three. So why shouldn't we be able to play with a back three, with the kind of quality centre-backs we have and the same with our full-backs? We spoke earlier on about Diogo and Alex Telles. They are both offensively strong, so they would be even more valuable as wing-backs. For me, I would do it again but I would also not exclude at times in the season altering the philosophy to a back three [from the start]. In order to do that we also need some training time. This could, for example, happen in the week after the international break that we need to train like that. It is also depending on the players that are being available.”

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Ralf, obviously the defensive substitution meant that Ronaldo went off and he reacted the way that he did. I don’t know if you’ve managed to speak to him again since then? I wonder how you deal with the situation because he’s such a big name, he attracts such attention and any kind of displeasure gets reported on and magnified. How do you deal with that?
“Well I think we shouldn't make too much of a fuss out of it. I can only speak for myself and my coaching staff. I explained that to him, even during the game when we had that little conversation after we scored the third goal. In fact, I told him the same as what I just said in our press conference [post-match on Wednesday]. A job of a football manager is to help teams win games. For me it was clear after the experience being made at Villa Park that this time we have to do things better. We did it better and the only question was who do we take off? Of course, Cristiano is a prolific goalscorer and as a player will always want to play and score goals. He was also asking: “Why me? Why not take off one of the younger players?” The answer to that came five minutes later when one of the younger players scored the third goal. Maybe Cristiano could have also scored that third but football is not always about maybe. It's about taking the decision in the right moment. We were 2-0 up and Cristiano gave the assist for the second goal, when he chested the ball to Bruno. It was tactically, by the way, one of the best situations in the game, that our central striker came towards the ball and at the same time, Bruno as one of our eights was sprinting vertical. This was the reason why we, in the end, were able to create an easy tap-in goal for Mason, but again he hasn't been substituted, I believe, for the first time in his career. I think there have been other substitutions, even under Sir Alex. That a player like Cristiano doesn't like to be substituted, for me, is pretty normal. His reaction was emotional, but for me this is not a problem at all. I've been managing other players, maybe not with quite as a big a name as Cristiano but I also had players like Krasimir Balakov, like a young Klaas Huntelaar, or Raul at Schalke, Ebbe Sand. So I know how offensive players behave and react to this sort of substitution but again it's about our team, it’s about getting points. We are in a position where every single game is of great importance to where we need to make sure we get the maximum amount of points out of it. This is the most important part. The team is more important than… it doesn’t matter who it is, whether it’s Cristiano, Edinson or Bruno, any other player. Bruno has also been substituted and he was not happy with that in the last couple of weeks. It is about what is in the best interests of the team and the club.”