Closing in on the final round of play in the English Premier League, we caught up with two-time Premier League winner, former Manchester United and England ace, Paul Parker. He gave advice for Erik Ten Hag, shared his opinion on Steve McClaren joining the staff, the Frenkie de Jong and N’Golo Kanté rumours, why Donny Van De Beek should be getting a new chance and what sort of future Alejandro Garnacho could be looking at. Finally, he gave his verdict on Dean Henderson and why the Europa League is better than the Champions League.
Erik Ten Hag reported for duty already yesterday – starting preparations for his new role. What is your one best piece of advice for him for his first day of work?
“I think it’s the same thing for any job really, establishing authority. You know, you walk in your first day into any job, I mean, it’s gonna be difficult.”
“The first thing; your first team talk, your first group talk, your squad talk, that’s your most important one. It is the one that makes you or breaks you. It Is the one where anybody who will have a bad attitude will be looking for an excuse to dig into him. He’s got to let everyone know, that he’s not gonna suffer any problems.”
“It’s as simple as that. He’s come across there. His reputation is at stake as well. You know he’s a well-known man in his own country. He’s managed a very successful club, a big club, a renowned club and he surely hasn’t gone to Manchester United to ruin all that.”
“He’s in a position now, where it’s gonna make him or break him. That’s what Manchester United has done to the previous four or five managers, I’ve lost count now. So, he’s got to go in there and do something different to all of them.”
“If he hasn’t been given the license to do it, just grab it. Just grab it now and just say I’m gonna take it and if you don’t like it get rid of me. He can’t have people messing him about. He can’t have people who are not going to give him a hundred per cent.”
As a former player, what will you be looking for to see him establish authority?
“I think someone who comes in and just talks and doesn’t stutter and does not make eye contact. I would imagine, he knows all that stuff, it’s all the part of management. Hopefully, he is going to be a manager and not just a head coach.”
“Not someone who’s gonna walk in and start looking around and going “well, he’s earned that much money, he’s earned that much money,” and you think: Oh, I can’t have a go at him because he sells so many shirts and he’s got so many followers on Instagram.”
“Go in there, everyone is in exactly the same boat and you treat all of them the same, nothing different, and that’s the bit that I would be looking for.”
What kind of football would you want to see under Erik ten Hag. Do you think a particular play style can help Man Utd consistently get results in the Premier League?
“Don’t know about the style of play, but all I want to see is players playing together as a team.”
“That’s the most important. United haven’t been a team for quite a while. Not just this season, but also in previous seasons. They’ve relied on individuals to get them out of trouble.”
“There’s been no connection on the pitch, no structure, no cognition. It’s just been hit and hope. That’s all it’s been and a lot of it this season. Get hope in an individual to get them out of trouble. That isn’t Manchester United, you expect that from a lot of other teams, but you don’t expect it from top clubs.”
“Top clubs should not be playing that way. The establishment sees what’s going on. They’re spending a lot of money. So they wanna see something to justify that. Manchester United haven’t justified that and that is why they’ve been ridiculed more than any team, I think, ever.”
Steve McClaren will make his return to Man Utd, as part of Erik ten Hag’s coaching staff. Think the former England manager can make a difference?
“Steve McClaren is a very good coach. As a manager, he wasn’t successful. There are people who can coach and people who can manage. And there are only a few managers that we can talk about doing both, and who have done that and have been deemed as great managers.”
“Steve McClaren worked at United for a number of years so he’s got a basic idea of what may be needed.”
“Manchester United have to move on as a club from top to bottom from what they are doing and it can’t be the same things that made them into the club they are, they have to move a little bit with the times.”
“At the moment, Manchester United haven’t been adapting, they’ve been living in this world like the way it used to be.”
What do you have to say about Frenkie de Jong joining Man Utd?
“The Barcelona fans didn’t take to him straight away. They didn’t like him, wouldn’t accept him. So maybe he would be more relaxed (at Manchester United) especially working with somebody who he knows and trusts. And I think he needs that around him.”
“Erik Ten Hag also needs those players around him, the ones who are going to go in the dressing room and correct a few of the other players. Not by words, but by action. By the way they train and the way they play.”
Do you think Donny van de Beek can get a new lease of life at Man Utd under Erik ten Hag?
“I think he gives them (Manchester United) an opportunity. And if he believes there’s an opportunity for him, he’ll be more relaxed than he has ever been.”
“Since the moment he left the shores of Holland to come to the UK, I don’t think he’s been relaxed. So, I think there’s a great chance for him and he knows that as well. And every Manchester United fan would want him to do that, would want to see him be given a chance.”
“He’s got the best foundation possible now. The only foundation he’s missing is not having the Ajax Arena around him. But he’s got the person who made him a player, who helped him make his name. So, there’s an opportunity that he would move on as a player. So, I’m looking forward to seeing him play, I really am, cause I saw how well and good of a player he was and I was disappointed that he was never given an opportunity to relax and try and play his game (at Manchester United).”
“He never got an opportunity to play in what was maybe the best eleven of a United team. And when he did play he was coming on as a sub when games were won or when they were chasing games. He’s not that kind of a player, he’s not that kind of impact player. He’s a player that you build around. He’ll go and get the ball deep, he’ll be in a box, he’s got quick feet, and he never got an opportunity to play. Because Manchester United don’t dominate the ball, so you’re not gonna get the best out of him as he’s chasing around like a fairy to try and get the ball back.”
News has emerged of Man Utd trying to swoop in for N’Golo Kante, considering Chelsea’s issues. Do you think this is a step in the right direction when it comes to transfer recruitment? Kante is a proven Premier League talent
“He will improve Manchester United’s midfield a hundred per cent. Because he can go and get the ball out of people without always fouling them. He doesn’t go around looking to hurt people and when he does get the ball, he keeps the ball.”
