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Paul Parker stresses the need for consistency at Man Utd

Paul Parker on Manchester United recent win

We had a chat with former Manchester United star and England international Paul Parker who talked about the Red Devils’ latest performance, the game against Southampton and more.

Paul Parker

What did you make of Manchester United’s win against Liverpool?

Well, what can I say first and foremost, I think like everyone who watched that game, you didn’t have to be a Manchester United fan to be shocked by how they played in that game when you look at their previous two performances, which were so low and negative. And to jump up like that, that’s an incredible climb which they made to perform like that for the duration they performed like that as well.

It was incredible, how we did it and I think we have to look at the most obvious thing that stuck out, the reason why United played like they did is because of the upper back four.

They had a mobile-minded defence, who just had to do one job and that was to defend first and try and play football after that given the opportunities, rather than overplaying. You had a left back who was willing to defend properly, get forward when possible. We had a left-sided centre half who could use the left foot, who actually sensed danger. Nothing got in behind him. Anything in front of him, he tried his best to stop ‘em turning.

A right-sided centre-half who did a similar job, added a little bit more culture to the back four. And the right-back did a job. I still think he’s a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to defending. But even he looked more comfortable with more organised players around him. So that was the actual base, the baseline which kind of took Manchester United forward.

It was a great performance by Manchester United against Liverpool but do you fear that this was a one-time experience and they will be back to usual against Southampton?

Yes, I’m not 100% at the moment, I’ve got to take that as it was. It was good. Like I said, it was the biggest jump in form ever. But, as I’ve said, the next game is even more important, because now people are looking to see if they can add a little bit of consistency there. And I think it’s more about certain individuals showing consistency more than the team really. I think we know what you’re gonna get from at least three of those defenders.

When you look at the midfield, you know what you’re going to get from Eriksen. But when you talk about the rest of it, you’re a little bit worried. So, what you worry about is Marcus Rashford going to want to work as hard as he did that game and actually run behind people as he did that game? Which was what made him and all of a sudden he decided that he didn’t want to run anymore. And he decided that he wanted to try and beat people by dribbling through ‘em.

So, unless they’re ghosts, you can’t go through people. You have to try and go around them with a skill, which isn’t always his strength, his strength is to run, try and keep running beyond people to create space. Sancho scored a great goal, but still didn’t do enough, wasn’t enough in the game causing enough problems. Martial came on a sub and did okay. Is he going to start? That’s the question, how far is he going to change? Hopefully he doesn’t change it too much because you want to get consistency.

I think Elanga did okay but he got taken off for some reason. I don’t know what the reason is why he came off, but he was like, very, very important for the goal, his one-two, around Alexander Arnold. So, when you’re looking at it that way, there’s still a lot of work to do. Scott McTominay may have had one of his better games for Manchester United but the next game for him is even more important because Southampton’s midfield will be a lot more mobile than Liverpool’s midfield. When you talk about Henderson and Milner, mobility doesn’t come to mind.

So, Scott McTominay who ain’t blessed with mobility, he was in a little bit in seventh heaven now. But, when they play against Southampton, they’re gonna be more mobile, so we have to see what happens there but that’s if he sticks to the same side. For me, I think he has to stick to at least, maybe the midfield and the back four, it’s about what he does with a three up top really?

Is he there to bring back Ronaldo, which I can’t see because he hasn’t got the same energy levels. He’s not dynamic enough to play in that fashion that is needed, I think to be a competitive team. In any level of football, the teams that compete are teams that are competitive throughout. So, he might decide to go maybe with Martial instead of Elanga. But I think that could, maybe, be the only change he’ll make for this game at the weekend.

Do you think it was the right decision to put Ronaldo on the bench by Erik ten Hag? And how do you think that will affect the locker room if he keeps sitting on the bench?

It’s definitely the right decision to bring him on. I think we saw to leave him on the bench, I think everyone could see that when he did come on, the difference of what happened to Manchester United, they suddenly lost that substitution of three players, they lost the edge a little bit and allowed Liverpool to come on more.

Because as much as Ronaldo was running, he was running at one pace and he wasn’t timing his runs, he was running for the sake of running. So, is this a case of just running around rather than actually running with faults? So, I thought it was definitely 100% the right decision. Should he do it again on the weekend? Yes. With Ronaldo being in the position he’s in, that ain’t gonna last long. It’s not really the right person, in my opinion, to be having around if he’s not playing regularly. Without you knowing, he’s got that bit about him – that side where he doesn’t enjoy being there, he wants to be the focal point. He can’t be the focal point in any side anymore. He’s had his time, it’s new people.

They might not be as good as him, they might not have everything that he had, but the difference is, they’re the ones who are relevant now. You know, he’s got to say, look at things, that’s life. Things move on. But the best thing to look for himself, for the club, and for the players, is for him not to be there after the first of September. For him, he can’t be sitting around after the first of September because he will be a sour apple in the barrel if he is and that’s human nature.

Erik ten Hag dropped Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw against Liverpool. Why do you think it took him so long to do that?

