Graham Kavanagh ahead of the Rotherham game
United manager Graham Kavanagh spoke to us ahead of the weekend trip to Rotherham.
“This will be a difficult game but that’s no different from any other week,” he said. “If you get promoted there is a period where, if you do start the following season well, you build up a real sense of momentum. Rotherham have done that.
“They’ve ground a lot of results out and they work exceptionally hard, but we think we have the players with the ability to break them down and cause them some problems. It’s a game I’m looking forward to.
“I think they've picked up the majority of their points on the road so it's a good opportunity for us to go there and get a result. I watched them at Hartlepool last week and they're a very hard working team, which is what you'd expect from a league one side, so we'll go down there prepared.”
“We know we have to improve in the league and we have got to get points on the board,” he continued. “I don’t want any type of anxiety to start to spread into what we’re doing because I want the players to have the freedom to play and to have the belief in what they’re trying to do.
“It’s another big game for us and hopefully we’ll build on the confidence we got from the second half on Tuesday night so that we can show our class. It’s about being able to express yourself but there is that little bit of pressure on at the moment to get a performance and a good result. That will only increase and grow over the course of the season because there is more and more at stake, wherever you are in the table. We have to be able to deal with that. The players have convinced me they can stand up to that and it’s now up to us all to produce the quality we all want to see.”
As for the injury situation, he said: “We've got one or two niggles. Prince [Buaben] is still ill and Paul Thirlwell is carrying a knock. We'll have to assess it and see where we are, but whoever goes on the pitch on Saturday will be capable of giving a performance and getting the three points.
“We do have a lot of selection options but that’s a good position to be in. Defensively we have players who can do us a job, but we’ve agreed amongst the staff that we feel that Pascal Chimbonda’s best position is probably as a right back. He has done well at centre back but he has definitely been better when he has been moved over.
“There are a number of centre backs in the squad at the moment which is why I've told Mike [Edwards] he can go. Hopefully a club will come in for him so he can get some football and we can make some room available.
“There's a lot of competition in that area now and I was really pleased with Paul Thirlwell on Tuesday night when he stepped in. He got us playing and he moved the ball really well, but I wouldn't like to take him out of midfield long term. He's probably been our best player since I took over and he's very good at organising the two midfielders in front of him.
“We’ve spoken to the players and they all know they need to step up. We can’t rely on one or two to bring us through every week. They all need to take responsibility, whoever is picked, and help each other so that they get the maximum as individuals and as a group.
“I’ve just changed the notice board in my office and it now lists the player names, dates of birth and their ages, and there is a real gulf between the age groups we have. I think the younger lads need guidance and support from the older players because the younger group will often turn up and play without any real understanding as to why they did well or why the game might have passed them by. A lot of that guidance comes from myself, but they also need to look up to role models within the dressing room. It’s a great way to learn and develop and it’s good for me to see that it’s happening.”
And as the two-week trial spell comes to a close for former-Man City defender Courtney Meppen-Walter, he said: “I haven't spoken to him about anything yet but he's had a good couple of weeks training.
“He's been first class as a person around the group. He's kept his head down and he’s been fairly quiet. He's improved daily and you can see that he's getting fitter after being out for so long. Whatever happens I hope we've had a positive impact on him and, in terms of his footballing ability, I've been really pleased.”
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