“It just so happens that they’ve all started,” Rudan told reporters ahead of Saturday’s game against Western Sydney Wanderers. “Not to say it is going to happen that way as the season progresses but it certainly is a good sign.
“That’s a tough one [keeping the rest of the squad hungry] but we have our ways of dealing with people and making sure we keep them on their toes. It is a long season and the worst thing they can do is drop off.
“So throughout the week, even last week, we changed the team around [in training]. We were having a look at different options before the Victory game and again it was a good message that the [two senior starting] players that we put into the second team actually had a choice. They could have felt like victims or become a warrior, which I keep telling the players.
“It was good that the two senior players, who their behaviours and habits are very important for the younger players, they put their hand up and they were angry, and they got themselves back into it [the starting XI].
“It wasn’t an easy one for me in the end but I went with what I thought was going to be the best starting XI [against Victory], but that wasn’t going to be the XI throughout the week.
“We chopped and changed and I think it was a good message to the rest of the group, particularly the younger ones that things may not go your way but you don’t put your head down and you continue to fight for your position.”
Aaron Calver, Brendan Hamill, Dylan Pieras, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Ivan Vujica, Max Burgess, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Sebastian Pasquali and Kwabena Appiah are all reserves that are capable of starting.
Rudan said that United and Victory held a reserve side friendly the morning after their A-League game.
“There is no other league that coincides with ours where they can get those match minutes,” Rudan said.
“The message before that game was to keep putting pressure on and be ready when the time comes.”
Western Sydney sit second on the ladder and undefeated, with the best defensive record in the league. Despite that, they have been lucky at times this season and have some key injuries leading into this match.
Rudan said he had worked hard to balance the level of euphoria and focus in the squad given their start but also the work that remained to make it last. He also said United were ahead of where he thought they would be.
“The style of play doesn’t just happen … we have forced them and challenged them to play this style of football which is what I like to watch and coach,” he said.
“To get it to happen so early, I must say from that point we are a bit further ahead of where I expected us to be looking like at this stage of the season.
“Normally it takes time, I know last year [with Wellington] it took half a season to get to where we got to.
“But here it has happened a little bit earlier.”
Anthony is a reporter at The Age.