I think he did try to, he must have tried to see things, try to hope that they could get a blast. He hoped that they could be different and make their own decisions rather than keep playing in a fashion that suited them or maybe playing to instructions. But I think he saw that they couldn’t give him what he wanted. There was a little bit, I read somewhere, there’s a quote from him where he talks about, he wanted agility, he wanted mobility, and he wanted pace in the backline.

So when you look at that, when you talk about those two, he leaves two of them. Luke Shaw’s quite quick going forward with the ball, quite a strong runner but defensively he’s not a strong runner. Agility-wise, not much agility, mobility, it’s a struggle. If he played against Salah in that game the other night, Salah would have had a happier time. A lot happier time.

I’m not saying he’s gonna go and score a goal, he would have had more opportunities, he would have caused Manchester United more problems. I think Malacia didn’t allow Salah to get his head up and have a look once because he was bang, bang, bang, bang all around him every time. He wasn’t always winning the ball and you don’t have to win a ball to be a good defender or be an excellent defender.

He gave Harry Maguire an opportunity, still kept him captain, which I’ve said before, seemed a bit strange, because it makes it more difficult to leave him out. He’s been justified now for leaving him out in that game. Now, I think he’s got to follow that on. I think Harry Maguire knows that his next step now is, who’s going to be his captain? Because at the end of the day, Harry Maguire doesn’t need that round his neck.

So that’s the bit now. I think the more decisions he makes like he made for that Liverpool game, the stronger he’ll be as a manager and the more he’ll get respected by the players. The players within the club they’ll know he’s that way. Sir Alex Ferguson made big decisions. He didn’t allow sentiment to get in his way because he’s always said that sentiment can and will always get you the sack.

How impactful do you think Casemiro is going to be for Man United?

Well, that one, I think, it’s a fact that it was a surprise to everyone when his name came up, after all the rubbish that I’ve seen over the years and players mentioned. So, that one I went– No, you don’t go on for the near 10 years, he’s been there, you don’t win what he’s won, and then suddenly walk away. That’s what’s going through my head. But I think he’s looked at it. And he’s seen, he’s had a great tenure with Real Madrid, he’s won so much. 

And he’s looked at his age, he knows his age, I should say, and then he’s looked at the contract that may be in front of him, the length of time he’s gonna get, he’s looked what United has offered him, he knows that he’s got a place in there, a regular place. And to achieve something big, like Real Madrid or Manchester United, it’s like a fantasy. So that tells me that he’s ambitious. So, that’s what he says to me. People say it’s comfort or money, of course he has.

But I think he’s got something about him that he doesn’t want to fail. He doesn’t want that stigma of chasing money. Is his role to be the number six in the team? Positions are judged by numbers now. God knows what Alexander Arnold thinks, he’s got two 6´s on his back, what he needs is one more for the devil child. The way he defends is like the devil child. So, I’m saying that yes, Casemiro takes it, blows Scott McTominay out of the water in that role. He’ll just keep things ticking over ticking over. That’s what he’ll do.

With the ball, we’d be better, without the ball, we’d be better. You won’t be giving away so many silly fouls.

And he will improve the other players around him like Eriksen. Eriksen will believe in him more than what he will do with Scott McTominay. 

My biggest concern in midfield and this is me saying it, is Fernandez in that midfield. Now if the old one was still to come off, because I imagine now Barcelona’s getting desperate. Has there been a gameplay that they leave that one as long as possible? If they were to go and get de Jong, then you have to say that when you look at a midfield like that, there may be Fernandez might not be around. And given everything, Fernandez sometimes is a liability in the way he conducts himself.

Chelsea allegedly made an enquiry for Harry Maguire. How would it look for Erik ten Hag if Manchester United agreed to sell his new chosen captain?

I think the Harry Maguire one was a bluff by Chelsea. I think that’s played as a bluff to force a situation with Fofana, to put Leicester under pressure with Fofana. Leicester have got no money, as such, I think Brendan Rodgers has been told they’ve got no money to spend. So, Brendan Rodgers is sooner or later, he’s gonna want a bit of money. He’s gonna want to add something because they’ve lost players, he needs to revitalise his present players to let them know that Leicester is still contesting for a spot in Europe.

By not replacing the players he’s losing, he needs to do something. So, if he can maybe sell a player who wants to go, because if that player’s around after the first of September, he knows the mentality of the players today he’s not going to get a full 100% out of him. As much as he gives it, he’s going to be a little bit because of issues at work, because I know ain’t going to come out anyway. He’s gonna be pissed if the club stops him going to Chelsea to play in the Champions League.

And I’m sure that’s what was said to him when he joined Leicester that he wanted – that they could give him this, they could give him that. So, they’ve used that one. Chelsea can’t sign Harry Maguire because you look at, they’ve got Thiago, they’ve got Koulibaly. They get Harry Maguire, he’s got no pace, no organising skills. Fofana senses danger and he’s got pace, Harry Maguire’s got neither of them. So, I think that’s a bluff, a real bluff that one with Chelsea trying to sign Maguire.

Do you think that United should be looking to sign a new right-back and  a goalkeeper when you’re looking at the way Ten Hag wants to play with Manchester United?

