Part two of Ralf’s pre-City press conference
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick addressed the media on Friday ahead of Sunday’s derby away to Manchester City in the Premier League.
Following on from the first part of that press conference, ahead of the 16:30 GMT kick-off at the Etihad Stadium, the second section has now been released in line with Saturday’s 22:30 GMT embargo.
In the latter half of his media briefing, which you can now watch and read in full below, Rangnick was asked about his first Manchester derby, the key to victory against Pep Guardiola’s men and our pursuit of a spot in next season’s Champions League.
You can see every word from those answers and more, prior to Sunday’s trip across town, by scrolling down…
Ralf, you have the individual players to beat City, we know that, but if you do win, it’ll be regarded as a surprise result. Do you think we’re a long way from a City-United meeting where it’ll be like a heavyweight, real 50-50 game, maybe two years away from that? How do you think?
“I don’t know. Last season, Manchester United won 2-0 at the Etihad. In October or November at Old Trafford, Man City won 2-0 in style, it could have been a higher margin in the end. But now for us, it’s confirming the development of the team in the last three months. We’ve been unbeaten for the last 11 games, we haven’t lost a single away game since I arrived but we know this will be the biggest challenge so far. We haven’t played against a team of that kind of quality so far and for us it’s about confirming this development on Sunday against one of the best teams in the world.”
“I don’t know if I’d call it a shock result, on paper, they seem to be favourite but games are not decided on paper. They are decided on the pitch. I’m convinced we can win the game, that we can create moments where we create chances ourselves, but it’s highly important that we don’t let them dominate the game as they did in November, and this is what it’s all about in this game.”
You’ve got some great individual players, but is this a game where, because of the way City play, your team have to bend themselves into being very disciplined, very tactically aware and kind of bend themselves for the team rather than play as individuals? Is that the biggest test in those terms?
“We have to be as compact as we can be, we have to play as much as a team as we can. It will be challenging for us, we will have moments in the game where we will have to chase the ball, not have the ball for one or two minutes but this shouldn’t happen all the time and this is what’s it all about. All the teams that managed to do that like Arsenal, like Southampton, also at times like Tottenham, they had their moments [against City]. Even Brighton had their moments even though in the end it was a 1-4 defeat at home. It’s about being on the front foot, being courageous, also creating moments where we can put them under pressure and this is what the game will be all about.”
“We need to perform on the highest possible level and I know we can do that, that we have players that can do that but it’s about showing it on Sunday on the pitch.”
You mentioned the win at the Etihad last season, United have beaten Pep’s City six times in the last few years since he’s been here. This is obviously a team capable of going toe-to-toe with City for 90 minutes but they finished behind them nine years in a row, why’s this a team that can turn it on for 90 minutes against City but can’t match this consistency? What has to change to turn this into a fight over 38 games?
“This would be a long answer and probably take too much of our time to answer. As I said earlier on, Pep has been there now for almost six years, he came in 2016, Jurgen [Klopp arrived in] 2015 as far as I remember to Liverpool. So, obviously it’s a question of consistency, continuity, knowing exactly how I want to play as a club, as a manager. Having a clear transfer strategy, signing players who fit into that system and that’s what both clubs have been doing in the last five or six years. If I look at their transfer success, they haven’t had many players who after one or two years somebody would have said, ‘maybe that wasn’t the right signing’. They’re pretty successful, both clubs. This is where I think Manchester United has to go again, under Sir Alex they were there until 10 years ago but since then, there’s been quite a few different managers here at the club and in order to close the gap towards those two clubs, I wouldn’t say we have to do the same thing. We have our own identity, Manchester United as a club, we should always go down our own pathway but in total, professional football is pretty easy. You have to have a clear identity of how you want to play, how even the supporters want to see you play and this has always been attractive, offensive, proactive, entertaining football and then from there, make sure that the recruitment is right, that you get the best possible players, that you’re quick enough in the transfer market, knowing the transfer market and then signing the right players at the right moment. Then, on top of that, having the best possible manager, head coach, coaching staff who can develop those players.”
“I mean when you have a change of manager in the season, no matter which club and I’m not only refereeing to Manchester United now, obviously some things have gone wrong, some things have not developed in the way they have been expected to develop. But this is the case all over the world if this happens. For me now, coming here in the middle of the season was about stabilising the club, stabilising the team, not conceding as many goals as we did at the end of November. This is something we have achieved. We have also created more chances to win more games, we have dropped a few unnecessary points to be honest, we could have easily had four or six points more after being one or two nil up in games but the development that has taken place, for me, is obvious but of course it could go quicker and now it’s about sustainably making sure this development takes place for this season, until the end of this season and then obviously take the right decisions for the future, for next season and the upcoming years.”
You talk about the challenges and the plans for the future months and future years, clearly there’s going to be a lot of big challenges in the coming months, is the biggest for all for these players? Because it’s clearly going to be a massive summer, there’s clearly going to be players coming in and what not, is the challenge as much as anything for the current lot to prove that they deserve to be part of what Man United is going to be if it all goes to plan?
“It is but this should be the case in professional football all the time, that you have competition and players should know that they have to perform in order to play, in order to either have a new contract, be renewed or be kept in the club, this is something that should happen all the time in professional football.”
“This interpretation is a little bit, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s too simplistic to be honest. Now for us, it’s about getting the best out of the current squad and what I can assure you is that the atmosphere in the locker room, the focus in the training sessions is good. We have no issues whatsoever, so all those side noises about not a good atmosphere in the locker room, the players not being focused in training is not correct. I wouldn’t tell this if this was not the truth. They get on well with each other, we have a full focus in every training session and it’s trying with our kind of football and those moments we have already improved, it’s getting the best results as possible in the next games.”
You had that good result in Madrid, this is your first game against a top-four side. Is this an opportunity for you to make a statement as a manger, to show the fans that you’re punching in the right direction?
“I think we had another game against a top-four team, against West Ham at the time, but we are all aware how important this game is for us as a club, in the table, for the supporters. We are fully aware this is a big derby game, we need the points as much as they need the points. They need the points in order to be in the title race with Liverpool and we need the points in order to still be able to finish fourth in the table at the end of the season. So, this is a highly important game for both teams.”
“I mean financially, everyone knows what that would mean, you would have less money available for your budget and of course it would be better for all the players, all the staff members if you play Champions League next season and it would also maybe make negotiations with any new players easier, but this is how it is. Right now, it’s up to us to try everything we possibly can to try and qualify for the Champions League.”