Interview: Ryan Bennett taking his chance to thrive with Nuno's Wolves
As far as footballers go, Ryan Bennett is pretty forthright.
"Those days have gone" he states of his England prospects, while of Maurizio Sarri's dig at Wolves apparently not being organised, Bennett remarked "we’ve taken four points off them this season so if he thinks that, good luck to him".
You suspect Bennett's uncomplicated, no-nonsense attitude has played a part in him surpassing even his own expectations by being a mainstay in Nuno Espirito Santo's first XI this season.
"I'm a bit different – I like to focus on me," Bennett says when asked if he's a talker in the dressing room.
Wolves have spent around £150million on transfers since Fosun bought the club in 2016 but Bennett, who didn't cost a penny when he joined on a free transfer after leaving Norwich City, is one of the club's biggest success stories during their remarkable two-year revolution under Nuno.
"When I came in I didn’t play straight away. I had to be patient," Bennett, who turned 29 last week, said.
"Fortunately, I got the chance and it’s gone on from there.
"The condition I’m in now is probably the best I’ve ever been – that does play a part.
"Playing in a back three benefits me, there are changes in the way to attention to detail with each player – that’s something I’ve not really had before.
"Every little thing makes a difference. Everyone here has embraced everything we do here. Lots of little things combine to become one big thing.
"Throughout the club, whether it be nutritional, we’ve got Julio (Figueroa) who comes in and talks to you mentally, and sees things you probably don’t see, we've got the nutritionist, we’ve got Antonio (Dias) and Joao (Lapa) on pre-training routines, there’s stuff I’ve never done before."
A run in the FA Cup is also something new.
"Someone asked what my highlight was in the FA Cup and I said ‘f*****g none’!" Bennett joked.
"It’s rare I’ve had a successful year in the FA Cup.
"We have done well this year to progress in the way we have. It’s another big game and hopefully we can progress.
"The manager has gone from day one saying we’ve got the chance to win a cup.
"He realised we had an opportunity to win a cup and how good and big it is.
"It was made clear inside the club how seriously we need to take it and we’re getting the rewards for how hard we have worked."
When he joined in 2017 Bennett walked into a dressing of strangers, but he was soon joined by a very familiar face in John Ruddy.
The pair spent five seasons together at Norwich City, meaning they've been team mates for almost seven years now. making Bennett well placed to judge how influence the keeper remains in the Wolves camp despite not being a regular this season.
"He doesn’t shout, but he’ll see the little things and try to help you," Bennett said.
"The way he talks, he’s constructive with everything he says and it’s got a meaning – he’ll sit there and explain things.
"Some people struggle with that when they are playing, he’ll come in and analyse games. He tries to help each individual player. If he sees something he’ll say it.
"I’ve played with him a lot of years now, he’s a top keeper, everyone saw that last year, people are quick to forget what he did for the club. He was massive in that last season.
"This season, bringing Rui (Patricio) in was always going to be difficult, but every time he’s come in he’s done well.
"You look at the experience he does have, the places he’s been, he’s been away with England. He’s got more experience than some of us and he’s a bit older, he’s vocal.
"People who know him and speak to him know how hard he trains every day. The way he is around the lads, not once has he ever put his head down.
"That’s a compliment to him, he works as hard this season as he did last year, even when he’s not been in the team."
Facing United; Pogba, Rashford, Lukaku et al, is a daunting prospect, but Wolves will take confidence and belief from their impressive record against the 'big six' this season.
No team from seventh or lower in the table has taken more points against the big sides than Wolves' total of 10 so far, while they also beat a young Liverpool side in the third round.
"The way we set up, we’re hard to break down and those sort of teams have a bit more possession which creates more spaces when we do win the ball back," Bennett said.
"We have players at the top end who can counter against any team in the world.
"When we do nick it we nick it in areas where the full-backs from the other teams are going and they’re being expansive and we can exploit that.
"Lukaku is a big lad but the power and pace makes him a bit different. Rashford is electric when he gets going and is pace and power as well.
"It’s going to be difficult. They are starting to play well together, but we are built on a good shape. It will be up to us to nullify them.