I think yeah. But I think the most immediate one needed is a right-back. A right-back is needed. I think in a fashion that he wants to play, I don’t know if he could try Wan-Bisakka and see if he can improve him as a player to get more, a better way of him going forward. Because Wan-Bisakka is a better defender than Dalot. Dalot tries very hard, you can see the effort he puts in but sometimes he’s over the mark, he’s a bit rash, overly he gives away too many silly fouls because I think he’s scared of his defending, he’s got no patience, he’s impetuous.

So, he needs a more controlled full-back who knows that, you know, not winning a ball still can be categorised as good, defending, great defending. Being in the right area can prevent a pass rather than always diving in, chasing it. So, a right-back is needed. Then, could Wan-Bisakka who is in turn will help? 

If we are talking about the goalkeeper position, he most likely said to David De Gea, if in doubt, let it go. Teams can’t score when the ball’s 60 yards away from you. Sounds a bit, well it sounds a bit football. That’s how it is, if in doubt, kick it out, as the saying goes. But don’t overplay. If you’re not comfortable, clear your lines. That’s what he’s got to go and do. That isn’t going to stop Manchester United being successful by not overplaying at the back all the time, it will relinquish a lot of pressure.

A lot of teams may follow suit as well because some teams are doing it because I think they’re scared of being known as a team who plays long ball. It seems a little bit oh don’t play it, don’t kick it long, means you’re not a good football team. But good football teams make the right decisions at the given times. So, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Why do you think Jadon Sancho has been struggling to replicate his Bundesliga performance where he performed very well?

Well, the Bundesliga has a different way of playing to the Premier League. Everybody stands high, centre-backs standing high. And it’s a chase. He gets lots and lots of one against one situations, he gets a lot more space to cross it, teams play almost in the same fashion in Germany. So, he’s come here, he’s coming back to the UK, where he’s from where he knows it. And he’s finding the options a little bit more difficult. He’s finding defending a lot better. He’s finding better individual defenders.

To Borussia Dortmund, he was worth the money because I’m sure they could maybe do even now. And he was worth that money that Manchester United paid. But looking at someone who plays for United and I think everyone would say, “He’s not worth that money. Not in a million years is he worth that money.”

When you look at some of the players out and the wide players scattered around the Premier League, there’s no way he set a precedent to a lot of expense – he’s been like Jack Grealish, he was worth a 100 million to Aston Villa. You speak to City fans and they’re saying okay, yeah Jack Grealish is alright, but not 100 million pounds, that was too much. They will not get that return if they said they’re gonna let him go, not in a million years. Sancho is the same. That is not 70 odd million pounds worth of footballer.

Fulham seems close to signing Justin Kluivert on a loan deal. How do you see that signing for Fulham?

I think if his opportunity’s gonna play in the Premier League, then it’s going to be as a winger, because he’s not going to take Mitrović’s spot. He’s not going to get many Cup games because Fulham got beat in the League Cup last night, they got knocked out by a second division team, which is three levels below ‘em. So, that’s a little bit embarrassing for them.

Maybe because José doesn’t like him because he’s got a famous dad and his dad’s more famous than him. So, he can’t have his son around, that’s the way José is. So, I would say that I’ve seen him, say the odd little bits of him and I’ll say he’s okay but José letting him go should never make anyone think that he isn’t that good because remember José let De Bruyne go, he let Salah go. So that doesn’t make Kluivert a bad player.

But if you look at it, it will make a difference to Fulham if he can play on the left side. Then you look at why it’s in wide areas there. They’ve got Harry Wilson, who’s still injured, who had a lot of assists last year, scored a few goals. But on the other side, they got Kebano who is adequate.Now, Kluivert will technically be better, I think he’d have a better football knowledge. So, he could improve Fulham in a wide area. That’s what you could add to ‘em because Fulham in wide areas are not very strong.

Fulham has had a good start to the season. Did you expect that before the season started?

I played for Fulham from the age of 11 till I was 23. There were different clubs too when I played for ‘em because we were in the Third Division. But they surprised everyone and it kicked off with that really good performance against Liverpool. And they really haven’t looked back performance wise. They’ve really stepped forward and what they’ve done as well, they opened the door to every side that’s played against the top teams. 

Fulham should have beat Liverpool. So yes, Fulham have done really, really well in the way they’ve gone. It’s their best start in the Premier League since their first time when they lasted 13 years or so. Their last two efforts have been embarrassing. So, third time lucky hopefully.

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Raj was born and raised in Nagpur, Rajesh moved to Pune to pursue a degree in the English Language at Savitribai Phule Pune University. Having a knack for writing from a very young age, he naturally excelled in his studies and decided to dip his toes in content editing, as well. Now, a full-time Editor, he enjoys spending his free time watching IPL and badminton matches and writing his first novel. His favourite sport is cricket and he believes cricket is life. But I’ve always dreamed of becoming a professional badminton player, so badminton is also at the top of my list. His biggest win is Saina Nehwal’s bronze at the 2016 Olympics landed him a brand new laptop after his bet on the winning margin came through. His biggest goal is meeting Saina Nehwal and telling her about his biggest win.