Last updated : 29 January 2003 By Editor
An interview with Ricky Sbragia.

In your first match as manager of the Reserves you had to tell Roy Keane what to do – was that quite daunting?

He was as good as gold to me and it wasn't like I had to tell him what to do! I just played a system and he worked within that. What I really liked about him was how professional he was and not only did he get on with the job but he spoke to the young players. It was great to have him in the side because he has an aggression to his game and wants to win – even a Reserves game. Overall, he was outstanding.

Have you ever found that some first team players give less than 100% for the Reserves?

There are different scenarios. For example, with Roy he had been out for 4 months and despite all the training he had done, he hadn't done it in a match situation - he knew the importance of it. However, a lot of players resent being dropped at first team level into the reserves and often find it difficulty to motivate themselves. At Sunderland I didn't have that problem and to be honest I can't envisage having that problem at United either.

It must be hard to be Reserve manager as you never know who you will have available for the next game?

You don't have a team as such in the Reserves. We work Monday to Friday the same as the first team squad and also you pick younger players who are at a slightly lower level. If the players aren't available for a match, which can happen if there is a bout of injuries, you look to the young players and to give them an opportunity. So you never have a full squad to work with. Some days I would have six, others nine, on a good day I could 18 players with me - on a bad day absolutely none. It's part of the job here and I knew that before I came that it would be a new challenge for me and it has proved that way.

What are you hoping to achieve with the Reserves this season?

In the Reserves you have to have the mentality of just winning every game you go into because you never know who you're going to get in the team. It is important to play the right way too. It's different at first team level because you analyse teams so they can see videos and have a fair idea of what they're going to play. I go in blind as I am not 100% sure of the team I'll have, also the opposition are going to have a changing team as well. I never know what's ahead of me. I just pick up the team sheet at six o'clock and see who's in their team. I'll have a rough idea of how they're going to play from my knowledge of their players but things tend to change more during a match.

Has anyone caught your eye so far in the Reserves?

I knew lots of the players beforehand and to be honest they're all really good. I think Darren Fletcher and Woody have done brilliantly in training. The great thing is that all the players here at United, regardless of age, are comfortable on the ball and have an amazing appetite for the game, which has really pleased me.

How important is youth in your plans as Reserve team coach?

It is very important that a blockage isn't created between the youth teams and the first team. A lot of the 19's will eventually play at Reserve level, which is something I achieved at Sunderland this year. Because of the ITV digital fall out they played against a lot of experienced players in the league to try and sell them. Normally the Sunderland team would have been Under 20 with some under 17s playing and I would like to try and do that.

Is there a good standard in the Reserves?

They're playing to impress and so there is a good standard. They're not as clinical as first team level as there is less familiarity and tactics involved. At this level you don't know half the players, but you can come up against teams where the players play with each other regularly and have experience.

How is the set-up different here compared with Sunderland?

It is another league compared to Sunderland, especially with all the facilities here at Carrington. What has surprised me most of all here at United is how friendly everyone is. The players and staff have both been so friendly and helpful and will put themselves out to make you feel welcome or give you the information you need. At Sunderland that didn't always happen and there were often quite a few closed doors. I can't say how helpful everyone has been here – far more than I ever expected. The friendliness from the manager down has been fantastic. For me, it's been absolutely fantastic because it could have been a difficult period as I'm just here to learn how things are done at this level.

Taken from United Review.