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Louis Saha On Manchester United
What would be considered a good season for Man United? Do you see them as title contenders?
Manchester United are definitely title contenders. They are a huge club and will certainly close the gap this season. They’ve signed some terrific players so will be confident straight away and hopefully find their form quickly. Last season they didn’t start well, so hopefully they can do better and put the pressure on the likes of Man City and Liverpool.
Man United have one of the most talented squads in the league. Do you think Ole is the man to take them to the next level? Where you surprised to see him sign a new contract?
Ole has been rewarded for the job he has done at United so far and deserves the opportunity to prove himself. People have seen the club struggling for so many years, having struggled for a number of different reasons because when Ferguson left, he left behind a massive legacy. There were also so many big players that left at the same time, so there was a massive rebuilding job. No manager besides Ole has been able to do that.
So, he’s been rewarded, first when he got the full job and again when he managed to show that he was able to actually get United back some principles that were missing - that are the base of Man United. He brought back the fans’ desire and love for Old Trafford, and then he managed to bring in some very young, talented players up to the required level.
He now needs to win trophies. Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy was built on winning trophies. But that doesn’t come on just one or two good performances a season, it is really hard. But he is heading in the right direction.
United are on the right track. Obviously, everyone has to improve, and there is room for improvement. And there is no exception for Ole Gunnar Solskjær and he will still get criticised. But Sir Alex Ferguson had these criticisms, even if you win trophies, it’s all part of the game. Ole deserves this chance to prove that he can do it.
Is this the best United team since the Ferguson era?
Yes. It is more balanced. You see the goalkeeping area is very strong. You can see the difference now with the arrival of Varane. He makes United’s defence very intimidating. Their midfield and attack are also amazing. Now it’s just about having the right combination, and the players need to have the mentality and the desire to be very consistent. All this makes you win trophies.
Is the Maguire x Varane partnership the best in the league on paper?
Varane is a World Cup and multiple Champions League winner. Maguire has done really well, is consistent and a leader on the field. However, it needs to be proven in practice. A partnership isn’t made on paper. It is all about communication, it’s all about how well they complement each other. I would also ask those defenders to score goals as well. It does sound strange but United need everyone in this squad to score more goals.
How important is it that United landed Jadon Sancho?
Jadon Sancho will take United up another level. He’s such an exciting prospect. He’s the type of player I really like because he’s able to create and score goals and he adds that bit of flare that is very hard to predict. So, it’s an amazing combination when you have players like Fernandes in and around him.
Sancho is a dribbler, so he can really create the spaces for the strikers. I’m excited to see what kind of combination he can form with the likes of Cavani, Rashford, Martial and then Greenwood, Fernandes and Pogba. When you name those players, any defence will be in trouble.
Can Bruno Fernandes kick on another level this season and challenge the top performers like De Bruyne in the league?
Yes, but this season will also be really tough as everyone’s expectations of him will be very high. What he’s done is extraordinary and it will be difficult for him to achieve those levels again – for two reasons. Firstly, people now know what he’s capable of and as a result, they will make his game really difficult.
Secondly, the burden needs to be shared. United will need to learn to play better as a team. Players like Sancho, Rashford and Martial will have to contribute. It can’t be like it was last year with the overreliance on Fernandes to score all the goals. United need to share the load between the team and that will help Fernandes kick on further.
Do you expect Paul Pogba to stay at United? What do you think is stopping him from producing those consistent levels of performances that we’re used to seeing with France?
With Paul Pogba, it all boils down to stability. He is a player that needs that to perform at his best level. At United, there always seems to be something to distract him; he makes headlines for reasons outside of his performance like transfer rumours etc which creates instability. He doesn’t have this instability with France, he knows he is going to play every game, and that shows in his performances.
I really hope that he stays at United. He’s the best Number 8 in the world. If you want to control a midfield, if you want to disrupt a midfield and a defence, if you want to win trophy, if you want to be excited, he’s definitely one of the best players for that. So, there is no reason to want him to leave unless he’s disrupting the squad. That’s not the case as everyone enjoys playing with him. I’m just looking for a great season from him.
Is this a defining season in Rashford’s career? Does he need to step it up a level now?
Rashford is a player who started his career at a very young age and has been forced to take on a lot of responsibility – he needs to be given time to develop his own game. Ole needs to work out Rashford’s exact role in the team, exactly what he is in the team to do and then let him develop that part of his game. If United want to win a trophy then they need to get better at splitting out responsibility across the team and when they can do that, Rashford will be able to develop his game further.
Man United have been linked with Antoine Griezmann with Barcelona keen to offload players. How good of a signing would he be and could he adapt to the Premier League?
Griezmann is a very intelligent player with a lot of skills. He would add something different to United and he’s a top player. He can play different roles and will be able to adapt to the Premier League – although so much of that is down to luck. He’s shown his quality with France, he always scores goals. He’s a very smart lad. He’s managed to play with Messi, which, in terms of being a striker, is quite demanding, because most of the time Barcelona is playing through Messi. So, to adapt in and around that is more challenging than it might seem!
