What went wrong for Manchester United in their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday?
“To concede two late goals was very disappointing. Ultimately, Manchester United missed out on a point, but they should have been going to Emirates Stadium for a win. Before we went 1-0 up, we were hardly in the game and we scored on the counter-attack. Then to concede less than two minutes after taking the lead, come on, that’s a schoolboy error. If they could have held on for at least 15 minutes, then Arsenal would have had to come out more and open up a bit and Manchester United could have aimed to exploit that.
“When you play for Manchester United you know that away at Arsenal is always going to be a tough game, period. When I played for Manchester United, having to keep a hold of a lead never bothered us as we always knew that we could go anywhere and win a game.”
Do you believe a few decisions went against Manchester United on Sunday?
“The offside call for [Alejandro} Garnacho’s goal was a matter of inches. That could have been let go because I’ve never seen a player score a goal with their arm, but now we’ve got these new mickey mouse rules, you’ve got to get on with it.
“For the [Declan] Rice goal, there’s not many times where you’re going to win a foul against a centre-half unless it’s blatant. We all know that everything goes on in the box. There was meant to be the rule of when you pull someone’s shirt or block players, then you’re going to concede a penalty but how long did that rule last for? However, the thing that bothered me most about Rice’s goal was that, and for not the first time in the game, an Arsenal player was given the time to bring the ball down in the box from a corner.
“If you examine the three goals that Manchester United conceded, it’s not as if one of them went in the top bin and you can’t do anything about it. Rice was gifted too much time in the box and the third one was a result of Manchester United pushing players up the field to grab an equaliser and things like that happen when you’re trying to chase a goal. Hopefully with experience they can learn from these errors because they’ve got to do better.”
With two defeats in two key away games so far this season, and with Manchester United’s ambitions for improving on last season, is there pressure on Erik ten Hag?
“It depends on what you see as pressure. For me personally, I always believed that this season would be a tough campaign for us. After getting to two finals and finishing third in the Premier League last season, the expectation levels were always going to rise. It’s a bit similar to Newcastle United, where Manchester United are also a bit ahead of schedule and Erik ten Hag has achieved things sooner than we all expected. People are now expecting a hell of a lot more from Manchester United this season and it’s going to be very difficult for them to replicate what they did last year.”
Erik ten Hag claimed that Jadon Sancho wasn’t selected as part of the matchday squad that travelled to the Emirates Stadium due to his performances in training. Jadon publically dismissed these claims stating that fans ‘shouldn’t believe everything they read’. With the friction between manager and player evident, do you believe this is the beginning of the end for Jadon at Manchester United?
“I don’t know. I’ve seen all the reports and I’ve giggled at some of the more ridiculous ones, but it all depends on how people want to perceive this situation. If Sir Alex Ferguson ever had a problem with a player, it didn’t leave the dressing room. So you can argue that Erik ten Hag has come out and said something negative about his player and he didn’t have to do that. If he didn’t say anything, then nobody’s getting wind of this situation. However, now he’s made the situation public, Jadon has now come out to defend himself.
“Manchester United haven’t started the season in a good way and Erik ten Hag didn’t need to create another distraction that the club doesn’t need. It just didn’t need to happen. All the publicity surrounding the club at the moment is negative and it can have an adverse reaction on the players because people just expect them to get their heads down and play football, but of course this negativity is going to affect them. Everybody is looking to the players to pull the club out of the doldrums and now they have added pressure on their shoulders because if they don’t start getting results, then everybody’s going to start complaining that the players aren’t helping the situation either. It’s such a precarious situation to be in and it’s something that the club needs to find themselves out of immediately if they’re going to start winning football matches.”
If Jadon was to leave Manchester United in the near future, do you believe that the club will massively regret that they were unable to get the best out of the former Borussia Dortmund winger?
“You can look at it from both sides. When you buy a footballer, you buy the player with the intention of getting the best out of them and from the player’s perspective, they’re aiming to get the best out of the football club. That’s the way football works. If Sancho leaves, then people are going to question whether Manchester United did enough to help Jadon realise his potential. In football, everybody heaps the attention on the players if things don’t work out well, but you need to ask why it didn’t work out.
