Giuseppe Rossi: Why I am back at United
Former striker Giuseppe Rossi believes it is
“something beautiful” to be back with Manchester United.
The 31-year-old spoke to us at the Aon Training Complex on Wednesday after his latest session with caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the first-team squad.
After leaving the club in 2007 to join Villarreal, the striker is delighted to be back working with some of the best players in the game and feeling sharp and confident. Rossi, who was most recently with Genoa, is relishing the opportunity to enhance his fitness and hopes to find a new club soon.
Here's what the ex-Italy international had to say in our exclusive interview.
So, Giuseppe, what brings you back to United?
“It’s just good to be back with the guys and be back in this environment, which I tasted 14 years ago when I first arrived. I’m just training with them, staying fit and just looking to stay sharp.”
How much have things changed since you left?
“The facilities itself have changed a bit. But I see the same people around and that’s great to see. It still has its homely feeling.”
Does it remain that same club to you – a family club you can come back to like this?
“Yeah, of course. I mean the gesture from the team, from Ole and from everybody else, having me back is just something beautiful. It’s something I don’t take for granted and something that I really appreciate.”
What is your situation at the moment? You’re looking sharp in training – Sir Alex was impressed with one of your goals the other day…
“Well, that’s great to hear from him! I’m training, staying fit and, each day, obviously getting better playing with these top-class players. So it’s very easy to get back into the groove, to get back to your sharpness because, if you’re not sharp, they will let you hear it! But things are going very well. The lads have accepted me very nicely and it’s a pleasure to be here.”
Are you ready to get back playing regular football?
“Of course! I’ve been ready for a while. Unfortunately, it’s been four or five months when I haven’t had a team but I’m just eager to get back.”
So what is the next step? Are you pondering your options at the moment?
“I’m just waiting and seeing, taking it day by day and enjoying my training sessions with the guys. Like I said, I’ll take it day by day and see what happens but hopefully something good comes along.”
It’s a good time as the transfer window is open and a lot of clubs are looking for strikers – they seem in quite short supply at the moment…
“I don’t know if there are a lot of teams that need strikers but this is a moment when many transfers happen, obviously in January, and we’ll just see.”
As a striker, are there elements you can teach younger players, particularly when it comes to finishing?
“I've had a long career and I’ve had a lot of ups and a few downs, unfortunately, with these injuries. Whatever I can give back to the game to the young ones is always something I like to do. Whether I will always be available to do that, as I’m obviously focused on my game and trying to be better in my game. Hopefully, I’ll be good enough for any team I will be playing for in the future.”
You always had that technique and Ole was another striker who was a deadly finisher. Is that something that can’t be teached and is just innate?
“I guess it’s something just in you. In order to be a striker at the top level, you need to have that instinct and know where the goal is at all times and the right angles. I think that’s very important, the angles in which a player sees when about to strike a ball. Ole was one of the best ones out there to do it but there are a few amazing strikers in this United team who are really impressing me in training.”
Marcus Rashford is playing particularly well at the moment and we have some young strikers coming through the ranks. Have you had chance to take a good look at them first hand?
“Marcus has been amazing since Ole came back and he scored a great goal against Tottenham. Lukaku has been doing amazing things in training. It’s a pleasure to be around these great strikers.”
Did you think Ole would go into coaching when he finished playing?
“I never really thought about it. I’ve seen what he has been doing in these past weeks with United and it’s not an easy task. It’s definitely not an easy task being a coach of one of the best teams in the world. But he’s done tremendous and brought back a lot of serenity in this environment, plus he has top, top, top quality players. Things are going very, very well.”
I guess the mood in the camp is high after the win over Spurs…
“Yeah, it’s great. The atmosphere in the training sessions and in the changing room is great. The banter is great. I’ve been here a good 10 days and have been listening in. It’s just a great, great group.”
You were at the Under-23s’ match against Fulham – do you enjoy watching games at that level?
“Of course. That brought back a lot of memories to when I was playing. That [Leigh] wasn’t the field we played at and it was a little bit different. [Ours was] a little bit smaller and a bit colder. But it brought back a lot of memories and it was great to see Ricky [Sbragia], who was my coach back in the day. I’m happy things are going well.”
When you played for the Reserves, there was a story the coaches would tell you once you’d scored once to try setting up your team-mates instead. I’m not sure if that was true but you were certainly prolific at that level…
“We had many good games and good runs in the Reserves. We won everything there was to win and those performances helped me to get into the first team and perform at first-team level at a very young age. It was great because we had very good coaches and the level of play was great. We had players in the reserve team who went on to have great careers and it’s a privilege to have played there.”
We remember you scoring in the FA Cup against Burton and playing so well in the replay, but you felt the time was right to go out and further your career…
“I was 20 years old and I wanted to taste more first-team football and show the world I was capable of playing at a high level. I thought it was time to show that and I had the opportunity to go [permanently] to Villarreal, which was a very good decision. I played many, many years there in La Liga and scored many goals to show the world what I was capable of doing.”
Was it hard coming over from Parma at an early age, even if you did go back there on loan to score the goals to help them stay up?
“I was very young. I’d had five years over there in Parma, then had the possibility to go on loan there for six months and play first-team football. They were great times in their youth system but, whenever you get a call from such a big team like Manchester United, you definitely don’t think twice and that’s the way I thought about it.”
Have you missed any other parts of Manchester since you’ve been away?
“Truthfully, I miss this training ground. This is something that I’ve never seen anywhere I’ve been. The atmosphere at Old Trafford is something that I’ve never felt anywhere outside of it. Those are the things I really do miss but it’s just great to be back here and just to be around this facility and this club.”
Did it not feel strange in a way to you, coming back to an environment where you had spent so much time?
“No, it was strange for the first couple of days, definitely. Leaving when I was a young kid and coming back as a man, with a lot of games under my belt, it is kind of strange. I still walk around these corridors and feel like I’m still a young 17-year-old kid who just came to the club.”
You’ve managed to go out in Manchester – and tried to visit Juan [Mata]’s restaurant…
“Yeah, it was closed. He definitely didn’t tell me that! But I went the day after and it was very good.”
You’re still only 31 so you have plenty of years of football ahead of you…
“I’m still young, I’m still young! I’ve got a lot of quality football in me and I came here to show it.”
Have you had any thoughts yet on what you’ll do after football?
“I’m still focused on what I’ve got to do and that’s playing football.”