Have you been surprised that United haven’t been more involved in the Harry Kane transfer saga and competing with City?
No, at the end of the day, the money and figures being quoted are crazy. We can see how much players have gone for in this transfer window and when you’re talking about a striker who scores 30 goals, provides 20 assists, is the England captain, his agent is in a very strong position to start bargaining. He’s not a hard sell, so I do think that United are clever enough to understand the impact of sometimes putting themselves in a deal too early. There is a lot going on behind the scenes so it could be that United are monitoring from afar before making a decision.
United have been linked with Rennes' 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga. Would he be a good signing for the club?
Eduardo Camavinga, is a very, very talented player. He started his career very young and he’s been linked with a big move already, with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and PSG. However, I think the move to United might still be too early for him. We saw what happened with Renato Sanchez when he made his first move to Bayern Munich – it was too early. He is obviously a talented player but United have a lot of talented players in their academy as well. I’m not 100 percent convinced that it’s the right moment for United to make a move for him.
Martial is linked with a move away to Inter Milan? Would you be fine to see United cash in or does he still have a lot to offer still? Is £50 million a fair price?
It would be a shame for United to lose Martial but with just one year left on his contract, it seems like it could be a good move for him. You can see that it is such an interesting transfer market. I’m surprised by the amount of moves that Lukaku has had in his career already but he keeps improving so he will always be in demand.
Louis Saha On Everton
Were you surprised to see Rafa Benitez take up the role at Everton?
I was surprised that Everton appointed Benitez as their manager but for all the obvious reasons. Of course, he’s a top manager and Everton are a top club so it makes sense on that level but with his history with Liverpool, it did come as a surprise.
But he has the skills and experience to get Everton challenging again for the Top Four. He’s also got something to prove in the Premier League. He’s got a strong squad and I think he’ll be able to gel them further than what Ancelotti was able to do – he needs to get them producing on a consistent level – players like James Rodriguez.
It’s going to be tough because this league is just crazy. You see Man United signings, the Man City signings, Chelsea about to seemingly sign Lukaku. It is a tough league but Rafa will have something to prove.
Dominic Calvert Lewin had limited playing time at The Euros. Will he use that as inspiration to carry on his good form this season?
Dominic Calvert-Lewin already demonstrated his quality last year. He’s done really well and developed consistency-wise, and that’s why he deserved his spot in the England squad. As a young striker, you need a lot of big players around to reach other levels. He’s young, quick and ambitious but he’ll need Everton to keep improving to help take him up another level.
Is Richarlison the best player in the league outside of the Top Four clubs? Do you expect him to still be an Everton player next season?
I’m really surprised that Richarlison hasn’t been subject to more transfer rumours from the top clubs around Europe. He’s such a great player, who doesn’t always play in his right position at Everton but is still so dangerous and contributes so much to this Everton side.
So, I’m surprised that he’s not been subject to more interest. He’s proved it in Europe, he’s just won the Olympics. He can produce consistently for 70-odd games. He’s a real machine and definitely up there with the top players in the league.
Do you expect James Rodriguez to kick on this season having now acclimatised to the Premier League?
The Premier League is so tough, so it remains to be seen if James Rodríguez will be able to kick on this season. I hope so, for him and for Everton. But the Premier League is so demanding. Yes, you can definitely have some good games because it’s a very open championship – there isn’t a mentality of getting a draw which makes games very open and gives players like him opportunities to shine. He’s definitely one of the best creators in the league and Everton need him if they want to get up the league.
Should Everton do all they can to keep hold of Moise Kean after the impressive job that he did on loan last season?
Moise Kean is a strange situation. When he returned to Everton I was a bit surprised that he wasn’t pushing more for a permanent move as he’s used to Champions League football. He did a great job at Juventus and PSG where he was competing with some of the best players like Neymar, Mbappe and Di Maria but he was able to offer something different. But with the signing of Messi, his chances would have been limited anyway. He’s definitely got the quality that he can provide to Everton alongside Calvert-Lewin up front.
Louis Saha On Spurs
Do you think Tottenham can keep hold of Harry Kane?
Harry Kane is such a professional and has always committed himself in the best way possible. But Harry has every right to try and push for a move. He’s proven himself and conducted himself in the best way possible but it is understandable that he wants to leave and try to win the best trophies.
He feels like he gave everything to his club and now deserves an open door. I had the same situation at Fulham. At the end of the day, it is your career and if people show ambition in any other career then it would be respected but that gets lost in football sometimes. We can forget that players are humans with emotions and not robots - who might have a dream job they are after.
If Tottenham do lose Kane, how many steps backward is that for the club?
Harry Kane leaving isn’t ideal for Tottenham but they need to find a solution – they need to evolve and learn to do things differently without him. At the end of the day, no player is bigger than the club. Tottenham is a club who want to win and want to improve, who have to win trophies and have to improve massively, and faster than the bigger clubs, because the bigger clubs already have trophies, their foundation is already there. So, Tottenham have to do double if they want to catch up but they are a big enough club to move on without Kane.
Tottenham failed to invest the money generated from the Bale transfer properly, do you think they will learn from their mistakes if they were to sell Kane?
