Paul Ince On The Merseyside Derby
Do you expect Liverpool to pile on the misery for the Everton fans on Wednesday?
You can never tell. When it comes to Derby games form goes out the window. Obviously that wasn’t the case when it come to United and City or United and Liverpool, but it’s at Goodison Park and that’s a tough place to go on a Wednesday night.
When Rafa first got there, they started off so well and sometimes that happens with a football team. A new manager comes in, things are going really well, then all of a sudden, the novelty wears off, and then things don’t start to go so well. But I just think they’ve struggled without Calvin Lewin. We’ve seen what he’s done in the last couple of years.
Rondon is a good player, but I don’t think he’s the answer. I think Calvin Lewin has been a massive, massive miss for Everton, I really do. They’ve struggled because of that. I think Liverpool will go there and win the game.
They’ve got too much firepower, they’re back to where they were. People forget last year, there was no van Dijk, there was no Matip, they had so many injuries in the back four. They did ever so well to get in the Champions League. But you look at them this year and you think they’re back to their best.
The front four – a great bit of business getting Jota in –they’re back to their best. I thought last year they looked tired – you’ve got to remember, Salah and Mane were playing every week. There was no respite for them.
This year they seem back to their best. I can’t see anything but a Liverpool win – not because I played for Liverpool, but I just think they’re playing so well. I think Liverpool win this game – I wouldn’t say comfortably because the noise will be electric, but I still think Liverpool have got too much for Everton at this moment in time.
Paul Ince On Manchester United
What did you think of the Manchester United performance yesterday? From a United standpoint, getting a point at Chelsea is never a bad result is it?
No, listen I think you’ve said it in a nutshell. The performance wasn’t great, but I think the result was good. Sometimes in football you don’t always look at the performance because you get some teams who perform well every week that are not getting results.
As a manager, as long as you keep performing that way, then eventually the results will come. So when I look at the last two United games, I look at the Villarreal game, and the Chelsea game, the performance wasn’t great, we didn’t play well, if you look at the stats they were quite embarrassing for a team of Man United’s stature.
Sometimes the result can overlook the performance, and I feel when you go to Spain (against Villareal), where we needed a result to qualify for the last 16, United has done that by hook or by crook.
Chelsea, they’re a well-oiled machine, they’re at the same level as Liverpool and City, so to get a point from that game was a great result, but it wasn’t a great performance. In fact, I thought at times we were pretty poor, and I think as a manager, when you’ve got a team that’s probably lacking confidence, it’s important just to try and build confidence.
Regardless of whether or not the team played well, the results from Villareal and Chelsea will give them a little bit of confidence, especially going into the Arsenal game on Thursday night.
For the players, going back up to Manchester, they’ve got a point against a team that a lot of people think are favourites for the title, but if you look at the whole picture of the game, we didn’t pay well at all. I think we went there to contain them; I think we didn’t go there thinking that we could beat Chelsea.
You can see the way we (United) played. We tried to press early on and every time we got the ball, we kept giving it away, we were sloppy with our passing. It was also a big decision not to play Ronaldo.
The performance wasn’t really any different to what we’d seen under Ole during the last few games. The only difference was we got a result from both matches. I thought it was a big decision leaving Ronaldo out, I’m not sure whether that was a Carrick decision or a Rangnick decision.
Personally, I think looking at that team, it might have been something to do with Rangnick. Carrick might say he was responsible, but I think when you think about Rangnick and how he likes his teams to play – you see how much Klopp adores him and how good the Liverpool pressing game is – I get this feeling that Rangnick’s going to come in and want to press teams from the top.
I think he probably felt on Sunday that he couldn’t do that with Ronaldo, which I disagree with. There is a school of thought that United have changed the way they play since Ronaldo re-joined because Ronaldo doesn’t press, but under Ole United never pressed teams, United always played counterattacking football, so you wouldn’t need to press.
I can’t agree with those opinions that say, “We don’t press because Ronaldo’s in the team,” Ronaldo’s never pressed. Messi’s never pressed. Neymar’s never pressed. Mbappe’s never pressed – we’re talking about the best players in the world.
All this rubbish about United not being able to play a pressing game because Ronaldo’s in the side… if it wasn’t for Ronaldo United wouldn’t have been in the last 16 of the Champions League.
