Andy Cole: What’s Gareth Southgate done to suggest he should manage Man Utd?

 | 9th April | 

17 mins read

Andy cole footy 1

England manager Gareth Southgate continues to be linked with the hot seat at Manchester United after a number of underwhelming results for Erik ten Hag in recent weeks. Speaking to Betfred, club legend Andy Cole doesn’t know what Southgate has done in his managerial career to suggest that he’s a credible candidate to manage a club of United’s stature. Cole further claimed that he believes it’s too early in Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna’s career to return to Old Trafford as manager and believes Erik ten Hag shouldn’t take sole accountability for his club’s shortcomings this season. Find out everything else Cole had to say below. 

After Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool on Sunday, then besides the point they gained, what other positives would you take from the game?

“The two goals. It was no different to the game between the two teams in the FA Cup a few weeks ago and if I’m being very honest, if Liverpool had taken their chances, Manchester United could have conceded five. We can talk about the spirit and all those sorts of things, but Liverpool realistically could have been out of sight by half-time if they had taken their chances.”

Do you believe Erik ten Hag is solely accountable for Manchester United’s recent form which has seen them pick up two points from a possible nine in the league?

“You can’t just blame the manager without blaming the players as well. Accountability has to sit on both sides. Accountability will ultimately have to sit with the manager because they’re responsible for buying the players and picking the team, but once you pick a team and they cross the white line, then for the first 45 minutes, as a manager, there’s not a lot you can do and the players have to work it out themselves. 

“Against Brentford they could have conceded five, against Chelsea they conceded four and against Liverpool they could have conceded five, so everybody needs to take a look at themselves.”

What are your thoughts on Casemiro’s recent form?

“Last season, he was absolutely fantastic. This season has been completely different for him, but I wouldn’t solely blame him for his team’s failings this campaign. The shining light for Manchester United in midfield this season has been Kobbie Mainoo, but he’s still a baby in a footballing sense and he’s playing off what he knows. 

“There’s a lot of transition football being played at the moment when it comes to Manchester United. It’s like watching the NBA. They attack, we attack and there seems to be nobody in the midfield area that can get on the ball and keep it for a little bit.”

Why do you believe Manchester United are so open defensively? Which individuals and shape do you believe should be deployed to prevent this from happening?

“There’s far too many gaps for a team like Manchester United to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. When those sides set-up, they know their pattern of play, what their formation is and what they’re trying to achieve. 

“When you look at holding midfielders, Manchester City have the best in Rodri and everything goes through him and he dictates the pace of the game, he keeps the ball, he knows when to distribute the ball and he has Kevin De Bruyne just ahead of him. Arsenal have Declan Rice, Martin Ødegaard and ultimately as a team, they all understand their pattern of play. Liverpool’s team have the same level of understanding also.

“With Manchester United, you don’t really understand where they’re trying to get to. If you’re looking to close the gap on the other teams ahead of you, you can’t completely empty your midfield and when you look at the teams that have faced them recently, most of their play has gone through the middle of the park and it’s as if Manchester United don’t even have a midfield. You can’t allow that to happen.”

Do you believe Manchester United being so open in the midfield is largely a player issue?

“Of course it’s a player issue because they need to be able to smell danger. When you look at Manchester United when they were at the peak of their powers, would they be emptying their midfield like that? When Paul Scholes bombed on, would you see Roy Keane doing that as well? No you wouldn’t. Would you see that big space in the middle of the park for the opposition to exploit? It’s not down to the manager, it’s down to the players to work out each other's jobs and roles. It’s crazy how they continue to completely empty their midfield during games and it’s the reason why Manchester United find themselves in the position they’re in at the moment.”

Do you believe this is a key reason why Manchester United have been labelled as a ‘team of individuals’?

“Definitely. As players, you need to work out things yourself. Your manager will set you up, give you a game plan, but if things don’t come to fruition immediately on the pitch, then you can’t wait for 45 minutes for the manager to sit you down at half-time and tell you what to do because the best players can work things out themselves. 

“Managers can micromanage as much as they like, but the players have to go out there, take responsibility and do it themselves.”

Were you impressed by the performance of Willy Kambwala against Liverpool on Sunday?

“I watched him against Liverpool on Sunday and Chelsea on Thursday when he came on and he didn’t let anybody down. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic and every now and then he’s going to get caught out in certain situations, but that’s only going to be down to a lack of experience. I thought he showed great pace against Liverpool when he made a little mistake trying to nick the ball off Darwin Núñez, but quickly redeemed himself by recovering and winning the ball back. 

“He’s a kid with a big future and if he can get his head down and continue to do what he’s been doing, then he will get more gametime and he won’t let anybody down.”

And how impressed have you been by André Onana’s recent form too?

