Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick fielded questions from journalists ahead of the club’s Saturday away Premier League game against Arsenal
In part one of the press conference, Rangnick spoke about the lunchtime (12:30 BST) match against Arsenal, team news for the trip to the Gunners, club captain Harry Maguire and Mikel Arteta. You can read his thoughts on all those topics in full, here.
In part two of the press conference, the German coach spoke in greater detail about Erik ten Hag as well as answering questions on Paul Pogba, training methods and his own future at the club.
How fair would it be to characterise Paul Pogba as an enigma? I mean by that, he can play well, other times not so much. A fair characterisation of him as a footballer, an enigma?
“Doesn’t make sense right now, he’s injured most likely, he’s a player, won the world cup with France, he’s such a good player that he was a regular starter for a team like France.
We all know what kind of potential he has, how good of a player he can be but he was quite like a few other players, struggling to get his best performance, sustainably on the pitch for a team like Manchester United and this is not only the case this season or in the last couple of weeks as far as I remember this has been the case in earlier years.”
“That’s difficult to say, if myself and other coaches knew that it probably would have been easier to change that. I don’t know but right now it doesn’t make sense to think about that, as I said he won’t be available for the game tomorrow and most likely not for the other four upcoming games.
As it seems he will not renew his contract. I don’t know, maybe the club or Erik will also not want to renew the contract, I don’t know but it’s most likely he won’t be here anymore next season.”
More high-profile and decorated coaches than Erik ten Hag have been at this club and effectively failed, like Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho won titles all over Europe, what makes you convinced and the board convinced that Erik can succeed where they have failed?
“I think I spoke about that five minutes ago, it’s important obviously I think he’s a good character to start with, from all I’ve heard from people who have worked with him. He’s a very good character, very communicative, very much carry himself, doing things himself.
Obviously he needs the assistance of the whole club, all the people inside the club, I think he will get that. He will hopefully get the chance to mould a new team with the scouting department together with the board which is necessary obviously and for me this is the most vital part, that the club manages to get the best possible players and also change the attitude and also the energy.
I think we need a positive energy for the new team and it is also important for the new manager and if he gets that, I mean we spoke about other clubs that were in a similar position as Manchester United, five/six years ago. So the right lessons are being learnt from what’s happened this season.
This could be one of the few good things about a season like we are going through right now that at least you know what kind of screws you need to turn and the kind of things we need to change and if that happens, I mean why shouldn’t Erik ten Hag be a success as he was at Ajax? I mean it’s probably not the manager’s quality, it’s about changing all the other things that have brought the club to the position we are in right now.”
Is patience the key then because you said it could take two or three windows and then after the Liverpool defeat you said you are six years behind Liverpool so is patience the key? He’s got to be given time hasn’t he?
“I would rather say it’s more the level of expectation and also this has got to do with patience, yes but in a club like Manchester United, it’s difficult to tell people to be patient, it will take a little bit of time but we just have to face the current situation, we lost on aggregate against Liverpool 9:0, we lost against Manchester City on aggregate 6:1.
The team ever lost against teams like Watford 4:1, we lost to a team like Everton who were not full of confidence 1-0. This is just the reality, the sad reality and therefore I think it makes sense to have a bit of a sense or reality. I wouldn’t call it patience but the sense of reality we have to face and just accept, I wouldn’t say accept but acknowledge. This would also help Erik ten Hag for the future.”
Eric Bailly posted something on Instagram which effectively endorsed Harry Maguire being dropped and him playing ahead of him. Is that something you will speak to him about and is that also another example of the kind of character the squad, the club can’t have next season?
“I’m not on Instagram, I’m not communicating by Instagram, not at all.”
Is it a point of discipline? Do you think he has to be told he shouldn’t do that?
“I’m talking about my players now in the press conference not knowing what has happened. This doesn’t make sense but I can only tell you never in my life, I will not in my life be part of Instagram, Facebook or whatever. If this is true what you just told me, it’s not the right sign, this should not happen in a football team, no matter what league.”
I know Erik ten Hag will be concentrating on his own team’s title race but will obviously be looking at United games, the last few. Do a few players have to maybe put an idea in his head that they’ve got a future here that they have to perform and should be here next season? Because at the minute they’re not.
“It should be the case , I mean coming back to tomorrow’s game, we also said earlier on, we owe it to our supporters, there will be a couple of thousand travelling down to Arsenal tomorrow, we owe that to the millions of Manchester United supporters all over the world who watch the game on TV and it’s also a question of pride and honour towards themselves.
We cannot play like the way we played at Liverpool, this is just impossible. We showed in the last couple of weeks and months that we’re capable to play in a different way. Again tomorrow it’s about just showing the basics, being compact, coming behind the ball, being able to attack, to sprint in the right moments, not as we did when we conceded the first goal.
It was never the game plan to stand at the halfway line, even since Paul Pogba was already hobbling across the pitch, he should have laid down or sat down on the ground in that moment but he was trying to, I was watching that goal that we conceded, obviously quite a few times he was trying to hobble behind the referee to tell him he was injured.