If Tottenham did lose Kane, I’m confident they would rebuild the team better than they did last time around with Bale. Replacing Kane will be difficult – it will be the same as Real Madrid have had with Ronaldo and the same that Barcelona will have with Messi. You need to find creative ways to replace such talent. But this is all part of football.
Spurs are linked with Lautaro Martinez. Is he at the level to replace Harry Kane?
Lautaro Martinez would be a great replacement for Harry Kane. He’s Argentinian and they are usually very good at adapting to the Premier League. I don’t see any problem for this calibre of player. Obviously, Tottenham will need to find a different tactic and operate in a different style to make it work.
He’ll still need time to adapt, as it doesn’t happen immediately all the time. The league is very demanding with great players across every team. When I see Leicester winning trophies, you can see that every side is improving and taking charge and trying to narrow the gap between the Liverpool, Man City and Man United.
Would you like to see Bernardo Silva part of any sale that might happen with Kane to City? And Laporte? Or push for as much fee as possible?
I don’t think Bernardo Silva or Laporte are at the same level they were at two years ago. Of course, Bernardo used to be at the level of De Bruyne but times have changed. So, I don’t know if they’ll be suitable replacements as part of the Harry Kane deal. Kane is going to be hard to replace.
But yes, Tottenham definitely need maybe one or two players extra to actually fit the bill. This is not easy to find but you can remember that players like Son will see this as their opportunity to step up even more and become even more of the main man.
Do Tottenham have a chance of securing Champions League Football this season?
Technically, with the squad that they have, Tottenham can even win the league. It is too early to write off Tottenham before the season even starts. Any team in the Premier League can surprise you so Tottenham can still challenge for the Top Four. It all depends on their first 5 or 10 games of the season – we’ll be able to see the strength of their squad and how they look.
We also need to see if Kane will still be a Tottenham player as this will make things easier for them. However, as with any team, if they do start badly, they could find themselves in a relegation battle – it is all very hard to predict.
What do you make of the appointment of Nuno at Tottenham? Do you think he will be given time as he was clearly not the first choice?
The fact that Nuno wasn’t the first choice could affect him at Tottenham but I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for him and is a great appointment. He deserves it. He’s been such a consistent manager in the league. He has great communication skills. He’ll need to be given time but won’t be guaranteed this so he’ll need to prove himself.
But we’ve all seen his pedigree, he has been challenged to improve teams and has done that consistently. I’m a big fan of Nuno.
Will the European Conference League cause more harm to Tottenham’s season than good or is it a chance at silverware they should take seriously?
The European Conference League is an interesting one for Tottenham. The competition represents a good opportunity for silverware. It also gives a chance for Spurs to improve their squad and give them confidence.
How important is this season for Dele Ali? Do you expect him to rediscover his form?
This season is a very big season for Dele Alli. He has to take the opportunity to start from fresh after two years struggling for form. This is a good opportunity for his development, for him to motivate himself and prove his doubters wrong. You can see that he is a humble guy.
He understands what’s happening to him and is working hard to get back on track. He will have all my support and respect because of that. I like people who tend to fight for their place, and in silence as well. So yes, big up to him.
Do you expect Son to go up another level if Kane does leave?
Son is already not just one of the best players in the league but one of the best players in the world. He is unplayable. We all know the type of energy that he’s got, the skill level and consistency - he can play seventy games a season with the same tempo. Of course, Kane and Son complement each other but Son doesn’t need Kane. He is brilliant in his own right. For me, he’s one of the top players out there.
Louis Saha On The Premier League
Who do you think will win the league this season?
I believe Man City will win the Premier League, whether they sign Harry Kane or not. It will be tough for them but I can’t see anyone catching them. The only one that I think can challenge them is Manchester United.
Will the return of Van Dijk inspire Liverpool to rediscover their form? Are you surprised they’ve not been more active in the transfer window?
I’m surprised that Liverpool haven’t done more to improve their squad in the Transfer Window but then again, Liverpool are quite consistent with the way they operate. I respect them for that. They’ve managed to keep hold of their immense players and Van Dijk will make a massive difference – you just hope that he can come back at his level.
They’ve also got a great manager in Klopp. I’m a big fan of him and he does really well under a crisis. I have a lot of respect for them as a club.
Is there any chance that Arsenal can break into the Top Four this season?
To be honest, I don’t see any chance that Arsenal can reach the Champions League places this season. They haven’t done enough in the transfer market. I don’t see any kind of inspiration in the friendlies, so I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong but I will be very, very surprised if they make the Top Four.
Do you expect an English team to win the Champions League again?
I think an English team will win the Champions League again. With Messi leaving for PSG, I see them as the main competition. Just look at the players joining the Premier League – it is the best league in the world. That’s why I think the Super League was, or wanted to be created, because in some way the Premier League is so powerful that they needed something to actually stop the domination of the Premier League clubs.
You can see that the English clubs can do some crazy transfers, and apart from PSG right now, I don’t see anyone who can try to compete. Bayern Munich can’t do that. Real Madrid and Barcelona will struggle. It’s an amazing platform that has been built in England.
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