Rangnick's matchday Q&A
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has previewed Saturday teatime’s match-up with Leicester City in an exclusive sit-down interview with club media.
The German coach offers his thoughts on the 2022 FIFA World Cup with MUTV’s Stewart Gardner, as well as congratulating Bruno Fernandes on his new long-term contract at the club and two crucial goals for Portugal in qualifying.
Rangnick explains how being back at United will help Victor Lindelof and Anthony Elanga after their nation, Sweden, suffered defeat in a play-off final to Poland. He also provides a team news update ahead of the Leicester game, and considers how the Foxes have enjoyed a small revival in form recently.
Ralf also outlines his expectations of United fans on Saturday after club captain Harry Maguire endured a tricky international break.
Read every word from the boss ahead of our first Premier League match since a dramatic 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on 12 March...
Ralf, first of all you’ve had players spread all over the world far and wide, can you just tell us what the situation is fitness-wise ahead of this weekend?
“Yeah, they all seem to be fit. The only player who is injured, unfortunately again, is Edinson Cavani. In his second game, he had to be substituted after 25 minutes with some calf problems. According to the doctor, he will be out for a couple of weeks, four weeks, maybe even five weeks. So, we have to wait and see. That’s obviously bad news to have another striker missing out. Apart from that, all the others seem to be fit.”
And the ones who are long-haul flights, the Brazilians in South America, obviously a long trip back but they’re okay for this weekend hopefully as well?
"Yeah, they flew back directly after the game. By today [Friday], they should have overcame any jet-lag problems and I think they’re all available."
I suppose you’ve got some players who are elated after qualifying for the World Cup and a few who are deflated after not qualifying, do you ever have to lift players who have had a disappointing time over the internationals?
"Yeah, obviously Portugal qualified so for Bruno, Cristiano and Diogo it was a great experience, they were in a good mood when they came back, even more so because Bruno scored the two goals that helped them qualify for the World Cup. The two Swedish players, Victor Lindelof and Anthony Elanga, yeah, they were disappointed because they lost that final qualifier against Poland, but all the others are in a good mood and I think the time being here now with our players will also help Victor and Anthony to overcome this disappointing experience."
And would you expect United fans at Old Trafford this weekend to get right behind Harry Maguire who had a difficult time with some so-called England fans at the internationals this week?
"I think that this will happen. As far as I have met the experience with our great supporters, with our Red Army, I’m pretty sure that they will support not only Harry but the whole team as they did in the last two games against Tottenham and against Atletico. He has been an important player, Harry, both for England and for our club and that’s why I’m pretty convinced that this will happen."
A new contract this week for Bruno as well, how important do you think he is for United and will be hopefully over the next five years or so?
"He’s one of our most important and one of our best players, obviously. Signing a new contract in a a not-so-easy situation, as we are in right now, shows how attractive the club still is and that’s very good news for the fans, for the club, for everybody here involved in the club. I congratulated him for that new contract and both the two goals he scored in qualifying for the World Cup. That’s good news and I hope that both the signature on the new contract and the two goals will give him a boost for tomorrow [Saturday] and for the next games."
Nine games to go and you want to win every game, of course, but do you have a target in mind for what you think we will need to get fourth, or is it one game at a time?
"It’s one game at a time but obviously we cannot afford to drop points anymore. To start with [against Leicester], we have to try everything to win the game tomorrow but even if we do so, it’s not only in our own hands because Arsenal are four points ahead, have one game in hand against Chelsea, but we also have some difficult games. Our focus is on the next game, which is Leicester. Not an easy game, they had a good run recently with three wins out of the last four games and a few injured players coming back so we are fully aware that this is a good opponent but we are also aware that if we perform well that we can beat them, quite like West Ham or Tottenham."
I know some supporters look at the run-ins of other teams and where they might drop points. Do you do that or are you just concentrating on us really?
"I think it doesn’t make sense to do that. In a way, you will probably automatically do that, more so if you win yourself, but we have to put our focus on tomorrow’s [Saturday's] game, prepare the team in the best possible way and try everything to get the three points out of this game."
It was also announced this week that they’re going to have five substitutes again next season. Do you think that’s the right thing for next year to have five substitutes?
"For sure, we should have had that season. I would have loved to have it this season, for various reasons. It’s player care, to make sure in times like this you don’t have too many injuries, even more so with the number of games that players have to play for the big clubs. The second thing is it’s good for young players because it gives them more game-time and also for the atmosphere in the locker room and around the whole team, it’s better. If you have 18 on-field players on the player squad list and can only substitute three of them, you will always have five players who will not come on, so therefore I think it’s overdue that this happens, even more so because in the other big five leagues, five substitutes are normal."
Finally, Ralf, it’s the World Cup draw today [Friday]. I know it’s a long way off, but even at this early stage, who do you think might be favourites at the World Cup?
"It’s difficult to say. I think England has a top team, yeah, they are definitely a team who could play a vital role. I also think Germany with Hansi Flick are in a good position now again, but since the World Cup takes place in Qatar and even if they [may] have air conditioning in most of those stadiums, it’s a difficult constellation, playing in the winter, having a World Cup break in winter in the middle of the season, so this is a completely new experience for everybody. It will be interesting to see. I think an advantage for England could be even that the World Cup is being played in the middle of the season because in the last couple of years, not only couple of years, but centuries, I think the last time England won the World Cup was back in 1966. I remember that was my first World Cup that I can still remember, I was eight years old when this game was being played at Wembley against [West] Germany. It has always been a problem for England to play a World Cup at the end of a very, very long season with the most number of games to be played and therefore I think that the fact this World Cup is being played in the middle of the season could turn out to be an advantage for England."