“It would be interesting with a midfield where we’re talking about Kante, we’re talking (Frenkie) de Jong, we’re talking (Donny) van de Beek. Is it going to be, on the eye, the most intimidating midfield, and you got workaholics in there. You got people who are going to keep the ball and dominate and it will improve Manchester United’s midfield a hundred per cent. They won’t be a bottom-six midfield anymore.”
“Kante has won numerous medals, made it in big, big games and for him to come from Leicester to Chelsea to Manchester United would be an incredible journey. Is it possible? I think you look at maybe what’s happening at Chelsea and it might be possible.”
“Normally I’m quite negative about things when they’re said like that. But this one is possible and I like it. I like the idea of it”
Should Man Utd cash in on Dean Henderson, who is apparently a target for Newcastle United?
“I personally do. Give him the opportunity and go and prove it. You can prove it at Newcastle with the pressure on him from their fans. If he’s got an opportunity to play regular football, he’s gonna want it. He’s not gonna be sitting down, his ego is not allowing him.”
“He thinks he’s done well enough at Sheffield United to demand to be number one. That’s maybe a bit disrespectful to the goalkeepers. Cause goalkeepers always fought as a goalkeeper’s union and kept opinions to themselves. Obviously, Dean Henderson wants to break out of that union. But let him go and try to be the number one.”
“Newcastle hasn’t got a bad goalkeeper, by the way. The goalkeeping situation was a massive issue at Newcastle, but Dean Henderson is worth a lot of money.”
“Dean Henderson going there will put himself at the forefront and people will really see how good he is.”
Manchester United had a small reason to celebrate recently with the U-18 team winning the youth FA Cup. A 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest. Do you think any players from that side can be given an opportunity in the senior team? Alejandro Garnacho, in particular, has garnered a lot of praise.
“There is an opportunity for him because of the new manager coming in. The manager coming in will integrate him and other young players because that’s what he does. It’s an easy thing for him, that’s what he does and if he doesn’t do that, then Manchester United have got the wrong kind of manager.”
“That was his strength for Ajax. United have always been that way under Sir Alex. That’s the way he was, he was always looking to bring young players in the dressing room and tell us all they are gonna take your place.”
“In my case, he was a hundred per cent right with Gary Neville.”
“(Alejandro) Garnacho will mostly get an opportunity to be training regularly and be filtered in. Maybe that will affect some of the egos of the players that are already there, but the right players.”
“It’s Manchester United maybe taking a step back in the sense of not go be going out and buying players commercially, actually trying to make them commercially viable, which is the way it was before.”
“I always look at Ruud van Nistelrooy coming from PSV, no one really knew him. When he left Manchester United everyone in the world knew him. And that’s how Sir Alex Ferguson did it. Eric Cantona became a big name when he came to Manchester United. Yes, he was known at Leeds cause he helped them win the last league championship. But when he came to Manchester United, Manchester United and Sir Alex made him global.“
“And there’s been many a player like that, Andy Cole to a point. Became global when he came to Manchester United. And that’s what Sir Alex did and that’s what the club is about now.”
Where would you rather see Man Utd play next season, considering the ‘overall picture’ – Europa League or the Conference League?
“Manchester United need Europe because of the way they market and sell themselves.”
“Europa League isn’t frowned upon anymore. It’s mostly the best tournament, Europa League, for excitement, because things can change.”
“Champions League is like going to the theatre. You actually know what’s going to happen in the end, you’re just watching all the bits in between.”
“I’ve seen West Ham in the Europa League, I never knew West Ham was gonna beat Lyon and Sevilla. Barcelona was in the tournament, they made it more exciting.”
“Spurs treated the Conference League with disrespect, total disrespect. I don’t know where Spurs was coming from thinking that way. I don’t know why they thought it was disrespectful for them to play in it. But they did. If they treated it better then maybe they would still be in that. Cause I’m sure (Antonio) Conte would have really wanted to go at it.”
“I think now with the new manager coming in, I think they just might need that tournament, especially some of the teams they are going to be up against. Some of the teams could be village teams. So, I think he’s gonna need those games for the younger players to get European experience in those early stages. To use some of the younger players that are coming out of the youth team. To play in the early stages of Europe, there’s no better way of learning and actually being there from the start.”
“Any of the tournaments really.”
What are your predictions for the Europa League final?
“I just got a funny feeling that Rangers could win it. They are quite a dynamic team. They got plenty of goalscorers, something that West Ham didn’t have, and it’s a one-off game, no two legs. They’ve been fantastic Rangers in what they’ve done.“
“They got some really, really good players Rangers. I just got a funny feeling looking at Frankfurt, I just got a funny feeling, especially, I think it may depend on their key defender Martin Hinteregger being out. So they could be struggling. He’s a big miss for them. I just think Rangers, cause of the way they are all action. The only thing they are not having is maybe that European experience.”
“It makes it quite open, but I quite like Rangers. Just how dynamic they are, they changed a little bit, and I’m sure Steven Gerrard must be gutted that Rangers are in the final. Can you imagine adding that to your CV, if they go and win that as well?”
“I don’t think Amad Diallo will start. He has struggled, I think with physicality and everything else about playing. He did score on his debut I think. I think it’s been a bit of a struggle, because really every time Rangers play games, especially away from home and on some of the grounds, it was a bit of a wake up call for him. From where he’s coming from I think it was a tough time for him. “
“It’s difficult in Scotland. It’s a two-horse league, you talk about crowds and everything that goes with it. It’s a difficult one which I think maybe in a long term would have served him well but I don’t know if he has had a lot of it football-wise. “
“But, he won’t start in the final, he won’t start. But we do have to believe as well that Rangers have got a very good chance of winning that game. Winning that game against Frankfurt. “