Ralf Rangnick has revealed Manchester United are practically back to full strength as they prepare for their return to action – but he wants more measures brought in to protect players.
Man Utd have not played since December 11th after a couple of Covid-related cancellations. An outbreak at the club prompted them to close their training ground. Now, they have emerged on the other side and are ready to play again.
Rangnick is due to take his troops to face Newcastle on December 27th. He should have a full squad apart from Paul Pogba, who is working his way back from injury still.
Asked to provide an update on their Covid situation, Rangnick replied at a press conference: “Yes, as you know, we had last week, the last training session on Thursday, from there today, we had eight few players, three goalkeepers and then we closed the training ground for four days in order to break the chain and today was the third day of training this week.
“We started on Tuesday, then trained yesterday and today and we have 25 field players, so quite apart from Paul Pogba, he’s the only one missing out, everyone else is on board. The development of the last week was extremely positive.
“We will train tomorrow and there will be a day off for the players on Christmas Day and then we have the last training session here on Sunday and fly to Newcastle Sunday evening.”
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It has been a challenging week for Rangnick in terms of preparation. However, he is happy with how his players have adapted.
He explained: “As far as I could see today in training, they’re all in good shape. All the players they did their homework, had their schedule to train at home and they stick to that schedule and that programme.
“From what I saw today in training I can say most of them if not all of them might be available but I might have to make some different decisions who will be in the squad and the starting XI.”
Rangnick reacts to Christmas schedule
The upcoming fixtures will be Rangnick’s first taste of the traditional busy Christmas schedule in English football.
It is not popular with every manager, but the German coach is looking forward to taking part in it.
To reduce the burden on players, though, he thinks there should be adjustments to cup competitions instead.
He said: “You know that better than I do what a big tradition it is to play on Boxing Day, 27th, even on the 30th or 2nd of January. I think we should stick to and respect this big tradition.
“I’m looking forward to that for, first time in my coaching career. But there could be two other issues and have been discussed in the past.
“England is the only top league that plays two cup competitions. In France they abolished the second one a year or two ago. We are the only country that plays two cup competitions.
“This is something we could speak about and discuss. I know the reason for that the League Cup is still kept for the third and fourth division teams to improve the financial situations of those clubs. But a tight calendar, too many games, this is something to speak and discuss.
“The other issue changed is you would have to have a replay. This had been changed now, I think this is a good idea. In other countries, you play extra time and penalties, and never have replays. Those are topics you could speak about.”
Return of five substitutions urged
In addition, Rangnick wants the Premier League to bring back the allowance of five substitutions per match.
Managers could make five changes per game after the re-start of the 2019-20 season following the first lockdown. But while other leagues have kept the new measures in place, the Premier League reverted to three subs.
Now, with injuries and Covid cases piling up, Rangnick thinks it would make sense to allow five again.
He reasoned: “As far as I remember the four substitutes were implemented, it was decided every team could substitute five players when Covid started 18 months ago and I think it was the right decision to have more options to change players, to save energy for players. Especially if they have only just recovered from Covid.
“And the same is true right now. We have a similar situation to as we had one and a half years ago. So I wouldn’t see any situation why it couldn’t be the same as one and a half years ago.
“England is the only country where they don’t allow five subs. You’re still allowed eight field players on the teamsheet. You should be able to replace five. You will always have five players on the bench who cannot be substituted on and cannot play.”