It does wind me up a bit when I hear these people say, “Without Ronaldo we’re a better team because we’ve got the result a very good Chelsea side,” some people may think that’s the way forward, but it’s not the way forward because otherwise you’re not going to score goals and you need to have Ronaldo in your team to score goals
Many will feel United are a worse team without Ronaldo in it because Ronaldo’s a different quality player. Surely Rangnick can get Ronaldo into a team that presses without him necessarily having to do it?
Listen we’re not talking about Ronaldo from 12 or 13 years ago, we’re talking about Ronaldo who’s 36 years of age and has this amazing ability to score important goals when the team need it. There’s not many people at 36 who are going to start pressing the ball and he’s never done that.
It’s different if you’ve got Cavani playing. He leads from the front and he presses from the front and he has done that throughout his career. Ronaldo is a completely different type of player.
I played for United with Eric Cantona. Eric never used to press, but the idea was that the other players around him would do the pressing to win the ball back and then get it to him. You look at the Man City vs PSG game, Mbappe, Neymar, Messi didn’t press one bit, they lost the ball and they just stood still.
And then it’s down to the rest of the PSG team to get the ball, so when the attackers get it, they can show what they can do. If you’re asking a 36-year-old person like Ronaldo to press, and press, and press, when he eventually gets the ball, he’s going to be absolutely knackered and he won’t be able to do anything.
You can’t have it both ways. I don’t understand why people keep talking about this pressing game because we’ve never played that way under Ole in the last three years.
We tried it against Liverpool at Old Trafford and we had our pants pulled down. Apart from that match, Ole has always played counterattacking football, so this big idea that we need to press because that’s what Liverpool do, that’s what Chelsea do, that’s what Man City do…these are three of the best managers in the world and United haven’t had that luxury.
Pressing is an art. It’s not just about people running towards the ball at pace; you have to go in fours and fives, and at angles. You’ve got to understand it’s not all about pressing the ball; you’ve got to press space and press different players who are not on the ball.
There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into pressing to make it work, Klopp’s got that down to a T, and so has Tuchel, but at United we’re absolutely miles away from it.
Let’s not get carried away with, “Oh yeah, we got a great result against Chelsea because we pressed from the top,” we got a great result against Chelsea because Chelsea missed chances. David de Gea was outstanding.
I think with Rangnick might want to come and play that way, but it’s not like we’ve got a seasoned striker sitting on the bench. We haven’t got a Haaland or someone like that. I’m not sure whether it was Carrick’s team or whether it was Rangnick’s team on Sunday.
Maybe they thought they’d go the way that Man City have gone without a striker this season, but Ronaldo has to play, Ronaldo’s one of the greatest players in the world. He scores goals. From day one he has scored goals; he’s a goal machine.
We haven’t got someone to replace him. It’s not even up to debate. People get carried away because of the two results, thinking that’s the way forward. United need a goal scorer and we haven’t got one unless Ronaldo’s on the pitch, so for me he has to play.
There was a bit of a heated debate after the game between Roy Keene and Jamie Carragher, did you see that?
No, I heard about it.
Roy was saying that Ronaldo should be starting the big games and Carragher was saying, “If you’re not signing Ronaldo to win the league, then why are you signing him?”
At the end of the day, if you analyse the United team, it doesn’t matter whether you sign Ronaldo or whether you sign Haaland from Dortmund, the issue has always been the midfield area. Man United signing Ronaldo wasn’t going to guarantee a Premier League title it was to try and get closer to the teams like City, Liverpool, and Chelsea.
The midfield has always been an issue for me, and still is, and until you get that department right, it doesn’t matter who you’ve got upfront. I’ve played in midfield alongside Roy Keane. It was our job to protect the back four, and get the ball to the people who I call the money men, to produce the magic.
You have to control the centre of the midfield. Alex Fergusson always said, “If you win the midfield, nine times out of 10 you win the game.” We don’t win the midfield. We haven’t got world class players in the middle of the park, so it’s no good signing a world class centre forward. Ronaldo needs players around him creating chances; putting balls in the box, getting the ball to his feet.
