What do you believe went wrong for Liverpool on Sunday in their 0-0 draw against Manchester United?
“I think it was their creativity in the final third. I thought their intensity levels were good and their pressing was excellent, but I don’t believe they had any standout chances. They were battering down the middle a lot but they weren’t getting a lot down both wings and Mo Salah and Luis Díaz were both looking to cut inside at every opportunity. Sometimes when things aren’t working for you and you’re not having a lot of success, then you need to switch it up a little bit and they didn’t do that really.
“I thought that Manchester United’s defenders stood up really well. They look strong, defended very well and they deserve credit for that. Liverpool had all the possession, but after the week that Manchester United had and all the criticism they faced, to come to Anfield and get a clean sheet and a point is very good.
“Jonny Evans and Raphaël Varane, two players who have come in for a bit of criticism, alongside Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw were outstanding defensively.”
Do you believe the expectation on Liverpool’s shoulders before the match had any impact on the outcome?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t believe that any of Liverpool’s players were expecting to go into the game and batter Manchester United. They would have known what Manchester United were going to do and I personally always believed it was going to be a tight match and that United would have been coming to Anfield looking for a 0-0. I did believe that Liverpool would have won the game however, but I wasn’t expecting them to win 4-0 or 5-0. I knew it was going to be a relatively low-key game.
“I never expected Manchester United to go head-to-head with Liverpool and attack, but I knew that they would come and sit, defend and try to leave Anfield with a result. They were always going to do that considering their injury problems. It was obvious that they weren’t going to come and try and outgun Liverpool, especially with the starting eleven that they fielded.”
Virgil van Dijk after yesterday’s game claimed that “only one team wanted to win.” Is that how you saw it too?
“No. I thought Manchester United would be organised, make themselves hard to beat and counter-attack whenever the opportunity arose. Arguably, Rasmus Højlund had the best chance of the game, so I don’t believe it was a case of only one team wanting to win. Manchester United didn’t want to lose and it was very important for them to avoid a defeat considering the week they have had and being knocked out of all European competition.
“The last thing they would have wanted to do is fight fire with fire and lose 3-0 because the pressure would have intensified on both the players and the manager. The most important thing to do when you’re in times of trouble and you’re facing heavy criticism, is to not lose. They need to go forward in their next few matches, be creative and start winning games.”
Van Dijk was labelled as ‘arrogant’ for these remarks by Roy Keane on Sky. Do you think that these comments were arrogant too?
“No, Virgil isn’t an arrogant man. I just believe that it’s a case of when you speak to somebody minutes after a match has finished and they’re very frustrated and say something in the heat of the moment. I don’t believe Virgil is an arrogant man. Not at all.”
What’s your prediction for Liverpool versus Arsenal on Saturday? Are you backing them to bounce back with a win?
“Yes I do and I believe the Arsenal game will be completely different to when they faced Manchester United on Sunday. Arsenal, as they showed in the 2-2 last season, will come out and want to play and act as if they’re top of the league.
“When you’ve got the two top teams facing off against each other, you don’t expect one of them to defend for ninety minutes. I expect Arsenal to come and fight fire with fire and attempt to exploit the spaces that Liverpool leave behind them down both sides of the pitch.
“I always never expect Liverpool to lose at Anfield, especially with the crowd behind them and I think the same for this weekend to be honest. I really do. Liverpool have West Ham United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, so it all depends on whether they can come out of that game without any injuries to key players, but I always fancy Liverpool to win at home because of the noise of the crowd.”
If Liverpool lose, do you believe the result could have a big impact on your former club’s title aspirations considering that they could be four points off top spot by the end of Saturday evening?
“No, not at all. People are going crazy about Manchester City at the moment and how they could be seven points off the top when they come back from the World Club Cup in Saudi Arabia, but it’s all nonsense really. Manchester City will be a completely different team once they’ve got the likes of John Stones, Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland back.
“I don’t think there’s anything conclusive about a three, four or five point lead at Christmas. At Easter it could be a major problem, but certainly not at Christmas.”
Jamie Carragher claimed yesterday that he believes that Liverpool are playing “a year ahead of schedule” and that he can’t see them winning the Premier League title this season. Do you believe that’s a valid point?
“I think Liverpool are fine. I always believed that Liverpool would be title contenders at the beginning of the season, as long as everybody remained fit, and I’ve not changed my mind since.
“Manchester City have lost John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne to injury, they’ve lost İlkay Gündoğan, who’s a wonderful player and did superbly well last season, to Barcelona, so you can see why they’re currently a few points off top spot, but they’re definitely still in the race for the Premier League title.
“Arsenal are also in the hunt and I know everybody expects Aston Villa to fall away at some point, but I think Unai Emery has done an incredible job. They were my dark horses before the season started, so I believe you can’t write off any of those four sides currently.
“Emery was treated appallingly during his last spell in the Premier League with Arsenal and people were laughing and joking at his attempts to speak English. It was atrocious really. I’m happy he’s doing so well this season and you can’t rule Aston Villa out of the title race.
“Ultimately, I don’t believe that Liverpool are ahead of schedule and I think they’re exactly where they should be in the league and they have the squad to handle all the tough fixtures that come their way.”
According to the Sunday papers, the Saudi Pro League intend to move again for Mo Salah in the summer window and he’s supposedly the league’s top target. However, considering that Liverpool have proved that they’re still title challengers, do you believe Mo will want to remain at Anfield this summer?
