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Interview: Manchester United's Diogo Dalot on working with Ralf Rangnick, learning at Porto and facing Atlético de Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last 16

"We're on a journey and hopefully we can continue improving," says the 22-year-old as Manchester United prepare for their round of 16 second leg against Atlético de Madrid.

Diogo Dalot warms up before Manchester United's group stage match against Young Boys
Diogo Dalot warms up before Manchester United's group stage match against Young Boys Getty Images

Signed from Porto in 2018, defender Diego Dalot has had to battle for game time throughout his spell at Manchester United, but the 22-year-old is still hungry for action.

As his side prepare to welcome Atlético de Madrid in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 decider, with the sides locked at 1-1 after the first leg, the Portugal international discusses Ralf Rangnick's tactics, being a cheeky ball boy at Porto, and why some wise words from Tom Hanks have helped to keep his struggles in perspective.

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On Atlético's mindset

Highlights: Atlético 1-1 Man. United
Highlights: Atlético 1-1 Man. United

When I think of Atlético, obviously I don't know [them] from the inside, but what I can see from the outside is their values, the way they express themselves, their desire. We have a word in Portuguese to describe this desire to win every single ball, hunting down everyone, defending... being there for 90 minutes, fighting for each other and trying to win every single ball as if it was the last.

We need to be ready for everything, because they're a fantastic team, not only in the Liga, but also in the Champions League. They've been having a fantastic season, and they've shown what they can do over the last couple of years. I'm sure it's going to be a very good game to watch, and hopefully we can go through.

Diogo Dalot played for Porto vs Liverpool in 2018
Diogo Dalot played for Porto vs Liverpool in 2018 Getty Images

On coming through the ranks at Porto

For every young player that grows up at a great club like Porto, you need to learn the values of the club. When I say values, I mean the way you should work every single day, the way you need to approach every single game, every single session. I was fortunate enough to grow up in this environment from the age of ten. It's [about] being professional every single day, it's feeling the passion that you need to have every single game, every single training session, feeling the energy from the fans.

On being a ball boy: tips and tricks

Man. United's group stage story
Man. United's group stage story

To be honest, at Porto we had a rule: every time you threw the ball to a Porto player, you had to be quick. But then to the opposition, you'd have to throw it slowly on the floor, sometimes take a little bit longer. These are the small things that you learn from a young age [...] sometimes being a little bit cheeky here and there.

For example, I remember – I don't know if it was last season – against Tottenham, a ball boy threw it very quickly to their player. I love to see these things because it shows that [the ball boys] are feeling the game, they are understanding the game and they are connected.

On working with Ralf Rangnick

All of Manchester United's group stage goals
All of Manchester United's group stage goals

Ralf talks a lot about anticipation and being proactive, and that's one of the things that I've been trying to work on the most because sometimes being at the right place at the right time can stop you making mistakes.

We have a demanding type of game, a demanding style of play; you want to press really high, but you also want to be careful with balance at the back. Then when you have the ball, you have to play forward, you have to be intense, you have to help the team in the last third as a full-back. However, you also have to be ready to defend as well. It's demanding, but we're at a club where everything is demanding. Everything is the highest level, highly competitive.

On competing for a place in the team

Diogo Dalot celebrates with Marcus Rashford
Diogo Dalot celebrates with Marcus Rashford Visionhaus/Getty Images

Competition only brings you good things. Whether it's that you need to push a little more so you can play or whether it's that you're playing and you cannot stop because you have someone that wants to take your place. At the end of the day, if that competition is healthy and for the greater good of the team, everybody's going to win.

I can understand that sometimes when players are not playing, they feel down or they're not so good in training, and I've been there, I've felt it as well. It's funny, I saw a video from, I think it was Tom Hanks. He was saying that if you feel great, if you feel good, 'This too shall pass', and if you feel lonely, if you're not playing, 'This too shall pass'.

So time is our ally at this moment as I've said many times before, especially during these last two seasons at Manchester United, where I haven't had as much game time as I've wanted, but also through injuries. But I feel like these last couple of months, and especially last season, helped me to turn that into a positive and get going again.

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