We spend a lot of time passing the ball back and forth without actually getting the ball into areas where players like Ronaldo can hurt teams. How many balls does Wan-Bissaka put into the box for Ronaldo to score? He rarely does it and often recycles the ball. Luke Shaw does it on occasion, but if the team’s not playing well, what can Ronaldo do?
Carragher arguing that buying Ronaldo was to win United the title, is off the mark because we haven’t got every department right. We haven’t got an identity. We haven’t got a system. We haven’t got players playing in the right position.
We’ve seen Sancho play on the left-hand side under Ole for the limited amount of games that he’s played. When he played for Dortmund, where he’s been at his best, he was on the right wing all the time. Now he’s playing there and is looking better for it.
There’s a lot of things that you need to make a title winning side – a lot of things need to come together. You can’t just think because you’ve signed a 36 year old Ronaldo that you’re buying him to win the title because he has to be given service.
I disagree with Carragher. Roy Keane is spot on. Ronaldo is the one who gets teams out of trouble. He’s done it all his life. He did it for Portugal when they won the Euros. That’s what he specialises in. That’s what Messi does. That’s what the great players do.
On Ronaldo, he’s been incredible in the Champions League, I think he’s got six in five for United, he scored some crucial goals, I mean you’ve just said it, you know, he’s part of the main reason why United have breezed into that next – well, they didn’t breeze in but they’re in there from February.
He is the reason, he’s not part, he is the reason.
Why do you think with Ronaldo is performing better in Europe? Is that a stage he’s more comfortable on, what do you think?
No, not at all. The Premier League is massive but it is different to European football. You get a lot more space in European football. Teams are more technical. It’s not so quick, it’s not as intense.
I think that’s why he gets chances, but listen, he got chances at Real Madrid, he got chances at Juventus. He’s not had enough chances to show what he can do in the last few games in the Premier League and that’s down to the way the teams set up.
If you look at Liverpool, every week Salah’s getting three chances, Jota’s getting chances. Chelsea is exactly the same. All these teams are creating lots of chances for your money men. Man United are not doing that, and that’s something they’ve never really got to grips with.
Man United can’t find goals from other departments in the team. You look at Chelsea, They’ve got Reece James scoring goals, Chilwell scoring goals, Rudiger popping up. Chelsea are scoring goals from all over the pitch, that’s what United had in 92/93 when we won the title, players scored from all over the pitch.
Fred doesn’t score. McTominay doesn’t score. Fernandes has gone off the boil, he’s stopped scoring. So where are the goals going to come from? They can only come from one man – that’s Ronaldo. The centre halves don’t really score.
The fullbacks definitely don’t score. You’ve got a team that’s so reliant on Ronaldo to score a goal. If he’s not playing then you kind of got to think to yourself, well who’s going to score the goals then, so that’s why he has to play.
Imagine Ronaldo in a United team that’s confident, and walking out with a bit of swagger on the pitch…
Well listen, if he was playing for City or Liverpool, think of the number of chances he would have and the goals he would have scored. That’s the difference. Liverpool, Chelsea, and City are well-oiled machines.
The players all know what they’re doing. They all know where to be and how to create chances. This is a Man United team that’s not oiled at all and is just trying to find a way to compete with these teams. Looking at the performances (against the top teams) we’ve got a long, long way to go.
I’m not going to get hoodwinked by the result against Chelsea. I think it helps the players to build confidence and I think it’s a nice way for the new manager to come in.
But Chelsea will be disappointed. Chelsea will be thinking they should have done what Liverpool and City did. They’ll be disappointed in that. As far as where Man United are at the moment, all you need to do is look at the last two or three minutes when we’re running the ball into the corner, timewasting.
Happy to get a draw against Chelsea. That shows me where they are as a team, and as a mindset. I think things will change. I’m sure under the new manager, they will change.
What do you think Rangnick’s biggest challenge is when he walks through the door?
He’s been appointed as an interim manager until the end of the season, with a consultancy role for the next two years. He’ll have a big say on who the manager is going to be and is the king maker before someone else steps in. I look at this and I think the board have got to take a lot of blame for this.
I hate to talk about a manager who’s lost his job because I’ve lost my job a couple of times as a manager, it’s not a nice feeling. I think the writing was on the wall for Ole after the Liverpool game. If the board acted then, it would have given them enough time to get someone in, especially during an international break.
