Graham Kavanagh on the Brentford game
United manager Graham Kavanagh gave us his reaction to the 0-0 draw with Brentford on Saturday.
“It was a really difficult week leading up to the game, to be honest,” he said. “The players we lost were obviously big players for us and there was concern over how we would deal with it.
“That’s probably the youngest team we’ve fielded in a good number of years and we knew we had a real lack of experience. I asked the squad to be men and I thought, to a man, they were absolutely outstanding.”
“It’s fantastic for me to see the group work their backsides off like that,” he continued. “They’re giving us absolutely everything at the moment. There are players who have come into the side who haven’t played for a while but they were brilliant against a very good Brentford team.
“I spoke to Mark Warburton after the game and I’m sure they will go on and get promotion. Brentford have real quality and you just have to look at their bench to know your going to be in for a tough afternoon. They have players who would walk into most teams at our level. But with the fighting spirit, togetherness and willingness to work that we have then we are always going to have a chance. It’s a huge point and it shows what we’re capable of.”
“We had four or five different game plans leading up to the game,” he revealed. “We had to change them right up until the last minute because of one or two situations we had, but we’ve managed to get a very good and hard earned point from it. We were unlucky not to be able to turn it into three points in the end.
“To be totally honest it was ten past one when I finalised the team. We knew the shape we wanted to play but there was an incident with one of the players which, on his part, was absolutely first class. He made me change my mind and it was for the good of the team.
“I won’t say exactly what happened but it told me he was made of the right stuff and it was done for all the right reasons. That gave a big boost to me, my staff and all the players.”
“I think first and foremost you have to have people who are prepared to do a job for the team,” he said. “We worked tirelessly on how we wanted to approach it on Friday and we had two formations in mind that we were going to use. We actually had four different sets of how we were going to use the players we had at our disposal. Like I say, we left the final decision until very late on the day on Saturday and we’re delighted that it worked.
“I asked players who wouldn’t normally play in certain positions to do a job and we’ve seen Dave Symington at right back in some of our bounce games before. That gave us food for thought even though we know he’s not a natural defender. Elements of his game were first class and it suggests he could potentially play there going forward.
“I thought Pascal [Chimbonda] was outstanding. He’s got stronger and stronger as the season has gone on and it’s probably highlighted that he didn’t have a pre-season, and he was a bit behind because of that when he first joined us. I wanted to pay him a huge respect by giving him the captaincy because the way he has been around the group has been superb, especially with the younger lads. He’s been a calming influence and he has helped a lot of people this past few weeks.
“I spoke to Courtney at the end of the game because, with the amount of stick I’ve given him, I thought he deserved a huge pat on the back. Credit to him because he’s got broad shoulders, he took it all on the chin and he has shown that he wants to learn and he wants to improve. I thought it was a magnificent performance from him and particularly under the adversity of the situation he’s been dealing with over the last few weeks.
“Chants has had two really bad ankle injuries but you wouldn’t know that now. He played with tenacity and energy and he was excellent. He’s one who needs to have a good run of games but all I will do is pick the best team to keep us in this league for every game we play.
“Liam Noble probably isn’t the most disciplined, in terms of being the one to set the tempo, because he’s usually the one who chases the game for us. I needed him to sit in and be organised and I thought he did it very well. I was very pleased with the way the whole team played and with the opportunities we created.”
“This will have done all the players the power of good and it gives me selection problems looking ahead to next weekend,” he told us. “I’m hoping we can get one or two back and that we can get at least one new face in because we’re going to need everybody to get through what is a very important period.
“We’re short on numbers because we have another injury to contend with in Sam Byrne. It looks like he has done something to his hamstring but I’m hoping that he’ll be available, and that it’s nothing too serious, because he is a really good player.
“There are no timescales on the other injured lads. If we do that it can be disappointing and frustrating when they don’t make it back. We don’t think they’ll be back in the short term but we’ll just have to wait and see.
“The games are now going to come thick and fast over the next few weeks and March is a big month. What we take from today is great confidence because we’ve shown we are more than capable of going up against the bigger teams. Overall I’m very proud and very pleased. I think the lads have answered a lot of questions and if they understand how they got that result then they can only get better. We’ve shown how good we can be without the ball and on the counter attack. If we turn the chances we created into goals we shouldn’t have too many problems.”
And his final word was for the fans.
“I think most of the fans who come are very educated and they understand the quality of some of the teams we play against,” he told us. “I think all any supporter wants to see is hard work and honesty. They saw that from all of their players in this one and they really got behind their team, which is hugely pleasing. I hope we keep giving them reasons to do that.”