Manchester United manager faced the press yesterday ahead of this evenings game against Stoke City at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex announced to the press that everyone had indeed come back from their internationals fit, as well as confirming that Ashley Young was back in the matchday squad after completing his rehabilitation over the break, but denied reports that Chris Smalling was also ready for first team action.
“Everyone has come back from the internationals fit, which is a bonus,” Sir Alex said.
“It is always a time when you’re a bit concerned about getting the players back but, fortunately, we’ve been lucky this time. We’ve got Ashley Young fit again. Chris Smalling is not quite there but is making progress. And there we are.
The United manager knew that his side are in for a tough game come Saturday night, but is not concerned by the style of Stoke’s game, stating that he would rather concentrate on United’s play than worry about the problems that Stoke might cause them with their direct football.
“We’ve got the Jolly Green Giants come to play us tomorrow,” Sir Alex joked.
“The biggest team in Europe. And you can get yourself all in a fangle about that because they are a handful at set-piece play, long throw-ins. But you can’t make it a terror for yourself. Hopefully we can play our game and get the result we want.
But Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job and I can see progress every year at that club from the foundations of the club in terms of youth breaking through to the first team, and they are a formidable outfit now.”
Sir Alex also dismissed the notion that Stoke would be an easier proposition outside of the Britannia, citing the fact that Stoke had only lost one game thus far this season away from home, as well as crediting the Stoke board for allowing Tony Pulis the chance to achieve a certain level of consistency by continuing to back the manager since the club’s arrival in the Premier League, despite constant criticism of the style with which their results have been achieved.
“I think they have only lost one game away from home this season, and that was a late goal to Chelsea I think. As I said, continuity brings consistency and when the same manager for a long time, same staff, mainly the same set of players for years now, the two centre backs have never changed for a long time, that brings a consistency and makes them better.”
The United manager was also full of praise for Michael Owen, the striker who left the club over the off-season, stating it was a tough decision to tell the former England international that he would be asked to leave the club, but stated that Stoke City had gotten themselves a true professional in Owen, stating that it was best for both parties, United and Owen, for the forward to move on with his career.
“Michael is a a fantastic player, really good player,” he said.
“I was just, with us, and having the opportunity to sign Van Persie at the time, and having Chicharito and Welbeck improving, developing as a player, Wayne Rooney, and I had young strikers with Macheda, Will Keane, Josh King, Bebe, and that type of thing and it was difficult to hold onto Michael and also for Michael’s own benefit to play more regular but absolutely brilliant professional, top man, and I was disappointed to have to do it but we had to let him go.”
Sir Alex was also keen to praise one of those young strikers he mentioned, Josh King, who scored his first senior international goal over the break for Norway, praising the young Norwegian for recovering well after an unfortunate loan stint at Germany outfit Mönchengladbach last season.
“Yeah he’s done very well, he had an unfortunate spell. It’s always, we get mixed fortunes when players go on loan, Macehda had a nightmare twice going to Sampdoria and then going to QPR, and change of manager just as he arrives and then with Josh King he went to and didn’t play much at Mönchengladbach last year” he said.
“[He] came back to us and did really well in the pre-season, he’s working really hard, and he’s shown that he’s got good ability the boy. He made the penalty for them for Norway and scored the third goal, and that’s bound to have given him a boost, very quick and really great physique, he should really have a good career, the boy.”
Sir Alex also confirmed that United’s players would be wearing the Kick It Out warm up shirts, as English football continues to raise awareness about racism in the game and trying to stamp it out, in light of John Terry’s recent FA charges. It had been suggested that Rio Ferdinand would not wear the shirt in protest against the percieved lack of action from Kick It Out in relation to the case, in which Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother, was racially abused by the former England captain. Queens Park Rangers player Jason Roberts has already said he will not be wearing the shirt, but Sir Alex has stated that all United players will be doing their bit.
“Well, I have got to disagree with Jason Roberts,” Sir Alex said.
“I think he is making the wrong point. I think everyone should be united, all the players in the country wearing the Kick it Out warm-up tops, of Kick out Racism. I don’t know what point he is trying to make, whether he trying to be, put himself on a different pedestal from everyone. But he really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing it. When you do something, you should all, if everyone believes in it, you should do it together. We shouldn’t have sheep wandering off. Ok? I think he is making the wrong message.”
“Yeah, I think all the players are wearing it. I have only heard that Jason Roberts is different – but he is very different. He plays his game and he is in the studio 20 minutes after it. That is a great privilege.”