We’ve seen a lot of clubs act decisively. Watford did it. Norwich did it. That two week period gave them time to get their managers in, but for some reason the (United) board wanted to wait for the Watford game and we all know what happened next. I’m thinking, if that was in your mind, if you’d done it two weeks earlier, it would have given them time to get the new man in and get him settled. Get him to know the players.
We’ve now got Ralf coming in, but he’s not ready because of the work visa. This could have been done prior. We’ve got Arsenal on Thursday. If we lose that one, that puts them eight points clear of us. All the toing and froing of who’s going to be the manager, if they made a decision two or three weeks ago, then they would have had a manager in place.
Ralf is coming in for six months. After the six months, when his tenure is finished, he’s then got to then hire a manager who’s got the same beliefs as him.
Say for example it was Pochettino and he had a completely different vision for the way he wants his Man United team playing and the players he wants to sign. That’s the thing about an interim manager.
Can he buy players in January? These players may not be the players that the new manager wants. I don’t think United can go out and spend 30 or 40 million on a player in January, because the next manager might not want that player.
That’s the difficult thing about having an interim manager. He’ll have to put his mark on what he’s got. We know Klopp swears by him. As I said, we go back to the way they want to play, which is on the front foot. Against Chelsea, the amount of times United won the ball and give it away was amazing. I couldn’t believe it.
But having a new manager in place at Old Trafford, getting that bounce back, all the players will be buzzing and will want to make an impression on Ralf. He needs to get the team organised. He would have watched them against Chelsea.
He’ll have ideas on what he wants to do when he goes in there, but as I say, he’s only in there for six months, so he can’t go in and make wholesale changes immediately.
From his point of view, he’s got to be looking more at the consultancy elements of his role; what he does after. Look at the structure. Look at the academy. We’ve not had that same level of ‘wow’ players come through the academy since the Class of 92. Rashford of course has been a success from the academy, though he made his debut six years ago now, whilst Scott McTominay is a good player, but when you look at the likes of Foden at City, Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool or Declan Rice at West Ham - players like that who have come through their respective academies, we’ve not had any of those. He’ll look at the structure, training, philosophy and will want every team in the club playing the same way.
When players graduate into the first team they will know the system. Changing the mindset of the club, how it runs, how it functions. Having input over the development, recruitment, coaching staff and styles. The club have to allow him to have complete control to take this club where it needs to get to. None of this “play the Man United way,” that we hear all the time. The Man United way from the 90s was years back and we haven’t got the players to do that.
He’ll have to change the whole philosophy of the club. It’s a tough job for him, it really is. Managing Man United, it’s the greatest job in the world if you can get it right, but it can also be a poisoned chalice. After Fergie, we’ve had four managers in eight years. Whatever manager they get in the future, Ralf has to lay the foundations. He has to make all the decisions.
The Man United executive team, they don’t know anything about football. The Glazers bought the club just for profit, it was nothing to do with football.
There hasn’t been anyone like Martin Edwards or David Gill; football people at the club. United needs to be restructured. Everything needs to change from top to bottom. There isn’t a model at United. Ralf needs to create a model that’s going to make Manchester United successful.
That’s a tough job in itself and it’s going to take a long time. We have to be patient. It’s hard to be patient when you’re a Man United fan because you expect to be competing all the time, even when you’re going through transitions, you still have to be winning trophies. You can’t afford to be eighth in the table when you’re Manchester United – Man United’s not been built on that.
When I joined in 89, we were terrible in the league, I think we were 13th in the league that season, but we won the FA Cup, then we won the Cup Winner’s Cup the year after against Barcelona. We won the league after that. We were always winning trophies and going up a level to get to where we wanted. At the moment, I don’t see that with Man United. I think things might have been different if we had won the Europa League against Villarreal last year.
I think Ole’s been unlucky in that degree, but when you’re making a change at Man United, and this is a massive, massive change, you’ve still got to be competing, and that’s going to be the hardest thing because fans won’t accept mediocre football.
They won’t accept losing at home to teams like Aston Villa. That’s why Manchester United are the biggest club in the world because of the expectations, there’s no excuses. We understand there’s issues, but when you’ve got players for the sums of money United are spending, you’ve still got to competing and winning stuff.