“He’s definitely overworked at the moment and that’s why we’re talking about him. He’s producing a hell of a lot of saves and many of them are ones that he shouldn’t even have to produce, but because Manchester United continue to give the ball away in certain areas so easily, the goalkeeper has been their MVP on a lot of occasions. He has unbelievable feet too.

“Fair play to him because he had a tough start, but now he’s starting to show what a good goalkeeper he is.”

With it looking increasingly likely that Southampton’s Jason Wilcox will become Manchester United’s next technical director, it’s reportedly increased the likelihood of Jadon Sancho remaining at Old Trafford next season, with Wilcox and Sancho previously working together at Manchester City. However, do you believe Sancho can only have a future at Old Trafford if Erik ten Hag leaves the club?

“Nothing’s impossible. Back in the days of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, when he had an issue with a player, or vice-versa, that would remain in the dressing room. Now I’m aware that the relationship between Jadon and Erik ten Hag has been talked about a lot in the media, but you’re always going to need your best players and if Jadon’s perceived to be one of the club’s best players, then you’ve got to try and get the best out of him. 

“I read that Manchester United could potentially sell him for around £30 million, but I don’t believe the club are in a position to take such a loss on him so for me personally, the club needs to try and get the best out of the players they have.

“If Sancho comes back and he and Erik ten Hag can sort out whatever their grievances are, then the club needs to try and get the best out of Jadon.”

Wilcox also worked with Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo during his time at Manchester City. The centre-back’s contract expires at the end of the season and Manchester United are believed to be one of the many suitors for Adarabioyo. Do you believe he’s good enough to play for this current Manchester United outfit?

“If you look at all the centre-backs that are currently at Manchester United, then would you say that Tosin is better than any of them? I don’t think he is. If Manchester United are looking to get themselves back to where they once were, competing for major honours, then they should be looking to bring in the same types of players that Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona are looking to bring in. If you want to improve your squad, then you need to bring in better than what you’ve already got. I think Tosin is as good as what the club already has at their disposal, but to go to the next level, you need to buy better than what you’ve already got.”

The Times have reported that Manchester United are interested in another English centre-back, this time it’s Wolves captain Max Kilman. Do you believe that Max is another player capable of making the step up?

“Manchester United are interested in everybody. Jarrad Branthwaite at Everton has also been mentioned too and I, like everybody else, is unsure about what’s actually happening at the club at the moment. There’s talk about Jason Wilcox and Dan Ashworth coming in and at the moment, it seems as if Manchester United are pissing off a lot of clubs. That’s not what the club is all about. 

“Manchester United are a classy outfit and there’s no point in them pissing other clubs off because they may need them later down the road. They should go about their business in the right way and I see them linked with some many players or staff and I just think to myself, “come on man, this is Manchester United.”  At this present moment in time, it just seems as if we’re pissing everybody off and that’s not good. You don’t hear about Real Madrid pissing everybody off or Barcelona pissing everybody off or Liverpool pissing everybody off. Everybody has this fixation about Manchester United, but everything you hear about them isn’t good news and there’s a big cloud over the club at the moment.”

Considering his injury troubles this season, do you believe Manchester United can still depend on Lisandro Martínez?

“Of course you have to be worried about his injury record. He’s played eleven times for the club this season and when you’re playing less than 20 games during a season, then that is worrying when he’s perceived to be one of the best centre-backs at Old Trafford. Manchester United need players that can see out an entire campaign and obviously the injuries are not Lisandro's fault because injuries are part and parcel of the sport, but people will always question a player’s injury record once they start getting injured regularly.” 

Kieran McKenna, who previously worked under both José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, is a shock name linked with the Manchester United job. He’s done a wonderful job at Ipswich Town to date, but do you believe it’s still too early for him in his managerial career to be the manager of Manchester United?

“Yes. I really like Kieran and I had quite a few conversations with him when he was working for Manchester United and he’s gone to Ipswich and done fantastically well there in his first managerial post. With Jürgen Klopp leaving Liverpool, would they look to appoint Kieran? Probably not. Manchester United needs a proven manager that’s managed at the highest level. Is Kieran McKenna that guy? He’s not currently. However, this is all speculation because he’s done well at Ipswich and has previously worked at Manchester United, so sometimes I believe it’s a case of journalists just trying to fill space in their newspapers.”

England manager Gareth Southgate is still the bookies’ favourite for the hot seat at Old Trafford. If hypothetically Erik ten Hag was to depart in the summer, would you have any reservations about Gareth replacing him?

“I think everybody would have reservations about him, not just because of the job he did at Middlesbrough, but what he’s done with England too. What’s he done with England that makes him credible enough to manage Manchester United? Those questions will be asked if Manchester United decide to change their manager. If they part ways with Erik ten Hag in the near future, then the decision they have to make regarding their next appointment has to be the right one. 