“I don’t necessarily believe that Mo will make his decision based on what Liverpool do this year. It depends on whether he wants to stay or he wants to leave and if he does want to leave the Premier League in the summer, I don’t believe any success Liverpool have this season will have an impact on encouraging him to stay past that point.
“He’s aware of his age and he will just want what’s best for his and his family’s future. It depends on where he wants to live and where he wants his kids to grow up. He may want to stay in Liverpool, he may want to be closer to Egypt. We don’t know what Mo wants to do at this moment in time.”
Liverpool, along with Arsenal, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, are linked with a move for Fulham’s João Palhinha. Do you believe he would be an ideal candidate to fill that ‘number six’ role for Liverpool?
“I don’t know. Yes, he’s a good number six, but I don’t know if he’s mobile enough for Liverpool. I certainly believe that Liverpool will aim to acquire a number six in the near future because it’s an area that they will need to start looking at soon because they will want to be ahead of the curve.
“Palhinha has been linked with a lot of clubs because he’s playing in the Premier League, but I believe Liverpool will be looking elsewhere if I’m being completely honest. He’s done extremely well at Fulham in that role, but sometimes when you’re in a ‘lesser’ team, you stand out in that role especially because your team is getting attacked a lot and you look better because you’re getting overworked. I don’t know if he will be on the list for Liverpool if I’m being completely honest.”
How did you rate Kobbie Mainoo’s performance against Liverpool on Sunday?
“I thought he was okay. I saw articles in the media saying that he was amazing and I don’t believe he was. He’s a young, inexperienced boy who came into a game like that at Anfield, against the league leaders, and performed well defensively, but that was about it.
“I hope he's a far better player than his showing on Sunday suggests, but as a team defensively and in organisational situations, I thought Manchester United did well. I wouldn’t go overboard on what their players did yesterday because they just defended in a unit and tried to break at times, so there was nothing great going forward. Defensively they were impressive though.
“I wouldn’t go overboard on how good he was when it came to his creativity. I thought the four defenders did really well, Scott McTominay did a good job at leading the team as a captain, Mainoo did well, [Sofyan] Amrabat ran around, but that was it really. We need to see him starting for Manchester United at home, putting in a performance in a 3-0 victory and being pivotal to what his side are doing creatively. We all know what a talent he is, there’s no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t go overboard about his performance in a 0-0 defensive display against Liverpool and claim he was amazing.
“Let's hope he does end up being amazing though. I love it when kids come in and they’re superstars. I have no issue with that, but I’m cautious about going overboard too soon regarding young players.”
Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Sunderland’s Jobe Bellingham. Do you believe this is a move that can possibly happen?
“Jobe’s doing okay. He’s at Sunderland and he’ll keep on improving there, especially under Michael Beale. Michael will teach Jobe the right things.
“I don’t think Liverpool will be interested in him yet because they don’t need to be interested in him. Teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, who can afford these players, don’t need to take them whilst they’re still so young. You have to be exceptional if you’re to make a move to a top club at 18 years of age and at the moment, Jobe is doing alright, but he’s probably in the best place currently for his development.
“The most important thing for him at the moment is to play 90 minutes almost every single week, if he can, and if he were to move to one of the big clubs, he wouldn’t have that opportunity, so I don’t see the point of him moving yet until he becomes more of the finished article. The big teams also don’t have to take a chance on the younger players at the minute because their academies are stacked with talented players.”
According to reports, INEOS would consider making a move for former Chelsea manager Graham Potter if Manchester United decide to sack Erik ten Hag in the near future. Do you believe Graham would suffer the same fate that he did at Chelsea if he took over at Old Trafford, considering the apparent disorganisation going on at both clubs?
“I’m not sure if he would suffer the same fate that he did at Chelsea, but I would be amazed if Manchester United got rid of Erik Ten Hag and replaced him with Graham Potter after what happened at Chelsea.
“I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Graham because I think he was treated appallingly during his time at Stamford Bridge. However, I would be amazed if Manchester United appointed him after everything that went on at Chelsea because if anything negative happens again, there would be so many questions as to why they took a chance on him after such a disastrous time at Chelsea.
“I’m not saying that it was Graham Potter’s fault, because that would be far from the truth, but I just don’t know why they would need to go there. Why not pick a manager that has just won the league somewhere? Why not go for Xabi Alonso who’s at the top of the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen? Why go for a manager that’s been out of work for eight months and had a failed experience at Chelsea?
“I’m not saying this is a failure on the behalf of Graham Potter. I thought Chelsea treated Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter terribly, but I would be very surprised if the latter was on the shortlist for Manchester United. I don’t believe Erik ten Hag will even leave Manchester United, but I’d be incredibly surprised if Graham was on the shortlist for one of the biggest jobs in world football.”
Former Real Madrid and Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui is another contender linked with the hot seat at Manchester United. Would this be a smart appointment in your opinion?
“Not particularly. I like Julen as a manager, but Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and I would find it a really strange fit if they made a move for Lopetegui. I think Manchester United needs to go for someone who would really excite the crowd and get everybody on board.
“Julen was at Wolves and he left on his own accord because players were being sold behind his back and I thought that was an incredibly brave decision to make and I believe it was the right one too, but regardless of that, I would be very surprised if he turned up at Manchester United. I just think the fans would be very underwhelmed and I don’t mean that disrespectfully because I’m not a fan of Manchester United, but I think to go with an ex-Wolves manager who didn’t do well there, would be a strange move.”