With reports at the weekend suggesting that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to take control of 25% of Manchester United’s ownership, the club’s former striker Andy Cole doesn’t believe that this huge development will bring excitement to the fans of the Red Devils. In an exclusive interview with Betfred, the Premier League’s fourth all-time highest goalscorer discussed the form of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Casemiro and André Onana, why Harry Maguire should consider leaving Old Trafford in January and reports linking Emile Smith Rowe and Kalvin Phillips with moves to Newcastle United.

Reports this weekend suggest that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to take control of a quarter of Manchester United and the INEOS CEO is set to be in charge of the club’s football operations at Old Trafford. Are you excited by this potential change at Manchester United?

“I’ve not given it much thought to be honest because everybody was expecting the club to be sold in its entirety. Will a 25% ownership from Sir Jim Ratcliffe get Manchester United back to where they’re supposed to be? We need to wait and see. What can Sir Jim influence with 25% ownership? Will more money be spent on transfers? Can the stadium be redeveloped? Nobody knows. 

“Do you believe that a Manchester United fan is going to be delighted that Sir Jim could be coming into the club with a 25% share? I don’t think they would be excited because so many other things have to be done at the club first. Manchester United need to be competing at a higher level than they are doing currently, so does a 25% share mean that they’re going to go back to the very top? I’m not quite sure that it does.”

Rumours last week suggested that some Manchester United players are unhappy with Erik ten Hag’s management style. How worried are you that leaks of this kind are coming out of the club at present? 

“What’s going on at Manchester United is a bit like a soap opera and it’s been like a soap opera for a few years now. Ralf Rangnick was like a prophet when he said that Manchester United needed open heart surgery and the club are currently a long way away from where they need to be. 

“I believe that Manchester United were ahead of schedule last season and the start of the current campaign has been very difficult for them. After their success last season, many people were expecting the club to compete this year and instead I think what we’ve seen so far in the current campaign is an indication of where the team’s really at right now. It’s very difficult to see, but it is what it is.”

How would you sum up Mason Mount’s start to life as a Manchester United player?

“Difficult. Very, very difficult. I believe that Mason is a good solid player, but he was injured at the start of the season and I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy with his performances so far as he would have expected more from himself. 

“He’s come to a club that had massive expectations on them at the start of the season and it’s not worked out so far from the player and the club’s perspective.”

Were you surprised that Manchester United signed Mason Mount this summer?

“I was surprised to be honest. It was a very left-field signing in my opinion and it was a move that came from nowhere. The biggest question mark regarding the move was how much they signed him for, because they spent £60 million on a player that only had one year remaining on their contract. Large transfer sums are part of the reason why players have so many questions asked about them and Manchester United’s fans in particular always get frustrated with their transfer business because they’re always seemingly paying over the odds for players. As Mason’s performances haven’t been of the standard expected of him so far this season, then he’s going to face a bit of criticism but that’s expected in football.”

And now we want to ask you the same question, but this time regarding André Onana. Do you believe that the club got rid of David de Gea too prematurely or did you believe it was the right time for a change?

“I myself found it a bit difficult when I first moved to Old Trafford, but it all depends on how you bounce back from that difficult start. I’m very old school when it comes to goalkeepers because I’m happy with them as long as they can stop the ball from going in the back of the net. I don’t care if my goalkeepers can do 50 keepie uppies because André’s job is to stop the ball from going in the back of the net. He’s had a difficult start to life at Manchester United, he’s made a few mistakes so far and I’m sure he knows that he should have done better in a couple of situations. Every player deserves time and we just have to see what happens in his upcoming performances.

“Regarding David de Gea, every player makes mistakes and he was absolutely unbelievable for Manchester United. The way that the club let him go in the summer was rather tasteless and I believe that he should have been shown a lot more respect than he was, but that’s football now. You don’t get many pats on the back and when you move on, everybody seems to talk about your mistakes rather than all the great things you did for the club.”

In a press conference with England, Harry Maguire said the following, “If you look back on my last 15-20 starts for club and country, I would be happy to sit here and say I’m really happy with my performances. My record under this manager speaks for itself. I haven’t started as many games as I like, but my win percentage when I’ve played is ridiculously high.” What do you make of this statement?