So the change – and, I hope the change can be swift – you’ve got to get the new manager in place for that to happen, we’ve seen what’s happened with Tuchel. What he’s done within seven months.
When I say long-term, I don’t mean two or three years, you want to see progress as soon as that manager comes in. But we have to be patient until that time comes because we can’t be a club where we keep sacking managers. In modern football your manager doesn’t last long, the likes of Klopp and Pep, they’ll go when they’re ready, they’re that great, but the Fergurson and Wenger times, those times are gone.
You’d like a manager who’s going to be in place for three or four years. We want to see the best possible Man United and we haven’t seen a consistently good Man United side for a very long time.
On the subject of the permanent boss that’s going to be appointed in the summer, is there anyone out there you would like to see come in?
At the start, when Ole took over, I said Pochettino straight away. I said Pochettino and, to be fair, I actually probably got lambasted by half the Man United fans because I was saying Ole’s not experienced enough. Pochettino is the one.
Some of the United fans slaughtered me, which is fine, I can deal with that – I’ve got broad shoulders. I remember watching Man United play Tottenham at the Tottenham ground and Rashford scored, and we won 1-0 two or three years back. Tottenham were unbelievable. The way Pochettino set his team up and the football they played, I just thought he’d be perfect.
I’ve met Potch a few times. He seems like a top guy and comes across very calm. Yes, he hasn’t won anything in England, but he’s been to the Champions League final – you can’t judge a manager solely on not winning anything.
When you mention Pochettino, people say, “Oh yeah, but he’s not won anything.” Well Ole’s been in charge for three years and didn’t win anything. We got rid of Mourinho after winning the Europa League and the FA Cup.
We got rid of Van Gaal after winning the FA Cup. During the last three years we’ve not won anything. We haven’t been close to challenging for the title in nine or 10 years. If you’re going to change things and make wholesale changes, it has to be long-term and you have to stick with the manager.
I think Pochettino will be absolutely perfect for the job, I really, really do. I like Ten Hag, I actually like what he’s doing at Ajax. I like the style of football, sometimes he’s very open, but I like what he’s doing, and we need to start playing expansive football.
All the top teams are playing expansive football, they don’t play counterattacking football. We need a manager who’s prepared to do that and we need to make sure we’ve got the personnel in the team that allows him to do that.
The reason why we’re playing counterattacking football is because we haven’t got the personnel to play the way the top teams are playing. So as much as we look at the team and say, “Well, you know, this team now should be challenging the title because we’ve got Ronaldo, we’ve got Sancho, we’ve got Varane,” I think we’re still miles away because I don’t think we’ve got the players.
I asked this question the other day to my son and I said, “If you were picking one to 11 in the Premier League, how many Man United players would be in that 1 to 11?” and the only one he could think of was maybe Ronaldo.
So that’s where we are at the moment. We’ve got to do a a big recruitment drive in June. Varane’s on the wrong side of 30. Cavani’s on the wrong side of 30. Ronaldo’s 36. There’s a big job to do at Man United, there really is. The recruitments been poor for God knows how long, we need to get that right. There’s a lot of things for Ralf to do. Unfortunately, we’re in this situation because of the way the clubs been run and we should never have been in this situation.
You mentioned Pogba. His contract expires in the summer. He’s a guy that can frustrate fans, pundits, everybody – would you like him to stay as a Man United player?
This is the thing. If United got someone like Pochettino in now, on a long-term contract, then he says to Paul Pogba, “Listen Paul, you’re part of my plan and I’m playing you like this,” Pogba might start thinking about signing a new contract.
We’ve got Ralf Rangnick in and he can say the same thing, but Pogba’s going to say, “In four months’ time you might not be here, and whoever comes in might not fancy me,” so this is the problems we have with players. Pogba, to be fair, is a world class player when he wants to be.
We’ve seen him play in World Cup finals for France and he looks a completely different player, but I believe he’s playing with better players, that’s why. When you’ve got world class players alongside you and then you’re playing with Fred, McTominay, and Matic, who’s obviously getting on a bit, it’s a completely different kettle of fish.
To perform well you’ve got to play with the best players, and Pogba’s not had that. He’s not endeared himself to the fans at times. His agent hasn’t endeared himself to the fans at times, we’ve seen a lot of stuff come out with Pogba, especially when Mourinho was there, that was kind of plastered all over the papers.
