Manchester United have fallen far behind the pack. I’d like to think that they will recover, but they could be waiting a while.
You’ve also got to realise that while Man United have fallen behind, and they desperately try to bridge the gap between themselves and Man City and Liverpool, those teams have kept advancing. Liverpool and City haven’t just stayed still, they’re progressing, getting better and are hungrier than ever.
Don’t think for one minute that those top teams will give United any chance to catch up, because they won’t. They’ll only slip further behind.
Youth isn’t the way to go for this Man United side
It’s all about personnel for United, now. How they improve not only the team but the club, from the top down. They have to start again from fresh.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was signed for £60 million, which is a lot of money for a full-back. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he wanted to go down the route of bringing in younger, fresher talent and building the team that way. For me, that’s not the way to go.
Youth players today aren’t the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. They’re simply not. There’s just not that much coming through the academy at the moment. Yes, pick two or three youngsters but then integrate them with top class, top quality senior players – don’t rely on it.
Do you see many youth players in Manchester City’s team except Phil Foden? No, and they just won the league. Liverpool have a couple, but the majority of their team are senior, experienced players interspersed with youth. I don’t think you can say we’re going with just kids and expect to close such a big gap. Solskjaer needs to be buying ready-made players, coming into their prime – not 18-year-olds, unless they’re truly a special talent.
There’s a real weakness with Woodward and co.
The footballing decisions at the club have been mental for a few years now. Giving contracts to players who barely deserve them. There’s been talks of giving Jesse Lingard an extension! I simply don’t think he wants it enough or has done it enough to deserve a thing.
Alexis Sanchez is apparently on £500,000 per week, and Ed Woodward and the board allowing that has made other players question their own worth, especially after he had such a poor season. You have to be questioning how anyone has been allowed to make those decisions.
I know I say it a lot, but would this happen under Sir Alex Ferguson? Would it happen under Pep Guardiola? I’d be very, very shocked. There’s a real weakness when it comes to players’ contracts and demands, they seem to be dictating to Woodward and the board what they want.
Ed Woodward is a banker – not a football man. He’s absolutely fantastic at bringing in money, the profit, sponsorship deals, he’s brilliant. But you can’t just keep throwing money away on players. You need someone in who gets football, who has the presence to deal with these players and tell them they can’t demand X, Y and Z from United. Tell them where to stick it.
There’s just so much about the club that isn’t right. I said last year, that Man United need to hit the ground running next year. Their entire house must be in order from top to bottom, and I can’t see that happening.
Fans need to learn to manage their expectations
It’s going to be a difficult season – they’re back in the Europa League, which is depressing to even think about, never mind speak about – and that puts a lot of pressure on the team.
Look what happened to Burnley, they struggled, and it’ll be the same for United. You need a big, talented squad to put up with that level of games and Thursday nights, they don’t have that.
Also, what players are going to fancy playing in the Europa League? No one, if we’re being honest. Players aren’t buzzing to play on Thursday nights!
The issue is, Man United fans still have big expectations of their club and rightly so. They believe that United should always be competing, always challenging to win the title every year – no ifs or buts. The whole ‘transitional period’ to United fans is nonsense – Fergie went through them all the time but still won silverware.
Maybe they’ll have to learn to manage those expectations this year. When Ole came in the team went on an unbelievable run, so we know that it’s possible, but sustaining that and avoiding the slump is so crucial.
There has been a poor attitude amongst the players since Fergie left
For me, a lot of these issues come down to the attitude of the squad. The players seem to do exactly what they want, when they want. There’s no presence, no control from above. I think and hope Ole knows that, knows he needs to have players who actually give a toss about playing for United.
I hear people say that they just want to get players in that will work hard and run around for the club, but it’s not about that. I can come in now and work hard and run about, even at my age. I mean, I probably wouldn’t last five minutes, but that’s not the criteria that Ole should want. It’s about quality players with the right spirit and attitude.
Camaraderie is unbelievably important to a team, and I don’t think that since Sir Alex left, United have had any, at least not as a unit. It’s something which needs to be addressed.
Is Ole in it for the long run? I couldn’t answer that…
We talk about giving teams and managers stability, and it’s no shock to me Klopp has won something after being given a few years at Liverpool. The question is, is Ole in it for the long run? I couldn’t answer that question.
They need someone consistently performing for three, four, five years. United have tried the whole binning a manager after a year thing, and it’s not worked. They need to give someone the time to build a team – but United have made their bed and now they have to lie in it with Ole. I said last season that they should’ve gone with someone more experienced and I stand by that.
But the fact is, Ole’s now in the situation where it’s time to prove that he’s the right man for the job.
If he has a shaky start to the season, people will be asking questions, because he is inexperienced and this is one enormous task. I could see that if United do start badly, they’ll want to change him, but that’s just another disruption and another step backward for the club.
Ole has brought in his choice of players this summer and he’s got the full run at the season, he has no excuses.
It’ll be Ole’s team – the first thing he needs to do is establish a style of play for United.