Every word from Ralf's press conference

Monday 14 February 2022 13:59

Ralf Rangnick fielded questions from journalists ahead of Manchester United's Tuesday night Premier League match at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The club's interim manager offered his thoughts on Saturday's 1-1 draw against Southampton, outlining how United can stop a run of conceding in the second half after excellent displays before the break.

He also offered his thoughts on the form of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford and gave a quick team news update.

Read every word below...

Part one of Ralf's press conference: Brighton Video

Part one of Ralf's press conference: Brighton

Watch the first half of Rangnick's press conference, discussing injuries, progression, Jadon Sancho and more...

Good afternoon, Ralf. I'd like to ask you how are you looking team news-wise, how you came through the weekend, whether you've got a few players back like Edinson [Cavani] or Fred perhaps?
"Yes, Fred will be available again and he'll also be part of the group for tomorrow. Edinson is still out; the same with Nema [Nemanja Matic]. The rest is... Alex [Telles] is back again in the squad and already was part of the group for the Southampton game and he will also be available."

Hi Ralf, you've talked about the psychology side of things and the mental problems at the club... the player demands, are you asking too much of the players or is it the players that need to raise their levels?
"I don't know what you mean when you say I spoke about psychological things in the club. I mean, the situation is clear. In 11 out of 13 games since I arrived, we scored the first goal and we were 1-0 up. We didn't win all of them. Especially in the last three games, yeah, it was very sad that we didn't win those games because it cost us four points in the league and then the next round in the Cup. I think it's pretty obvious that the players are getting the ideas across the pitch, with every game it goes better, after the Wolves game. I think it started with the two games against Aston Villa and since then the players understand and feel how and why we are doing a good job and now it's about doing that sustainably for the entire game. This is the important next step we have to take. The first halves in the last couple of weeks have been really good, I've been more than happy with the performance that we've had in the first halves, we didn't concede a single goal in the last weeks in the first half. But as I said, the next step is to maintain our level and stay focused, physically, mentally, tactically. We just gave away those goals too easily. If I look at all those goals that we conceded in the second half, it was just too easy and it was also our own mistakes that we made to allow the other teams to score."

Hi Ralf, hope you're okay. You've got two jobs at the moment: managing the team and offering advice to the club when you've finished. Are you forming in your mind an idea of what Manchester United should be and what needs to be done in order for the club to be what it wants to be? Because clearly however this season works out, finishing fourth as the best-case scenario is not what Manchester United want.
"Right now, this is exactly what Man United needs to want, to finish fourth in the league. I think this is the highest possible achievement that we can get. There's no other things - yes, the Champions League, hoping to proceed to the next round of the Champions League, it's also not an easy one - but in the league currently, it's no. 4 that's our ambition, this is what we have to achieve and what we are aiming at. And about next season, yes, obviously, after being here for 10 or 11 weeks, of course, I know what it takes for next season, but it's not the time now to discuss this with anyone, my full focus is on tomorrow, and then Sunday, and then Wednesday in the Champions League. And the next couple of weeks. I think this is the only thing to deal with in the current situation, full focus on the current squad, getting the best out of this season and then, after that, there is time to speak about the next steps for the next season or the next couple of years."

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You mentioned last week about how it might be a psychological-mental issue as to why your players might not be doing as you'd hoped, especially in the second half after those good first halves. You've brought a psychologist in, is this an area which he could influence?
"As I said, and it's pretty obvious, if you are 1-0 up in the last couple of games, as I say, 11 out of 13, but we only won half of them, obviously when you are 1-0 up in three consecutive games and concede an equaliser, this also affects the mind of the players. They say 'well, we should have been 3, 4-0 up, or 2-0 or 3-0 up and all of a sudden it's 1-1', this affects the mindset of players, it's obvious. They are human beings, not robots, which is normal, but we should still improve. Of course, there are two things: number one is we have to be more effective to score a second and third goal and just kill the game off. This is number one. We create enough chances to do that. But even if this does not happen, then just stick to the game plan, stay solid, stay tactically disciplined, and this is the other issue that we have to achieve, and this is what I mean by taking the next step. Obviously if you concede that goal, you shouldn't be like we were against Burnley or against Middlesbrough or even as against Southampton - we could have been 2 or 3-0 up against Southampton, but we weren't - if you then concede an early goal in the second half, everyone can understand this affects also the confidence of the players. And yes, of course, I spoke with Sascha about that, and we regularly speak about that. The only thing we can do is speak to players one-by-one, to the group and as a whole team and explain to the group why we conceded the goal and what we should do afterwards to score the second or maybe the third goal."

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You mentioned fourth is the best possible finish for Manchester United. You'll be the fifth manager where the team hasn't seriously challenged for the title. All the managers seem to be getting the blame, all the other ones have got the blame, is it about time we stopped blaming the managers and blamed the players?
"Well, I don't know, if you look at the current table and the gap between not only us but other teams like Tottenham, Arsenal, just name them, and the top two or three teams, there are probably some reasons as to why they are that far ahead. Yes, this is something to talk about and to discuss at the end of the season, end of May and June, and then take the right decisions. I'm not sure if it's about the players. I can from the last 10 weeks, I can tell you they are ambitious, they work hard, they want to get better, they don't feel happy after a game like at Burnley, or Middlesbrough or now against Southampton. They want to win and my job is to help them and show them a pathway how they can win games. This is my job right now. And all the other things, we need to discuss at the end of the season."

Despite the results, Jadon Sancho has impressed, are we starting to see the real Jadon on the pitch now? And I know you said you had one-on-one chats with him, were they just about football or life away from football as well?
"I've known Jadon since he was 17 when he still played in England. I contacted him and his agent when he was 17, some four years ago, and tried to convince him to join us at Leipzig. In the end, he decided to go to Dortmund and had a great time there. I mean, his development there, he became one of the best wingers in the whole league, if not in Europe. And, yes, the step to a club like Manchester United was a big one, for anyone, and for a, at the time, 20-year-old, it was a massive, huge step. That this takes time is normal for me. I think the style of football we play and we want to play fits perfectly to his assets and his strengths, coming from the left side. And, yes, I also tried to show him, to give him my support, tell him that he should have a go even in this league, even if it's more physical and more competitive. And the same happened with other players who could or have played in those positions, and the same will hopefully happen in the next couple of weeks with a player like Marcus Rashford who also did well in the last couple of weeks. This is what it's all about, to get the best out of the players, let them play in their best possible position, and at this club, it's also helping them to cope with the pressure and the level of expectations that is different to that when he came to Dortmund at the age of 17 or 18."