Paul Ince: United aren’t ready to challenge for the title yet

Former United midfielder praises the club’s progress under Jose Mourinho, particularly evidenced by Paul Pogba’s pre-season form, but thinks the team – in particular Marcus Rashford – have a long way to go


United aren’t there yet

It’s exciting times at Manchester United – there are visible improvements in the whole team. Jose Mourinho has only been there a year but, already, they look so much better.

There were signs last season and again this pre-season they’ve stepped up another level. They are definitely improving.

It’s going to be a big year for Mourinho. I’m not saying they have to win the Premier League, because I don’t think they do, but they can’t be finishing sixth again.

I still think they’re missing one or two players to really nail on a title chase. Mourinho will definitely want a couple more in – but it isn’t going to be Gareth Bale, let’s be realistic. He wants to stay at Real Madrid, so any talk about him coming is pointless.

From a goalscoring point of view, I don’t think they’ll get enough – they’re not quite there.

Last season, they were so dependent on Zlatan. They didn’t get enough goals from the middle of the park, or even from the defence. When I was at the club, you could guarantee that players like Denis Irwin would get you seven goals a season. I don’t see that with United now, they don’t create enough chances.

Nemanja Matic isn’t a goalscoring midfielder, Ander Herrera doesn’t get enough – nor does Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, or Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford needs to score more, too.

Losing Matic isn’t a loss to Chelsea

I think bringing in Romelu Lukaku was a great piece of business, and there’s whispers about Zlatan staying on, which would be fantastic, but I just can’t see United being free-scoring with the current squad.

Some people have said that they can’t believe Chelsea let Matic go to United, and that they’ve handed them the title, but I don’t see that. Towards the back end of last season, he couldn’t get in their team.

So I don’t think he’ll be a huge loss to them, but he’s still a very good player to sit in front of the back four, do the simple things, pass the ball – he’s good at what he does.

Victor Lindelof still has a lot to learn. There’ve been a couple of games I’ve watched he’s dived in. It takes time, I know that from experience of going to United at a young age. You’ve got to understand what the club is all about.

Once he gets into that, and comfortable with the surroundings – and the magnitude of what’s expected of him – he’ll be a good signing.

I like what I see from Pogba

I’ve watched every United pre-season game this summer, and I really like what I see from Paul Pogba already. He seems a completely different player from last year.

It can be tough coming to a new club, getting used to a new system, which afforded him less freedom than he had at Juventus. He wasn’t sure what his role was last season, and the critics were out for him.

But that’s all changed. He’s sharp, getting in the box a lot more, and you can already see an improvement. He’s going to be fantastic this year.

If he can add goals to his game, he’ll be the top class player he should be.

Rashford isn’t a baby anymore

With Marcus Rashford, now, we’ve gone past the situation where he should be seen as a young kid – if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

Last year, I’m not saying he got away with it, but there were times when he wasn’t great. He still needs to learn the game.

He’s got the potential to be world class, but he’s quite a way off that yet.

He needs to be more clinical – he carves himself chances on his own but, when he gets into great positions, he doesn’t finish the way I’d want him to.

That’s something you need to work on at the training ground – making sacrifices when others are going home, staying and working on it.

Lingard is the same – both of them, as young kids, put themselves in great positions to score goals, but there were plenty of times last year where they wouldn’t take their chances.

Rashford has had more than a year around the first team at United. Mourinho likes the big man up front, so he has to be adaptable to get into the team – but I think he can play 10, wide right, left, or up front, depending on the opposition.

If he works on scoring goals, Rashford could be a great. He’s quick, can beat players, fearless, strong and tough – the only thing missing is putting the ball in the back of the net.

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