“He’s backing himself and players do need to back themselves. I believe he’s had a difficult time at Manchester United and when he first came to the club, he was given the captaincy shortly after his arrival and that’s a difficult job in itself. Most players that come to Manchester United get their heads down for the first six months at the club and get themselves to the levels that they need to be at, but the added pressure of taking the captaincy, having an £80 million transfer fee and his form being up and down has resulted in Harry having a difficult time at Manchester United. 

“Backing yourself with percentages and statistics are clear signs of where the game’s at right now. I really like Harry, but he’s been fortunate to keep getting selected for his country whilst he’s not being selected for his club. As an ex-player, I completely understand why Harry is backing himself publicly because that’s what you need to do as a footballer.”

Harry also admitted that he’s prepared to leave the club if he doesn’t get more game time in the coming months. Do you believe he should have left in the summer when he had the chance?

“At Harry’s age, he should be playing week in, week out. He’s got the Euros coming up, so if he can get a move in January, have a chance to start afresh and prove his doubters wrong, then why not? Football’s all about proving people wrong. 

“We need to see what January brings for Harry and if he’s not going to get game time at Manchester United, then he’s going to have to find it somewhere else. 

“I remember when I was 30 at Manchester United and going to tell the manager that I needed to leave so I could play games. I knew I could still score goals in the Premier League and in Europe. I wanted to keep playing at the highest level and it’s time for Harry to decide if he wants to do the same.”

How concerned are you by the form of Marcus Rashford? Does he look like a player devoid of confidence at present? Should his place in Manchester United’s starting eleven be guaranteed?

“When I was a footballer, whenever I lacked belief I wanted to stay in the starting eleven in a bid to regain my confidence. However, now that I’m retired I can see why it’s good for some players to be taken out of the firing line. 

“If you don’t count last season for Marcus and you look at the two seasons prior to that, his form was exactly the same as it is now. You can only ask Marcus what the problem is, but we know that the season before last that he was dealing with some personal issues, which is something that he admitted last year, and after how good he was last season, we were all expecting him to kick on again in this current campaign and have the confidence in himself to replicate that form.

“When you look at Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, you’d never have a conversation about them having an off year. Marcus needs to discover how he can maintain that high level of consistency.”

And are you concerned by the form of Casemiro? Why do you believe he’s struggling at present?

“I don’t know if I’m being honest. If you look at him this season compared to last season, then it’s like chalk and cheese. He’s finding it difficult in the early stages of this season to keep up with the pace of the game. 

“The Premier League is very intense, it’s very fast and last season Casemiro was dominating games. However this season, the performances from the team haven’t been good either, but it’s evident that Casemiro has really struggled himself.

“I don’t believe that there’s many players in Manchester United’s dressing room that can claim that the team, and themselves, have been in tip-top form this season. So many of them are finding it difficult for whatever reason.

“Regarding Casemiro’s form, It could be due to him trying to do too much. If you look at how many goals he got last season and then compare that to how many goals he was scoring each season for Real Madrid, then his numbers have been significantly better during his time at Old Trafford. 

“Some of the goals that Manchester United have conceded this season have come through schoolboy errors and their whole team has been really open at times and have made it really easy for the opposition to score against them. By Casemiro wanting to do a bit more for his side offensively, he leaves his team a bit more exposed defensively.”

Do you believe that Scott McTominay is owed a run of starts after his match-winning cameo against Brentford last weekend?

“I really do. Scott gives you everything he’s got and that’s in spite of some people claiming that he’s limited in his abilities as a midfielder for Manchester United. One thing you do know about Scott is that he’s going to give you 150%.

“In the position that Manchester United find themselves in right now, you need every player to be giving just everything they’ve got. To come off the bench against Brentford and score two crucial goals, as well scoring goals for fun at international level with Scotland, highlights that Scott’s clearly doing something right. I do believe that he needs to be given that opportunity at club level, where the manager gives him a run of games to allow him to showcase what he can do.

“Sometimes at Manchester United, big-name players will continue to be selected in the starting eleven, regardless of whether they’re playing well or not. You have a squad for a reason and players should be given more opportunities if they’re playing well.”

