How beneficial has this clear week been to you?
It has certainly helped to have the extra days recovery because it was a very quick [turnaround] between the three games last week that we had. Having a few days to recover has been good for us and hopefully, it shows.
How many teams do you think are realistically in the race for the top four?
Our idea is to try and challenge those top four teams, we don’t necessarily see ourselves as quite there yet but we want to try and challenge them, we want to try and have a good go at hanging in there.
We missed it last year by two points so the challenge to the players was to try and get those extra two points that might make it. Let’s be fair, the level of competition for those spots is very strong. Over recent years there have been quite a regular group of teams in there with the likes of Leicester and Tottenham in there at different times as well so it is not an easy group to break into and we will try and keep hanging in there and see where we end up.
Is centre-back an area that you are looking to improve and would Nat Phillips help you improve there?
I don’t know why you would ask me about a player directly because I cannot give you an answer whether I was or I wasn’t so you can take that as whatever answer you like.
This is the first time that you’re heading back to Old Trafford with a team above Manchester United in the table. That must give you a bit of satisfaction?
Of course it does because there are not many managers who go to Old Trafford with their team above them in the league. When you think of Sir Alex [Ferguson] as the manager and how hard it was for anybody to get in front of Manchester United.
I am pleased to be in front of them but what really matters is us getting three points and that we are ahead of them come the end of the season and this time of the season it does not really matter that much.
Do you think people were too quick to judge the job that you were doing?
When you go to the big clubs you get judged immediately and you have to expect that. I’ve said many times it is a brilliant club. It was a great, great job to have and I am more disappointed in myself that in my period I couldn’t do a better job. Overall as everybody has seen, Manchester United has had some of the best managers in the world, even in recent years, and it’s a tough job.
It happens in football that you don’t always get it right, you don’t win all the games you should do at times but I look back at it with really fond memories. the people I worked with, the players I had there, they were excellent players I just could not get it to work at the time.
Was it a job that changed you as a person, as a manager? Do you think your reputation may be unfairly suffered because of the job there?
If you lose your job at Manchester United it makes news throughout the world. So it was part of it. I took over from Sir Alex which was a real difficult task but I was really, really fortunate to be offered the job. I was happy at the time to take I and I wish I could have done a bit better.
Does going back to Manchester United mean that little bit more because you had your time there and were deemed to have been unsuccessful?
No, it doesn’t really because not many people get offered the Manchester United job and to be offered it in the first place tells you exactly what you are thought of. At the time when I took the job, I was probably as ready for the job as anybody was.
Maybe other reasons, like there were a lot of changes going on in the Premier League. Teams were changing teams, teams were evolving. Manchester United were changing and evolving they just lost one of the best managers of all time and it was going to take a little bit of time to get it right. Unfortunately, I was the first one but I wouldn’t change it, it was a great job and I was really proud to be offered the job.
Is there any team news? Is Soucek back? Is Benrahma available?
We have had COVID and have COVID like everybody else in the Premier League, we have injuries as well which always has an effect on your team and your players available. But Tomas came back from COVID, we are not quite sure exactly how ready he is or if he is ready so we need to assess that and see exactly where he is, but hopefully, we are not too bad and we will go there and try to do the best we can.
Do you have money to spend – are the board backing you to go out there and get players?
Yeah. 100% the board have been really good they have supported me greatly and said ‘go and get what you need if you can David. ‘ Like everything else things are expensive in this window at the moment also there’s not a great pool [of players] the positions we are looking for we have found difficult to identify and maybe get ones who we think can come in and make a difference immediately.
The last couple of January windows we’ve been able to do that. This window has felt a wee bit more difficult. But if things go right and we get a good run of things I am still hopeful that we will add a couple of players before the window closes.
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The game at the London Stadium, you sent on David Noble to take a penalty?
That David Noble’s not the best at penalty kicks. But Mark Noble’s very good. I think Mark’s taken three since then and scored them all, at Watford, in the shootout against Man City, and in Europe. He’s got one of the best goalscoring percentages of any player in Europe.
I didn’t enjoy my own company for a few days after because I thought I’d made a terrible decision and I beat myself up about it. When you are a football manager you have to make decisions and sometimes you get them right, and sometimes you get them wrong. This one, on the day, we got wrong, but I still think my reasons for doing it were the right ones. It was saved, and if we’re being fair the Manchester United goalkeeper has been playing out of his skin this season. He made a great penalty save and I don’t think prior to that he’d made too many penalty saves, so in my own way I was thinking ‘oh good, we’ve got a draw out of it’. But it didn’t quite work.
You won at Old Trafford this season in League Cup and you’re above them in the table. That must all help psychologically?
I think so. Going to Old Trafford has never been easy for any team. So we have to go there with confidence. It’s a really big game for us, we’ve got a chance to go and show our credentials that we can be challenging among the top six or seven teams again this season. I always expect Man United to be up near the top so I feel it’s a chance to show what we can do.
You’ve never won in the League as a visiting manager at Old Trafford in 14 attempts. Confident that can change.
After we won there in the League Cup a few weeks ago I’m really confident!