How United will approach the international break
Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick has confirmed the majority of the squad will be given time off next week, during the international break.
FIFA has created a one-off January window for non-UEFA national sides to catch up on World Cup qualifiers, with the COVID-19 pandemic having caused widespread disruption to fixtures outside of Europe last year.
Fred, Alex Telles (both Brazil) and Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) have been called up, while Eric Bailly and Hannibal could still be at the Africa Cup of Nations, with Ivory Coast and Tunisia looking well set to reach the knockout stages.
The rest of United’s players will be allowed ‘a couple of days of rest’, though, Ralf confirmed, with an overseas training camp ruled out due to coronavirus regulations.
Read the German’s full explanation of our plans at the end of his matchday Q&A, where he also discusses with Stewart Gardner the fitness of two Reds, Robert Lewandowski’s recent award and the impact assistant coach Chris Armas has made in his short time with United…
“Well, it was the first training session yesterday after two-and-a-half months of injury and in this training session he showed, in every moment, when we played 6v6 or whatever we did in the rondos, that he’s an extraordinary player and that he can give a lot of positive input into the team, if he’s fully focused. I had a long conversation with him for more than an hour after the training session, a very good conversation. He committed himself until the end of the season. He explained to me that he wants to be the best possible Paul Pogba that he can be. Yes, I’m very much looking forward to having him available in two weeks’ time, after the international break, for three different competitions. As I said, what I saw in training yesterday was amazing. Very good standard of performance physically, emotionally and technically. Now it’s about showing that and having that transfer on to the pitch once he’s fully available.”
I think you mentioned in the press conference there you hope Ronaldo and Rashford are going to be OK, depending on the session today. What about Wan-Bissaka? Is he available again?
“No, not yet. He’s still ill, I’m afraid. He will not be available for the game tomorrow and also probably not available for the West Ham game. Hopefully again, after the international break, he will be back for training.”
Do you have any other knocks Ralf or will it be the same squad again, apart from the guys coming back from suspension obviously?
“Yes, apart from that, we have all other players available. Jesse Lingard might be out through injury. We have to wait and see what happens with Anthony Martial. He didn’t train yesterday, neither on Sunday. According to the doctor, he informed me before the press conference that he can be a candidate for training today. Then we will see after the training and take it from there.”
Obviously Ronaldo was honoured at the FIFA FIFPRO awards. He’s 37 next month, how does he stand so high? You’ve worked with him the last few months, how does he do it? What’s his secret?
“Well in the end, you’ll have to ask him what his secret is! As far as I can tell, he’s always been a top professional, looking after himself. All the important things that need to be done to still play on this kind of level. Your nutrition, sleep: whatever he does, if you look at his body he’s extremely fit and he makes sure that he does all the important things to keep this level as long as possible.”
Robert Lewandowski was voted the Best Men’s Player, another experienced player. Would you agree with that, Ralf? He’s had an extraordinary few years…
“Yeah, Robert has been one of the best, if not the best, central strikers in Germany. For sure, in Germany and also in Europe. He scored 41 or 42 goals last season in the German Bundesliga and an additional couple of goals in the Champions League and in the German Cup so he’s an amazing, outstanding player.”
Brentford [A]: Part one of Ralf's press conference
What did Ralf discuss with the media? Progression, Brentford, injuries, Martial, Elanga, Ronaldo and more...
It was good to see Bruno Fernandes scoring a couple of goals at the weekend. Do you think he’s getting back to his best at Man United?
“I mean, yes, for me again, if you look at his performances last season and how many goals he scored and how many assists he gave, this is the level I want him to play at. It was a very good performance at Villa Park, not only because he scored two goals but also what he did defensively and tactically, for the first 70 minutes. Again, he’s a very important player for us for the next couple of months.”
It’s Brentford’s first Premier League season and they have a clear system and way of playing. Have you been quite impressed with them and coach Thomas Frank?
“Yes, with a smaller club like Brentford, the influence of the board and especially a coach like Thomas Frank is high. You can see exactly what he wants them to play. Very structured, 3-5-2 formation. They’re not easy to play against at all, especially at home. They are stronger at home than away and you can also see that if you look at the results, home and away. For us, we need to have the confidence. We showed that confidence at Villa Park for 70 minutes, that we can travel there and win the game. Obviously after giving away the two points in the last 15 minutes of the game, we need the three points tomorrow even more, so we have the confidence that we are able to win there.”
We spoke to your assistant Chris Armas this week. How has he settled in and how helpful is he to you?
“Very helpful. We haven’t worked together before that, the same is true with Ewan Sharp but with Chris Armas, we knew each other from our mutual time with Red Bull when he was head coach and assistant coach with New York Red Bulls. He’s very helpful, not only very loyal but also very helpful and it’s very helpful he’s a native speaker. He knows how to communicate with players and he also had a high level of respect now from the players, they know that he’s a good guy and also a good expert in different areas. I’m very happy to have him on board.”
Finally Ralf, after this week there is an international break. Are there any plans for that? Is it about training, rest or a training camp?
“We will give the players a couple of days of rest, because it doesn’t make sense to train for two weeks – to travel to a training camp with the COVID regulations would also have been difficult. That’s why we decided to give them a couple of days off and then prepare for a normal week of training for the cup game against Middlesbrough.”