Ralf: We desperately wanted this victory

Monday 10 January 2022 23:26

Ralf Rangnick declared himself pleased with Manchester United's intensity levels after a highly competitive and energetic 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Emirates FA Cup third round.

Scott McTominay's eighth-minute goal means the Reds will now face Middlesbrough in round four, but the narrow win over Steven Gerrard's Villans was far from straightforward.

The visitors had two goals controversially disallowed via VAR, while United spurned a series of good situations throughout the game that could have helped us find a clinching second goal.

It made for a tense night at Old Trafford and for the interim manager, in particular. Afterwards, the German spoke to club media and gave his thoughts on the Reds' general performance, VAR's interventions, and the formation tweaks that he felt were key to securing victory...
PLEASED WITH OUR INTENSITY
 
"I think everybody expected a reaction to the Wolves game. I think the team showed a reaction. We didn't miss out on intensity, but we still had difficult moments in the game. First half, I thought, was good. We played a lot of diagonal balls; we kept the Villa team moving from one side to the other, scored a beautiful goal, but on the other hand, we were still struggling to get control in midfield. We knew that they are very flexible, Villa, with their midfield, with their two no.10s and their three no.6s and no.8s, so at times we were struggling."
 
TACTICAL CHANGES HELPED US CLOSE THE GAME

"It got much better in the second half when we changed to a diamond and, yes, in the last 15 minutes, we controlled the game. On the counter-attack, I would have wished us to take better decisions in the second half. Then we could have scored maybe even a second goal, but with 1-0 it's always tight until the very end."
WHY WE SWITCHED FORMATION

"We decided to play with a 4-2-3-1 with Edi up front, and with Bruno our no.10. But again, against a flexible midfield, at times, it was difficult, because with their 10s behind our sixes, ahead of our central defenders, it's not too easy to defend that. It's pretty challenging. As I said, after we changed to a diamond, it got better."
 
WE DESPERATELY WANTED TO WIN
 
"I saw more aggression, but I didn't necessarily see that much more pressing, because in order to see those pressing moments, you have to get into those pressing moments. As I said, it's difficult against Villa. But what I saw was a team that desperately wanted to win and, in the end, that's why we won the game."

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VAR DECISIONS WERE CORRECT
 
"It wasn't clear from the touchline, but when I saw it on video, for me it was clear that the player who blocked Edinson Cavani was clearly offside in that moment. In the end, I don't even know if the referee gave offside or a foul, but no matter why, it was definitely offside. He was definitely offside and therefore, for me, I wasn't surprised that he disallowed the goal."
 
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT ROUND
 
"Am I happy with the draw against Middlesbrough? Yes, that was the goal today: to try and get through. We knew, from the very moment that we got the draw [against Villa], that there could have been easier draws. But still, we won it. And now, in five days, we play them again in Birmingham. It will be another tough, tough game for us."
Raphael Varane shields the ball from the dangerous Ollie Watkins, as the Reds grind out a clean sheet.
DE GEA VITAL TO CLEAN SHEET
 
"We have to develop the team into a clean-sheet team and that was another one today but still David de Gea was outstanding again for me today. I would have wanted him to have less saves in total, I think we had four or five shots on [our] goal, but again we can still improve even in that area."
 
ARE WE MAKING PROGRESS?
 
"Yes. To say that this was a perfect game, nobody would believe that. Of course it was not. We still have quite a few things we can get better at but a clean sheet was important today and we worked together. There are still a lot of things to improve but it is easier to do that with a 1-0 win."

Ralf Rangnick was speaking to MUTV and BBC Sport.

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