Ralf Rangnick says 'club will decide' what happens with his future and praises Man Utd's players for their response to his arrival; watch Norwich vs Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League on Saturday Night Football - kick-off 5.30pm
Saturday 11 December 2021 09:40, UK
Ralf Rangnick told Sky Sports he is "more than happy" with the attitude of his squad since becoming Manchester United interim manager - and said the club will decide his future.
Rangnick, appointed until the summer at the end of November following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, immediately set about improving United and led them to a first home clean sheet in the Premier League this season in his managerial bow against Crystal Palace, before a much-changed line-up drew with Young Boys in the Champions League.
Now in the job for more than two weeks, the German told Sky Sports those games - and a fortnight's worth of training - has helped him to get up to speed with the quality of his new squad, and that he has been delighted with their response to their poor start to the season ahead of visiting Norwich, live on Saturday Night Football.
"So far, I'm more than happy with their attitude and eagerness to learn and get information that will help them get better not only against [without] the ball but with it," he said.
"Having only two clean sheets until the Crystal Palace game and having no clean sheets since April at Old Trafford, it was very clear for me where our first focus should be for the first couple of days and weeks.
"If we can produce more clean sheets, if we don't even allow [the opponent] to even shoot on our goal, the more I'm convinced that we will win games because with this group of players we are always capable of creating chances and scoring goals.
"I know them better than I did seven or eight games ago and now it's about continuing to build on what we showed, especially against Crystal Palace. It's a challenging game coming up at Norwich - with a new manager there, they have improved, they're playing with a different style - more direct, more vertical - but if we build on the performance against Palace, I believe we have a good chance to win the game."
Rangnick is currently in line to take up a two-year consultancy spell at Old Trafford before the 2022/23 season, but in the press conference announcing his appointment, he joked he may 'recommend he continues as coach' if asked to give his opinion about the future direction of the club.
He was more coy about his future when questioned again about whether he could be tempted to stay on in the dugout on a permanent basis - and said his players had plenty of ambition to succeed during his interim tenure.
"This is not the time to speak or think about that," he added. "I've not had any thought about that, in the past and not now. For me the focus is on the next training session, the next game. There is enough time for the club to decide what will happen in the future.
"The players are as ambitious as I am - they want to make the best out of this season. They want to finish [high] up in the top flight if possible, they want to play as long as possible in the FA Cup and even more so in the Champions League. We want to win as many games as possible - starting with the next game."
Rangnick has been known to be a difficult man to please in previous roles, and famously unveiled a 'spinning wheel' of player punishments for anyone stepping out of line at RB Leipzig.
The 63-year-old had no issue accentuating the positive about his Manchester United players' start under his reign however, pinpointing two moments when asked what he had enjoyed most about their response to his management so far.
"Two things stick out in my memory," he said. "One was the way we prepared the goal [against Palace], not only the way Fred scored it but also the way it was set up over the wing from the right full-back. Mason [Greenwood] then played a perfect ball back into the right foot of Fred. The way we created that was brilliant.
"And defensively, we had a situation in the first half where Victor Lindelof won the first ball and two seconds later, because the ball bounced off into the next lane, he won the ball again, so he had two situations in the middle of the other team's half where, as a full-back, he marked through, played very proactively and won both balls. This is the way we want to play in the future."
Rangnick says it is not his job to convince Paul Pogba or any other player to stay at Manchester United.
The midfielder's future is once again the subject of intense speculation, with Pogba out of contract next summer.
Pogba was due to return to the UK from Dubai on Friday, where he undertook a warm-weather rehabilitation programme to recover from a thigh injury sustained on international duty with France in November.
Rangnick, who spoke to Pogba over the phone on Tuesday, anticipates it will be another two weeks until the World Cup winner can return to first-team training and then a further two weeks to reach the required level of intensity to play in his United system.
The 63-year-old said he is looking forward to working with Pogba but stated it was not his job - nor that of anyone else at the club - to convince any player of the merits of staying at United.
"Players have to want to stay and play for the club," said Rangnick. "For a big club like Manchester United, if a player does not want to play for a club like Manchester United, even in the long term, I don't think it makes sense to convince him to change his mind.
"This is such a massive club [with] such fantastic support, I don't think that anyone in the club should then try to convince the player to stay.
"But on the other hand, let's wait and see. I've spoken with him for 15 minutes over the phone a few days ago. Let's have him come back, get fully fit, train with the team and then we will see where we stand [and] how the team has developed by then.
"He can be an important player, I'm fully aware of that, but this is true for all the other players that we have.
"I'm not only the coach of Paul Pogba once he's fully fit, I'm also the coach of all the other players and my ambition is to make them better, to develop each individual player, and this is only possible by improving the performance of the whole team."
Norwich vs Man Utd is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
Alice Piper is joined by Sky Sports football journalists Ron Walker, Charlotte Marsh and Ben Grounds to look ahead to the Premier League weekend.
PART 1 | Ralf Rangnick's start at Manchester United goes under the microscope ahead of their trip to Norwich. Plus, Steven Gerrard goes back to Anfield for the first time as a manager, when Aston Villa face Liverpool. We look at his start in the Midlands and that romantic return.
PART 2 | Leicester host Newcastle on Sunday, with Eddie Howe looking to land back-to-back wins for the Magpies. We assess their chances of doing that. Plus, after Everton's last-gasp win over Arsenal, we build up to their Super Sunday clash with Crystal Palace and debate what Rafael Benitez must do to build on that victory.
PART 3 | We preview the Friday Night Football clash between Brentford and Watford, which starts a pivotal run of games for Claudio Ranieri's side, and also take a look at Chelsea's recent drop in form.