That would never of happened under Fergie. He started the season so well. At the start of the season he had the most assists, and I’m thinking this is Pogba, this is what he’s all about. For some stupid reason, Ole decided to play him as a holding midfield player alongside Fred against Wolves away, and from there it just went downhill.
Then he got injured. I don’t think he’s ever been happy at any stage since he’s come back. He’s never had the consistency to deliver top-class performances week in, week out. It’s been a broken experience for Pogba at Manchester United, but we know on his day he can be unbelievable.
I don’t think he’ll sign; I don’t think he’ll sign whoever the manager is, that’s my honest opinion. I think as a free agent the world’s his oyster. And I can see him going abroad somewhere, we see a lot of top players going on free transfers, so I can see him going somewhere else.
On his day he’s world class, but to play for Man United you can’t just be on your day once in a blue moon, you’ve got to be seven out of 10 every week. That was the minimum. To be a Man United player, you had to perform week in and week out, and we’ve not had that from Pogba apart from at the start of the season where he was outstanding, but since then, he’s kind of fallen away.
It’s not just Pogba. Fernandes, he’s fallen away. When he first came, he was unbelievable, now all of a sudden, he doesn’t seem the same player –maybe it’s because he was the main man before Ronaldo came, I don’t know. Now Ronaldo’s there, maybe he’s took a step back, but his performances have not been great.
So there’s lot of things to change at the club and trying to get the mentality of the players right, and to build a togetherness. I sense that it’s quite fragmented looking at the team. I can imagine it’s probably little groups in the changing room. I’ve seen it all before, seen it all before.
Whoever comes in on a permanent basis needs to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. If you don’t want to be a Man United player, leave. We need to start afresh. We need to start all over again, and I think Pogba’s one of those that, unfortunately, you’re not getting any money for and that’s the sad thing about it.
Then you’ve got Lingard, another one who could go for nothing, so it’s always tough to lose top players like Pogba, but listen – I hope I’m completely wrong. Hopefully I’m completely wrong, and they convince them to sign another two, three year contract, but I don’t see it.
Paul, in the past you’ve spoken quite passionately about Van de Beek not getting his chance – with a new guy coming in, do you expect to see Donny getting more minutes?
I always felt when you’re a manager and you go to speak to a player, and you’re selling the dream and you say, “Listen, you’ve come in, you’re part of my plans, you’ve been fantastic at Ajax, I’m going to play you in the right position,” and then you don’t play for a year and a half, it’s soul destroying.
Then to say, “OK right, you’re going to get 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, go and show me what you can do.” In the Watford game, he comes on, gets his goal, and in the last couple of games he’s been pretty quiet. But is he a 10, is he a holding midfield player – I think he might get more games. I’d like to see him get more games, whether he does I don’t know, but he’s never had a chance to actually show United fans what he can do.
Look at Sunday where he played Fred, McTominay, and Matic. He didn’t even start with Donny, so that’s a concern for me. I don’t think Donny should think because he’s played a couple of minutes that there’s a future there for him. Donny’s probably come and said maybe January is the time for me to leave – it makes it even worse now because Ralf might come in and say, “Donny, listen I want to play you X, Y, and Z,” so things can change for a footballer very quickly.
But Donny has to start playing football. He can’t just sit on the bench, and if it means moving away, a loan until the end of the season when the new manager comes in, that’s what I’d be encouraging him to do.
It’s the business part of the season now. You’ve got the Christmas period coming up, and, if we were to lose to Arsenal on Thursday, we’re eight points behind them. Then it’s looking like we’re not even going to get into the Champions League. There’s a lot of important games coming up and you can’t really start mixing and matching the team. It’s hard to find that formula straight away at such an important time in the season.
But I’d like to see Donny play more games. I’d like to see what he’s all about. It’s always been Fred and McTominay, and I don’t think that’s worked to a certain degree. Maybe it’s time to put Donny in there, but I’m sure Ralf will have the answer to that this week.
Excellent, and Paul, on the subject of sort of like transfers and all of that type of thing, if you could take one player from a rival team and put it in this United team, who are you picking?
