It was a bittersweet return to Premier League action for Alphonse Areola at the weekend.
The France goalkeeper made his top-flight debut for West Ham United and produced a solid all-round display at Manchester United on Saturday, only for a last-gasp Marcus Rashford goal to ruin his day.
Areola, who was appearing in the Premier League for the first time since helping Fulham to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last May, was drafted in after Lukasz Fabianski was ruled out, and did not let his side down at all, making fine saves from Fred and Anthony Martial and having no chance of preventing Rashford’s added-time winner.
It was just the third time Areola had tasted defeat and just the sixth goal he had conceded in ten appearances for the Club, compounding his disappointment, but the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner has suffered similar defeats before in his career and is determined to help his team bounce back when the Irons return to action in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round at Kidderminster Harriers in a fortnight’s time.
In the meantime, after a packed opening half of the season, the No13 and his squad-mates will have a few days off to recharge their bodies and minds for a potentially exciting and successful run-in.
Alphonse, you’ve played football for a long time, but the emotions are always the same when that happens?
“It’s always the same, but football what we love. We were unlucky. I think we deserved more. We were really compact and that last action of the game, we conceded the goal.
“We tried to keep the ball away from our goal. We tried our best, but in football we have to compete until the end of the game and I think it was the last minute and we were unlucky also with the VAR, so for me I thought we deserved more from this game.”
For nearly 93 minutes, we matched one of the most expensively assembled squads in the world…
“We proved we are a good team. We are solid and we are working for the same thing and the same objective – it’s what we have done here in the Carabao Cup a couple of months before, when it was the same atmosphere. [In the Premier League] we are competing for the first four, so we will try to get back into that fourth place and try to reach lots of points.”
It’s been such a busy season, as we have already played 33 games. Now we have a fortnight without a game and while we all love playing and watching, it’s important, especially after what happened at Old Trafford, to have some time to clear our minds?
“It’s nice and it’s important for our heads as well to take a bit of rest. We have to stay professional and train every day to be ready for the next game. It’s coming quickly, so we’ll have a bit of rest but stay focused on the rest of the season.”
While it’s fun to be a footballer, you do need a break from the intensity of the game at the highest level, as you’ve been in six or seven days every week all season and you also have families and personal lives, too?
“We are still humans, but obviously football is what we love and we’re here for that and we enjoy training and competing every day and we have to stay focused on the objectives of the Club, like I said. We have a week [away from the training ground], obviously, but we have to stay focused on what we want.”
For you, you’ve been working hard every day, so it must have been nice to play, because every time you have played you’ve done well, and you were solid again?
“I’m trying to give my best. It was my first game in the Premier League for West Ham, so I was expecting another [positive] result, but it’s football, as we said. We love it and we have to come back and put our heads back in the game, so let’s go!”
Our next game is in the Emirates FA Cup at Kidderminster Harriers so, if the manager continues to do what he has done this season, you’ll play, and it’ll be different from facing Manchester United in the Premier League?
“It will be different, but we have to be ready with the same focus, same mentality, same motivation and same professionalism and that’s it.”