You have played Manchester United twice and played well both times, is it a case of going there on Sunday with nothing to fear?
Well, we go there with a lot of credit in the bank for how we played there a few weeks ago, we took them to extra time and ran them close. Manchester United have really good quality and the game at home we thought we played even better than at Old Trafford and we lost 3-1 in the end. But that first goal was very obviously out of the pitch and it sort of changed the fortunes of the game a little bit. But look we know how tough a game it will be at Manchester United and they have just proved that against Manchester City so it will be a hard game for us.
You are on course for your best season in 35 years, before the season started what were your goals?
We had goals which I won’t tell you, but we had goals privately of what we could do but the ones I will tell you are we wanted to try and avoid being in the bottom half of the league as we wanted to avoid the stress levels I had last year which were really difficult in this period last season when we were around the bottom three or four, so staying out of the bottom of the league [was the aim]. Behind the scenes we have always been quite positive with the players, from day one in pre-season I think after lockdown with our form that period gave us a little bit of hope that we could do something similar when the season started that we would be okay. Not only have we done that but we have kicked on from that the players have been fantastic with everything and more importantly they have gone about their job really well, their mentality is strong and I think they have enjoyed it as well.
What kind of future do you see for Mark Noble in the game and how difficult has it been for you leaving him out this season?
Mark’s decision will be if he wants to stay in the game after another year, I don’t think that is for any of us to make that call. Will Mark be involved with West ham through some capacity throughout the rest of his life? I have no doubt because of the years he has spent and the effort and the commitment to the club as it is I would expect Mark to be around but whether it is in a coaching capacity or another capacity who knows. Mark has actually played really well in the games he has had. Mark I would say in the games he has played as well as anybody. He was very very good at Old Trafford a month or so ago, he was excellent when we played Chelsea away from home so I think Mark’s form has been very good when he has played he has just found it quite hard to get in the side because of the form of Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice. But the biggest thing about Mark is he has gone about that role and that position very well and handled himself very well and when we have had to call on him he has been very good as well.
Chris Wilder will be leaving Sheffield United today, what is your reaction to that?
I am surprised, a bit disappointed as well but I think we have come to the stage in management and in the media as well where we are seeing lots of people losing their jobs if you are around the bottom end of the Premier League. But with Chris and what he has done at Sheffield United and how he has turned the club around and brought them back into the Premier League last year was an unbelievable year. So if anything shows you how precarious being a football manager is it is probably how Chris has done. He has a super season last year finishing eighth or ninth and this season now they are finding it tough, he will not be short of a job that’s for sure because I think people will recognise, not just at Sheffield United but prior to that as well, they will recognise what he is capable of.
The Premier League will be writing to clubs about what improvements they will make to VAR what are your thoughts on it?
I don’t think VAR has enhanced the game and I don’t think there are many people in football who would say it has made it better. But I think part of it which we are beginning to accept and I think time will make it a little bit easier. I think the saddest part is we are already in a football environment where there is very little emotion and VAR has taken even more emotion out of the game and because of that we are finding it even more sterile. It is very hard to celebrate and enjoy a goal if you are going to have to wait a couple of minutes for somebody to tell you if it is going to be a goal or not. So I think there are lots of parts to VAR that have enhanced it but generally, I am not sure many football people would have seen VAR this season as being a success.
Six points between you and Manchester United, how big a statement would a win at Old Trafford send?
It would add to what we have already done this season, so if we can go to Old Trafford and pick up three points that would be an incredible achievement for us. We have been on a really good run since the start of this year, we are in good form the players have taken on all the games, we are winning and we want to keep that record going. So if we can do it at Old Trafford that would be a great achievement. Issa Diop in action away to Manchester United.
How big a loss will Jesse Lingard be on Sunday?
A big loss because he has had a big impact on the team and how we have played. He has been a positive signing for us since coming in in January so it is a loss to us but we have got other people. What we wanted was competition for places, sort of around the number 11 and number ten roles, we wanted goo competition and Jesse has given us that but we have other people who can do that so hopefully we can go there and who them what we can do. We played Man united twice already, both games we have lost but they have both been very close and certainly the second one which had to go to extra-time and the first one we felt a bit hard done by with the decision that was given with the first goal.
Manchester United could be without Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, does that change your game thinking or approach to the game at all?
I was hoping you were going to name another three or four others as well! That might have altered my thinking but I have to say no that does not alter my thinking because of the other players they have got and can bring in. That is why if you are at Manchester United you do have the squad depth and you have the players who can cover for those losses if they are losses which we are not sure on yet. They have a very good team so whoever we are going to face it is going to be a hard game.
Would you rather we got rid of VAR or do you think there is a place for it in another format?
I think VAR has not enhanced our game, I think it has caused more problems and I think we are seeing as many poor decisions with VAR as we were when we were referring the game without VAR. But there are parts of VAR that we have to pick up and I think this is why we have been sent the survey and I hope everybody will look at it and have their own thoughts on it and I think the idea is to try and get football people to give their impression of what is happening. At the moment, for example, the rules on handball, rules on slight off-sides, some of the things which have come out of it I don’t think we are keen on. We have seen penalty kick decisions recently, we had an incredibly bad penalty decision against Liverpool away from home right at the start of the season against us given for minimal contact but now that rule doesn’t exist this part of the season, now that minimal contact rule isn’t part of it. We had a really bad decision [against us] in the Manchester United game where the ball goes out of the pitch but they didn’t have the camera angles to tell us that the ball went off the pitch. What is an Assistant error, which I have to say we accept because it can happen I think we find it hard to accept when they are looking at the screens and the referee looks a the monitor and I think we expect that area of VAr to be more accurate than it already is.
Will you be talking to Mark Noble and keen to keep him after the end of next season as a coach?
I have said many times Mark Noble will be around West ham for as long as he chooses to be in some capacity, I have no doubt. I don’t want to rule out that he will play on further, we might need him further than that. They were Mark’s words that he sees it as his last season. I still have hope that Mark can continue playing and if he chooses and is fit enough that he chooses to he can possibly do that but at the moment we are just glad to have him signed because he is certainly worthy of a contract with the efforts he has out over many many years here.
If you beat Manchester United on Sunday you move to within three points of them, is this way above where you thought you would be at this stage of the season? With ten games to go, this is a great opportunity for you and the players.
Yeah. I can turn round to you and say I am actually disappointed with the league position I am in because I think I should be higher up that might have been my real expectations! But the truth is we set our own goals of where wanted to be and what we could achieve and all I can say is the players are doing a really good job and driving their way through. We have 11 games to go, so many things can change in that period but if we can keep the consistency which we have shown so far then we will give ourselves a fighting chance of being in and around the top seven or eight and that might give us the chance of some form of European football.
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