“Using Paul Pogba as an example, the media and the fans always reflect on whether they believe a player’s arrogant or believes that they’re better than they actually are. However, a club with the stature of Manchester United buys a player because they believe they’re one of the best players in the world and they’re going to improve their team and they bought Jadon Sancho because they believe he’s a really good player. If it doesn’t work out for Jadon at Manchester United, then why didn’t it work out? Is it just down to the player or is it down to the football club as well? Manchester United have made a number of marquee signings that haven’t worked out, so why does this keep happening?”
Rio Ferdinand spoke about the prospect of Jadon potentially making the move to Saudi before their transfer window shuts tomorrow. Do you believe that move’s something Jadon would consider?
“He can’t go to Saudi because he’s 23 years old. Why on earth would you want to go there at 23 years of age? He’s making a lot of money already at Manchester United. Sometimes we forget just how young Jadon is. It’s not up to us to speculate what’s going on with a player’s career, but one thing we do know is that we’ve all got problems and we don’t know what’s going on in Jadon’s life. We all need to show compassion at times and just because a player earns a lot of money, then does that make his mental state better than anybody else’s? No it doesn’t. It’s up to him and Manchester United to figure out why he’s struggling to perform on the pitch. It’s that simple.”
What are your thoughts on Rasmus Hojlund’s debut on Sunday against Arsenal?
“To me, he looks like a proper old-fashioned centre forward. He’s physical, he wants to run in behind and he wants to stretch teams. There’s a lot of pressure on him because everybody will be expecting him to score goals as he cost £72 million and he scored nine goals in Serie A last season. He’ll be expected to hit the ground running because Manchester United don’t score a lot of goals in that position, but I was impressed by his physical attributes on Sunday and I hope the move works out for him.”
Sergio Reguilón has signed for Manchester United on loan until the end of the season with a break clause included in the deal, allowing United to cancel his loan in January if they decide to do so. Do you believe this move is actually beneficial for the player?
“Oh my days, football has changed. Top Premier League clubs didn’t use to loan their players to other top Premier League clubs. How many games is he going to play before [Luke] Shaw and [Tyrell] Malacia come back? I don’t know, but what I do know is that he couldn’t get into the Tottenham team, so people are going to question if he can’t get into their team, then is good enough to get into Manchester United’s? I honestly don’t know how to sum up this move.”
Sofyan Amrabat was another deadline day signing for Manchester United. Do you believe he will provide the club’s midfield with greater balance? Are you excited by this signing?
“They’ve obviously brought him in to bring balance to the midfield, but which player’s going to miss out to make room for Sofyan? Ten Hag has been chasing his signature since the beginning of the transfer window and because of the financial restrictions Manchester United are facing, they’ve had to do a loan for the player instead of a permanent move.
“The fact that the club have been chasing him for so long indicates to me that he’s coming to play, so it’s now a question of what’s the midfield dynamic going to be? Who’re they looking to leave out? The midfield from last season worked extremely well together, but the team hasn’t performed well yet this season. People are questioning Casemiro and suggesting he’s going to struggle this season, Mason Mount hasn’t started off as well as he would have liked to at Manchester United and Bruno Fernandes has found it tough so far this season. However, we’re only four games in. It’s interesting for me to see where Sofyan’s going to fit in and how his inclusion is going to affect the shape of Manchester United’s midfield. We just have to wait and see.”
Raphaël Varane missed Sunday’s match with Arsenal through injury. Considering his injury record, do you believe a new centre-back should be a priority for Manchester United next summer?
“Most probably, that wouldn’t surprise me. Over the last five years, Manchester United have spent over £150 million on centre-backs and in that time they never brought in a centre-forward, until this summer of course. So now you’re possibly talking about buying another centre-half because unfortunately you don’t know what Varane’s going to be able to give due to his injury record.
“I think that I’m as frustrated as anybody else when it comes to how Manchester United do things because it’s as if they’re doing everything back to front. They have so, so much to do before they’re in a position to compete.”