Wow – who I’d pick –
I’d pick Roy Keane! It’s a tricky one because I feel they’re crying out for a top midfield player, like a Kante or a Gundogan, someone who can control a game and get people playing. Even a Jordan Henderson to get into people if they’re not performing. I suppose if anything, I’d probably say van Dijk.
He would be the one for me. I think Man United do lack pace at the back. I know Varane’s been out for a while, but Lindelof and Maguire, they’re not the quickest, no disrespect to them.
I think if you’re going to play that pressing game, you’ve got to have two quick centre halves, you’ve got to have your fullbacks high up the park, like we see Liverpool do, and you’ve got to feel comfortable at the back. van Dijk would have the same impact at United as he has had for Liverpool. He’s be so important for them. He can do everything. Not many players run past van Dijk. So yeah, van Dijk for me all day long.
We’ve spoken in the past Paul about the United midfield, and you mentioned it today that United lack a presence or a type of player – is there anyone out there that you think United should be looking to bring in?
It’s down to research isn’t it? It’s down to your scouts. Look at the lad at Brighton. Bissouma – he is a top midfield player. N’Didi at Leicester, you think bloody hell, what a player he is. Doucoure playing at Everton. These are players where you go, “He’s got to cost 50/60 million pounds,” but they’re actually better than the players we’ve got in midfield, so we haven’t always got to go for those big 50 or 50 million pound players. If the recruitments right you can find nuggets.
You can find these players. Bissouma’s a top player. It’s always tough because when Alex Ferguson used to buy a player, he always used to look at their background, their upbringing, their character. You look at these players playing for Brighton and other teams, but it’s a completely different environment when you play at Old Trafford in front of 80,000 people.
You’ve got to have big strong characters, you can’t hide, you can’t get away with anything, they’re the tougher players that Ferguson used to buy. It’s not just about whether he’s playing well for Brighton, or playing well for Everton – it doesn’t matter. Has the player got the ability and character to deal with this crowd week in, week out.
They’re the type of players you’ve got to look at. Look at his talent, look at what his mental attitude and toughness because that’s what you need to play at Old Trafford. Fred can go and play for Everton next week and be unbelievable because it’s a different type of pressure. I think United need at least two world class holding midfield players. Why can’t we get a Kante, someone like that – he was at Leicester and Chelsea took him.
There are those players out there that United’s recruitment team are not looking for and other clubs are doing their work and their due diligence to get these players in, and we’re not. McTominay is a good player, he played OK against Chelsea. He’s not young, he turns 25 next week, so I think we do need one or two midfield players.
When I was at United there was always competition behind us – in training they’d be Scholes, Nicky Butt, smashing into me and Roy Keane – these guys wanted the shirt. I thought, if I don’t play well the next two or three months, Scholes is coming in or Butt’s coming in, and that’s what he wanted, that competition.
I don’t think United have got that competition. I think Fred and McTominay think they will play every week unless Donny starts playing and that’s when you can get complacent. It’s the same with Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof Varane and Shaw, there’s no competition.
If you look at the Chelsea squad, they can play two teams, if you don’t play well, you’re out because there’s quality to come back in right behind you – same with Liverpool and Man City.
Man United haven’t got that. It’s hard to keep a squad of 22 players happy because they all want to play and they’re all top class players, but City and Chelsea can do it and that’s where Man United needs to get to.
That means they’ve got a big, big recruitment job where we’re not just talking about the first 11, we’re talking about the first 18 to create that level of competition. Man United’s always been about competition.
Paul Ince On The Premier League Winner
Liverpool, City and Chelsea look like they’re on a different level to the rest of the league. Between the three of them, who do you think is going to win it?
The only thing about City, and I think they play the best football, they really do – I always wonder unless they get a striker in January – I’m not saying they struggle for goals because they’re scoring goals for fun but, I just think… I’d have to say Chelsea.
I think they’ve got the strength in depth. You’ve got to remember all these teams are also trying to win the Champions League. Chelsea have more quality and depth than City and Liverpool. For that reason, I’d have to say Chelsea. Lukaku’s back fit now and he’s been a major loss.
But you know what, it’s great because I don’t think anyone will run away with it. It’s going to be close and that’s what you want. There are too many leagues in football where it’s just one or two teams, so it’s nice to have three teams trying to compete to win the title.