“If Manchester United want to be challenging in the next three years, then any potential manager they choose has to be spot on.”

Do you believe it would be better for Manchester United to stick with Erik ten Hag?

“I can’t mention anything about his future because I’m like everybody else. If Erik ten Hag has a good run between now and the end of the season, and Manchester United start playing some good football, everyone will turn around and say that he deserves another chance. If he doesn’t, everyone will be saying he deserves to be sacked. It’s not for me to decide whether he should be sacked or stay in the job, that’s not down to me.

“If Manchester United make the decision to move him on, just like when bringing in new players, whoever they bring in must be better than what they currently have. It’s like trading in your car – you trade in your car to get a better car otherwise there’s no point in trading in your car in the first place. You’ve got to be logical about things. If you have a BMW for example, and you want to trade in your car, and you decide you want to get a Skoda, that’s not an upgrade is it? That’s a downgrade.

“If you’re going to make the change, you have to make sure it’s better than what you already have.”

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United are one of the many huge clubs after Benfica midfielder João Neves, who is said to have a £102 million release clause in his contract. Neves is only 19 years old and with that in mind, would it be ludicrous for your former club to pay that much for him?

“If the player you want has a price-tag of £105 million or £110 million, and you really want that individual, then you’re going to have to pay it. If you believe that they’re going to improve your team, then you’ve got to pay whatever’s asked. Transfer fees nowadays are absolutely unbelievable, but if you want an individual, you’re going to have to pay just that.

“Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford, there’s been a Manchester United tax and Manchester United have spent a hell of a lot of money on a lot of players. You turn around and say to yourself ‘wow, they’ve paid over the odds for him’, and by the time you realise, a year or two later they’ve sold that individual for less than half of what they paid for them in the first place. Manchester United aren’t in the position to do that anymore with FFP, so whoever they bring in now has to be bang on.”

Do you believe buying a young player for such an astronomical fee is almost setting the player up to fail?

“To a certain extent, yes, due to the fact that a lot of pressure is on the player but also there’s a lot of pressure on the football club who pays that money for an individual. You’ve got to manage that player to the best of your ability, but at the same time they’re still young and learning the game of football. It’s like what we’ve got at Manchester United now with Rasmus Højlund. The kid is under so much pressure playing for Manchester United at such a young age, he’s expected to score goals but knows that he doesn’t really have the time to fit in and understand what Manchester United is about due to the fact that he’s got no one else there who can actually share the workload with him. 

“I’ve said this many times before about him, but I really do feel for him because he runs around and gives 100%, but sometimes he needs help and he hasn’t got a lot of that at the moment. Whichever young players Manchester United bring in, I feel for them because straight away they’re under pressure to get Manchester United back to where they need to be.”

To comply with the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules Newcastle United may have to sell Alexander Isak this summer, if reports are to be believed. How devastating would it be for your former club to lose the Swedish forward and do you believe he’s the elite-level striker that Arsenal need?

“I think Newcastle would be bitterly disappointed to lose him but I’m now asking myself how have Newcastle actually managed to get themselves into this position because I wouldn’t say that they’ve spent a crazy amount of money considering the wealth they have, so for them to find themselves in this position is bizarre.

“If it’s true that they may need to sell him, then they will be bitterly disappointed to lose him. I really do like Isak and I think he’s a fantastic player but the only problem with him is his injury record. I don’t think he’s played ten games on the bounce, but if you could get him to play ten to fifteen games on the bounce, he could make any team better because I rate him so highly. He’s gone to Newcastle, he’s done extremely well there, he’s scored goals and when he’s fit and playing well, he can play centre-forward, he can cut-in from the left, so if he does move on, which I would be very surprised to see, he would make any team better.”

Aaron Ramsdale could head the other way to St James’ Park this summer after finding his gametime limited at the Emirates this season. Do you believe Aaron would provide an upgrade on Nick Pope?

“Nine times out of ten, when a player moves to a different club, they’re meant to be their new club’s number one centre-forward, centre-half, goalkeeper or whatever it may be. If Aaron makes the move, he will be Newcastle’s number one goalkeeper. 

“I think he’s been hard done by, I really do. He was so good for Arsenal last season and then all of a sudden, Mikel Arteta has gone out and got a new goalkeeper and initially claimed that he had two number ones, which was complete nonsense from day one. The way he’s disregarded Ramsdale has been really disrespectful. He’s mugged him off basically. 

“I like how he goes about his business and he deserves to be treated with a bit more respect, so if he does move on from Arsenal, then he certainly would do a good job at Newcastle.”

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