Manchester United’s next Premier League fixtures include home games against Brighton, Brentford and Crystal Palace and away fixtures to newly promoted sides Burnley and Sheffield United. Do you believe the club can get maximum points from those five league games?
“They’ve got Brighton next in the league, who play good football and can cause anybody problems, and then they have Bayern Munich away in the Champions League on the following Wednesday. They’re a tough set of fixtures to come into after the international break, but if they don’t start to get results soon, then I genuinely believe that questions are going to start being asked.
“In the five Premier League fixtures leading up to the Manchester derby at the end of October they need to target maximum points, but Brighton are no pushovers and they’re not phased by any of the big teams. Crystal Palace have had a good start to the season as well and they definitely won’t be phased either. It’s easy to say that Manchester United should be getting maximum points from their next five league games, but it won’t be easy and all of the teams that they’re coming up against won’t make it easy for them either.”
Do you believe that Anthony Martial’s involvement is going to be limited now that Rasmus Højlund is fit enough to play for Manchester United?
“Erik ten Hag said he believed that Martial played well against Arsenal. He’s been at Manchester United for eight years, but have we ever seen the best of him? He’s 27 years old now and I ask myself if we’ve ever seen the best of him? Players are very, very touchy now and they get upset if you don’t say nice things about them but back in my day, I just wanted to prove people wrong. Martial has been at Manchester United for eight years now and he hasn’t even scored 100 goals. Wow. He’s a centre-forward for Manchester United and he’s played in some fantastic teams, so for me he had to be getting at least twenty goals a season and his best return in the league was 17 goals in the 2019/20 season. I think now they’re going to have to give Rasmus Højlund a good run at it because he offers something different and can be afforded more time.
“Martial’s had more than enough time and opportunities to show Manchester United just how good he is and he’s unfortunately not been able to achieve that. If he’s left out of the team now, then I don’t believe the supporters will be surprised.”
How do you believe your former club Newcastle United will fare in their Champions League group?
“First and foremost, Newcastle United are in the group of death. They’ve got themselves back in the Champions League, ahead of schedule, and they wouldn’t have expected to be in a group like that. Their form in the league hasn’t been as good as Eddie Howe would have expected it to be, so it’s going to be tough for them. They’re going to have to play some really good stuff if they’re going to get out of that group but it’s Champions League football, so anything’s possible. You’ve got to respect the big clubs you’re facing but at the end of the day, anything can happen when two clubs face off against each other in the Champions League. Anything’s possible and I wouldn’t write off their chances but I believe the increased number of fixtures could potentially have an impact on their league form.”
Do you believe Eddie Howe is under pressure after Newcastle’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton on Saturday?
“Nothing surprises me. When it comes to owners and fans wanting results, if you’re not getting results then the clubs are going to look for someone else regardless of whether they’re ahead of schedule or not. If Newcastle United come back after the international break and lose another league game and lose in the Champions League, then that’s not the start that anybody connected with Newcastle would have wanted, so Eddie would be under a bit of pressure. That’s the game we’re in.
“If you look at a lot of the clubs that have been taken over, the first manager usually lasts around a year. Using Manchester City as an example, Mark Hughes was the first manager of their project and then Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini followed him before they eventually got Pep Guardiola.
“Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job, but football is driven by results and despite the fact that I do believe he will be given time, you just never know what’s going to happen.”
Do you believe that Liverpool can reject a rumoured £215 million bid from Al-Ittihad before the Saudi Arabian transfer window shuts tomorrow?
“The biggest thing for Liverpool is that they haven’t got a replacement. If they got offered £215 million for a 31-year-old, then why wouldn’t they consider it? They’d have to. If they turned that down, then they’ve got nuts as big as watermelons. It’s a lot of money.
“The impact on Liverpool’s team would be massive if he left now. He, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané were phenomenal as a front three, but two of those players are no longer with the club and they’re starting again. Mo Salah is massive for his club when it comes to goals and he creates and scores a lot of the chances for his team so if he’s to leave, then Liverpool are losing a player that can get them thirty goals a season. Who else is going to get them that many goals? Cody Gakpo? Probably not. We need to see what happens, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they let him go in January or next summer.”