Obviously, Man United are not there yet, that’s where they need to be, but I think out of those three teams Chelsea are probably more equipped if they were to get injuries. The Christmas period is coming up, with a lot of games coming up in such a short period of time.
I think Chelsea have got the squad to cope with that, and still keep performing. They can keep their team fresh and have more than what Liverpool and City have.
Paul Ince On West Ham
West Ham are having a great season both in Europe and domestically –what does a successful season look like for them?
If they could get into the quarter finals of the Europa League I think that would be a massive achievement for the team. It’s great that they’re in Europe, West Ham always should be in Europe, and it’s an amazing job Moyes’ has done.
He’s always said that he didn’t have enough time at Old Trafford, which I don’t think he did, he didn’t have the time to implement what he wanted, we’re now seeing that at West Ham. We’re now seeing them competing with the best, even against City. They’re competing against the best teams and they’re playing well. He’s got a great spirit there, there’s no big egos, no big stars, just a team who know how to defend and how to attack.
The style of football he plays is a bit like when he was at Everton. I think West Ham suits him. He believes that he can challenge the top four, I wouldn’t disagree at all. Obviously the top three are out of his reach, but then you have Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Man United, there’s four teams there who could easily finish in the top four.
He will believe that he can get that fourth spot, and I don’t see no reason why he couldn’t. I think playing in Europe is going to be tough because they’ve not got a massive squad. He’s relying on probably six or seven players who play every week and then who play on Thursday night.
That’s going to take its toll. It’s just great to see them up there and playing the way they are. it’s great to see the atmosphere at the new stadium – we had so much negativity around it two years ago, with all the fans on the pitch – it’s changed now. Moyes’ has got the atmosphere back and the fans are happy.
It’s great to see, and Moyes – not just Moyes, his staff, Piercy, Nolan, all the ones he’s brought back in – they’ve done a fabulous job for the club and fingers crossed it will continue.
Paul Ince On Arsenal v Man United
United play Arsenal on Thursday night. This was a giant clash back in the day, but not so much anymore – how much better would the league be if we had a great United team, and a great Arsenal team up there with the three that you just mentioned?
It would be fantastic and I’m hoping that we’re sitting here in two years’ time saying, “Oh yeah, we’ve got a great United and Arsenal team, and there’s five or six teams challenging to win the title.” You’ve got to remember that Pep’s going to leave in another year.
How long will Klopp be there for? How long will Tuchel be there for? They (Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea) might not be as great as they are now with their current mangers. It might be close in two or three years’ time. When you go back to the great Man United teams and the great Arsenal teams, with Adams, Wright, Vieira, Petit, Bergkamp all these great stars. They were great teams.
The clashes were brilliant. There were battles all over the pitch whether you’re up against Vieira, or Petit, you knew you were in for a game and it was a clash that everybody looked forward to. It was like a heavyweight fight and we had some great games against them – tough, tough games.
The games moved on, and I’m not saying that it won’t be a very good game on Thursday night, but nowadays we sit here and think well you want to watch City versus Liverpool, or City versus Chelsea. I always want to watch Manchester United whoever they play, but I want the next manager to have the finances to build a team to compete with those teams.
But it’s still a massive game. You think six or seven weeks ago many were saying Arteta out and everyone was questioning his role as Arsenal manager. You wouldn’t have said six weeks ago that Arsenal would be five points clear of Manchester United. I would never have dreamed that and I don’t care how inconsistent Manchester United were.
For me, it’s a massive, game in many ways, and I fancy United, I honestly do – I think Arteta would have learned his lesson at Anfield the other week, but I think Man United might have enough because United need to win the game.
United need to get three points because a point is not enough for United, even at this early stage of the season. It’s still a big game, because when you mention Man United versus Arsenal, it takes you back to all the games that we’ve seen and the players.
Last one on it, Paul – you fancy United, if you could give us a score prediction, what do you think it would be?
If Ronnie plays – if Ronnie plays it will be 3-1 to Man United. If he doesn’t, then I think it could be a draw – I can’t see United scoring enough goals – could be wrong, but that’s my opinion.
STAY TUNED ALL WEEK FOR MORE EXCLUSIVE COMMENTS FROM PAUL INCE LEADING UP TO THE WEEKEND'S PREMIER LEAGUE ACTION
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