Can Manchester United depend on Raphaël Varane?

“If you look at his track record in recent years, then you’d have to say no. These problems have followed Raphaël for the past four or five years. If you know that Raphaël’s going to give you 25 to 30 games a season, then you’d take that all day long. I’m not sure how many games he played last season, but I know that he was out for a long period. However, if there’s a way of him giving you 25 games or more, then you’ve got to be happy with that.

“When Manchester United signed him, they would have been well aware of his injury record at Real Madrid. It’s always going to be a risk when you sign players that you know have been unlucky with injuries in the past.”

Do you believe that Rasmus Højlund is a superstar in the making?

“I think we’re all hoping that he can become a superstar. Signing a player for £72 million is always going to be a gamble in the Premier League but Manchester United are well aware of his potential. I think he’s adjusting really well and the only thing that he’s missing so far is his first Premier League goal. 

“He’s a young man that’s fearless, which is something he should be at his age, energetic and physical. I think he’s a proper old-fashioned centre-forward and he works extremely hard. I think that a striker of his ilk is something that Manchester United have missed for a while and he always wants to go both ways and run in behind at a furious pace. He also enjoys a tussle with opposing centre-backs too.

“I’m hoping he can replicate the form he’s showing in the Champions League in the Premier League soon.”

Do you believe that injuries are the sole reason behind Manchester United’s defensive woes at present?

“Confidence is another reason for it. Confidence in football is absolutely massive, and I understand that those defenders will want continuity in their backline, but if all the players are lacking confidence, then that sends shudders through the team. 

“I think nine times out of ten, when your team is playing with a hell of a lot of confidence, then everybody believes that they can do whatever they need to do. When things aren’t going well, if one player makes a mistake, then a teammate is going to try and second guess if they’re going to make a similar mistake again and that can get in the player’s head.

“Once they get their confidence back, then they’re going to start winning matches and keep clean sheets. However, if you’re giving away silly goals then your confidence is obviously going to be much lower and your goalkeeper and defenders are going to suffer most. Centre-backs need to trust their goalkeeper because these two areas are a major part of the team’s spine, which also includes the central-midfielders and centre-forwards, so if the spine of the team isn’t performing well enough, then what chance do you have?

“I’m hoping that at some stage, Manchester United’s players will gain more confidence by winning matches, because that’s where it all stems from, and they can kick on from there.”

Do you believe that Manchester United will advance through their Champions League group?

“They need to put their skates on. They’re going to have to play some serious football from now until the end of the Champions League group and basically go unbeaten. If you look at the form they find themselves in now, can you see them going unbeaten in the Champions League? It’s going to be very difficult for them.”

Kalvin Phillips has interest in him from both Everton and your former club Newcastle United. Do you believe Kalvin would find it difficult to break into Newcastle’s midfield at present?

“He probably would struggle for game time if you consider the players already in Newcastle United’s midfield, but if Eddie Howe does move for his signature, then surely he would be signing Kalvin for the purpose of playing him. Newcastle United aren’t Manchester United and they can’t afford to leave a potential £50 million player on the bench. 

“Newcastle United should only sign him if he’s going to play games because Kalvin needs game time. He went from being a very dominant, and regularly chosen, player at Leeds United to being sat on the bench at Manchester City, so if this move happened, then I believe it would be a good move for Kalvin because they’re doing well in the Champions League, they play some lovely football and he would only make them stronger.”

Emile Smith Rowe is another player reportedly on Newcastle United’s radar. Is Emile a player that you rate and do you believe he could be a success at St James’ Park if this move came to fruition?

“It’s another player that I’m shocked to see not playing as often as we all expected them to. Everybody was talking about him two years ago. He was Arsenal’s future, a local lad that came from their youth set-up, but in the last two years later, he’s sadly fallen off the face of the earth. 

“I don’t understand why he’s struggling so much for game time because he’s a very talented player, but it’s evident that Mikel Arteta prefers other players to him and right now, I can’t see how he will get back into their starting eleven. 

“Why would he not want to join Newcastle United? There’s not many better places for you to go and play football than Newcastle and they’re only getting bigger and the ongoing project at the club is massive. It would be very difficult for Emile to turn this move down.”

 

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