Effectively one player down, attacking high up and a team like Liverpool, probably one of the best in the world in those transitional moments. That wasn’t particularly smart from our side. Again for tomorrow we just need to be and have shown that in quite a few way games, we need to be compact, close together and the front foot still and create our own transitional moments. This is the basics of the game.”
You’ve kept mentioning in previous press conferences this word ‘sustainability’, some performances have been good but not sustainable and you just mentioned it earlier today. How do you build sustainability and why do you think it’s so brittle at this club? Why do you think it’s sustainable for 20 minutes then goes away?
“We have to take it game by game, that’s why it doesn’t make sense to speculate which kind of percentage of chances we have to finish fourth. Maybe if we win all five games, but even then it’s not in our hands. We cannot influence the other results, only our own results.
The way we have played recently, I don’t think it makes sense to keep saying yes yes, we have a good chance of finishing fourth at the end. This doesn’t make sense, for me, right now, it’s only about getting a better performance onto the pitch tomorrow and then after that game, the next one is not an easy at home against Chelsea so it’s not about being sustainable now, it’s about showing a different mentality on the pitch, a different performance and sustainably changing things, that again is to do with things that happen in the future.”
How do you sustain that quality from the training field you mentioned before and translate that to the 90-minute performance?
“It has been similar, also in training, we haven’t been training at the level on the kind of level I would’ve wanted us to train and obviously we are very far away from the football I would like to play that I normally stand for as a manager.
We are very far away from that kind of football. Even when I watch Burnley, yesterday in the second half against Southampton and they are fighting for relegation and staying in the league. The way that they defended in the second half, didn’t allow Southampton a single chance to score in the second half.
This is what I mean by basics, those are the sort of things we need to try and get implemented, we need to show in the next games.”
You mentioned earlier you’d not spoken about your situation with the board but after what you’ve been through and what’ve you seen the past few months, do you still want to come back and be involved with United next season? Do you see yourself coming back in a role?
“At least we have an agreement on that role, in the end it is not a question that has be written on paper or has been agreed upon, it’s about what will really happen in everyday life and in everydays business, that is the question and it is also important how does Erik ten Hag see that, does he like to speak with somebody like myself, how close does he want to work together? Those are the things we haven’t spoken about. For me, I’m not worried about that at all.
For me it’s not a question of having agreed upon a contract for whatever, next two years. In fact I’m 64 very soon, for me it’s not about having a contract on paper, for me it’s about what will really happen. How much do Erik ten Hag and the board of Manchester United want to know about my opinion, about my experience and this is what we haven’t spoken about.”
Would you like to remain involved?
“I’m interested, I’m very much feeling with this club after these five and a half months and I still see what kind of options, what kind of base for improvement we could develop. Again having seen Liverpool play against us, having seen what has happened at other clubs and we also spoke about Arsenal, Tottenham.
Why should this not be possible here? I mean this is one of the biggest clubs in the world, we have perfect training conditions, a fantastic stadium, massive fan support, probably the best fan support I have ever experienced apart from Schalke in Germany.
This is just amazing, and of course I would like to be part of that process that has to happen but again I cannot right now, I don’t know if this can happen and how this has been appreciated and wanted.”
When David Moyes took over in 2013, he was very clear that he felt there was a big rebuilding job at that point, got a long contract but was sacked after ten months. Do you think that the club, if it’s bumpy over the next 12 months with Erik, the club will hold their nerve and realise that it’s going to require patience and some long term thinking to put this ship right?
“There was too many ifs and what would happen, I can only tell you what I’ve seen and heard and experienced so far. Erik ten Hag is a good choice, if not a very good choice, he has shown that in the past.
I’m pretty convinced he’s the best possible coach you can get right now and all the other things as I said earlier on, as sad as it is, as frustrating as it feels for everybody involved and believe me, for me this is really terribly frustrating because in the last ten years, if not fifteen years, we only experienced success.
Myself also as a sporting director and as a football manager. Yeah, in football you don’t always have the bright side, right now we are on the other side but as I said earlier the good thing that happened, one of the few good things is that it’s crystal clear, it’s not that difficult, you don’t even need glasses to analyse, to see where the problems are.
So now it’s only about how do we solve them and for me it’s clear, it’s not enough to do some little minor amendments, some little issues here and there, some minor cosmetic things, no.
This is in medicine you see an operation at the open heart, so there are more things to be changed then some little changes here and some minor things there, and this is the good thing, if this happens and everyone has to realise this has to happen and if people want to work together then it makes sense.
I still believe it doesn’t need to take two or three years to change those things, it could happen within one year and other clubs, not too far away from here have shown it doesn’t take three four years, it’s possible in one two maybe three transfer windows.”
Does this require strong leadership though, on and off the pitch? Without strong leadership going forward there’s no hope.
“This implies this is not also not only one single person or manager can do. With all respect to Jurgen and Pep, I’m sure they didn’t do all the things themselves, there were also other people involved in those two clubs.
People in certain positions, no matter which area it was in order to rebuild and build something that we want to build here in all areas, to have top people to work together in a very close and reliable way.”