What could the team have done better tonight?
Well apart from the obvious point of not conceding four goals. I mean obviously the first goal which was one of those mistakes that happen in the game of football didn’t help, but we did well to get back into the game by scoring the goal just before half-time. I thought we were undone really by two exceptional good goals at the start of the second half, and were playing a team of great quality when they’ve got three goals to one advantage over you it’s going to be very, very hard to claw that back. It’s going to be hard enough to claw the one goal back. But what could we do better…? I thought there were times strangely enough in the second half where I thought we passed the ball better than perhaps we had done in the first half, but as I say we were fighting that deficit of the goals they scored early in the second half to give themselves a very good lead.
How difficult is it to defend against a team of such attacking prowess? Do you sometimes have to hold your hands up and say they were better quality?
Well, you can never hold your hands up, we’re in the same league. When we played them at Selhurst Park we played 1-1 and were very good value for that 1-1. So we had no reason to believe… We knew what quality they have, we knew what quality Man United have when we played them on Wednesday night. You’ve got to find a way of doing what you do and your players giving what they can give to make certain that the quality doesn’t quite shine through as clearly as it did on occasions tonight. But there are moments, unfortunately, where you play teams that have got such good quality players in the team as they are in the form that Bale and Kane were tonight. And when chances come their way and they take them with such aplomb it’s going to be hard for you sometimes to get back into the game.
Wilf Zaha started on the bench. Was he fit enough to play the whole game, or was it a case of bringing him in slowly?
Well I thought first of all, I thought we played very well against three difficult teams – Brighton, Fulham and then Man United – and I think the team has done very well, so I don’t think it would have been the moment to necessarily change that with everyone fit and ready and wanting to play, especially with Wilf having been out for such a long time and having done so few training sessions. So I suppose the aim always was to ease him back and get him some minutes in the game tonight. But I thought the right time to do that was at half-time to give him 45 minutes because he know that we’re going to need him in the 10 games going forward to get the results we want. So the sooner we get him back into action, the better.
Was Ebere Eze injured, or was it just a tactical decision?
No, he wasn’t injured, but the fact is someone had to make way for Wilf and we decided that Eberechi would have to be the player to make way for him on this occasion. But no, luckily he’s not injured, he’ll be available for the next game.
Jeff Schlupp came on and played on the right wing – do you see him as having one particular position or do you like him for his versatility?
Yeah, we do like his versatility and he is capable, to be honest, of playing anywhere across the midfield and he can even play as a second striker. That’s the type of player he is. We appreciate very much his pace, his strength and his desire to take the game to the opponent. I thought we saw some good signs of that in the second half. The only problem was we were already 3-1 down so the signs were never going to be perhaps as exciting as they would have been had the game been level or had we been leading.
As someone who’s worked with Harry Kane in the past – what do you make of him at the moment and the player he’s become.
Yeah, really good. I mean the third goal really was the one that killed us to some extent and took it perhaps beyond our reach – not that we didn’t keep trying, but I mean that probably was the goal where you thought now they’re in the ascendancy and can relax a bit more, just keep the ball and pass it around, which they’re good at doing. But I think Harry has improved enormously over the years, but that’s not surprising. You must remember that in 2016, which is five years ago, a lot of these guys were… Yeah, they were already stars, him and Dele Alli. There was no doubt that we saw what talent those two guys had. But they didn’t have the amount of games, the international experience, the amount of European and Champions League experience. And whatsmore, Harry has really added further strings to his bow because he’s capable of playing in this sort of retreating centre-forward position where when he gets there and gets on the ball he’s capable of producing very, very good passes. But the thing that killed us off tonight I suppose in the game was that fantastic strike for the third goal, and then his awareness to get in at the back post for the fourth goal.
Obviously a disappointing result, but how happy were you with Luka’s cross and Benteke’s header for the goal, and is that something you really want to see more of?
Yeah it was a very good goal, I couldn’t agree with you more. I thought it was a goal that also gave us a lot of hope at half-time, you know, back in the game. Because in the first half we coped, despite the fact that they had so many good quality players and played good football, we coped with it relatively well. The goal that they actually got was one that comes from a clear technical mistake on our side. But after that, unfortunately, the second and third goal showed what quality they have and we were unable to match it. But it’s nice to see that Christian is getting goals now on a regular basis. It’s good to see him getting in the penalty area as he did to attack the crosses in that central area in the penalty area where he gets in front of people and gets his head on the ball. It’ll be up to us to make certain that we get behind the defenders and play enough balls in there for him to give him a chance to get on the end of them.
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