Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was under huge pressure after United’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, which saw Antonio Conte linked with the job at Man United, he’s now gone to Tottenham, have Man United missed out by not hiring Conte?
No, I don’t think they missed out on anything. I believe Ole has the support of the club. There was no missing out on Conte.
Can Conte get Tottenham to challenge Man United in the Premier League?
Conte can definitely improve that team. He needs to be given some resources to recruit in the transfer window. He’s a proven manager and he’s won trophies. It’s a new experience for him, a new club, new players and joining during the course of the season is never easy because you don’t have as much time to work in training with players on your principles.
After drawing with Atalanta last night, if United suffer another heavy defeat to a rival in Man City this weekend, would that put Ole’s job at further risk?
I don’t think the team will suffer another heavy defeat. They will put on a fight, especially at home, for the supporters. Ole’s job is safe because he’s got enough credit and the players responded at Spurs. Even one point away from home against Atalanta, they are a decent team. United are still leading the Champions League group, so it’s a good response after the 5-0 defeat [to Liverpool].
Is Solskjaer still the right manager to lead Manchester United going forward?
Yes, at the moment he needs more time because we’re only at the beginning of November and players joined late in the window. He needs time to find the right balance with the new players, it’s not easy. Nine times out of 10, changing the manager is not the answer.
How much time would you give Solskjaer?
The target is to win trophies, so you need to be in the race in March and April. That gives him a lot of time to improve the team.
Graeme Souness recently claimed Solskjaer needs more experienced coaches around him to help him out, do you agree with that?
I don’t know what he means, unless he’s been in training and knows what’s happening behind closed doors. It doesn’t matter what age you are, we’ve seen young managers do really well. But I can’t really comment on that, unless you go into the training ground and know what sessions are on, it’s difficult to say.
This weekend United are coming up against a formidable team in Man City, how far behind are United from City at the moment?
Last season it was 12 points, so there is still a gap and the gap should be reduced this season to challenge City. But the response will be at the end of the season, we are in November, so it’s still early.
Manchester United were being talked up as title challengers before the start of the season, what’s a realistic aim for them this season now?
You’ve got to qualify for the Champions League, that’s the reality. You’ve got to be there challenging in March/April otherwise it’s another season where you’re going to be looking at winning a cup.
Would winning a cup equal a successful season for Manchester United?
That’s the target to win a trophy. Last season, losing against Villarreal was a blow because you’re there and the only way out is putting the winners’ medal on or go home and be extremely disappointed. It’s important to get to a final and win it.
Would you take winning a cup over finishing in the top four?
It doesn’t matter which trophy it is, it’s got to be a trophy. Again, this team is capable of doing it. I think it’s important for United to be in the Champions League, so it’s got to be both.
Cristiano Ronaldo was heavily rumoured to be joining Man City before United swooped in, do you think he would have joined City if it wasn’t for United’s last-minute bid?
I don’t know any more than you do – I heard the rumours and it could have been the obvious decision for City. I don’t know about Cristiano, but City were chasing Harry Kane and they wanted a number nine. So if the possibility of signing Cristiano was there, I’m sure that was an option and it was discussed for sure.
Would Cristiano have damaged his legacy if he’d joined Man City?
No, his legacy is his whole career. So Sporting, United, Real Madrid, Juventus and it could have been City, but now he’s back at United. His legacy is with Portugal too, so as an individual, he’s proven it doesn’t matter who he plays for, which shirt is on him, he scores goals.
What have you made of Harry Maguire’s recent form and should Solskjaer take him out of the firing line?
Harry was injured and he came back in the moment when there was a lack of confidence and the team started conceding more goals than usual. He wasn’t able to stop that. So being the captain, he needs to be on top of his game all the time and to protect David [de Gea]. Over the course of the season, there’s going to be a time when you’re not going to be at your best, so hopefully this is the time he will respond.
Would you still keep Maguire in the team going forward?
Yeah, it’s important that he stays [in the team]. He hasn’t been awful, he just hasn’t been as good. His standard is higher than what we’ve seen over the last two or three games.
One player who is yet to live up to expectations is Jadon Sancho – what do you think has gone wrong for him so far?
He needs to rediscover his form that led to his signing at United. His time will come, I’m sure of that, the sooner the better. He needs to stay focused and believe in himself because he’s got talent, that’s for sure.
With Solskjaer switching to a back five in the past two matches, how much will that affect Sancho’s chances of starting matches?
When you change the formation like that, you overload the defensive part if you play with Fred and Scott [McTominay], so you have to sacrifice a forward. But the season is long, there are a lot of twists and turns, suspensions, injuries, so Sancho’s time will come. He has enough qualities to break into the team and to bring what he did at Dortmund.
What have you made of Arsenal’s recent upturn in form?
They had a difficult start playing some top teams and they also lost to Brentford. So clearly they were not ready to perform. I’m not saying the preparation wasn’t good, but clearly there were suspensions, COVID and the team wasn’t ready to beat any type of team in the league. Now, it’s a different Arsenal with more certainty in what they’re trying to do, offensively, defensively, players individually, they’re much more on par. Some players like [Thomas] Partey, [Emile] Smith Rowe, [Bukayo] Saka are a big part of the jigsaw, so it’s good for Mikel that he’s been given time.
Can Arsenal realistically finish in the top four this season?
The places are super expensive in that top four now. They should be close enough, just thereabouts. They should finish better than where they finished last season if they can keep everybody fit.
Who can you see finishing higher in the Premier League: Arsenal or Tottenham – and why?
It’s a good question. It depends on how quickly Conte can impact that team and bring some new faces in the transfer window. I think that those teams will be challenging each other for places, but I don’t know which one will finish on top.
Just seeing how Arsenal have shown patience with Arteta, is that a reason why United should stay patient with Solskjaer?
Every time you change a manager, the manager will want his own players, so you have to wait two or three transfer windows to have his squad the way he wants it. Then it’s a change of a training regime and sometimes the style of football. So it’s better to stick with the managers and try to improve and ask the right questions to the players, try to stimulate within rather than completely shuffle things with a new manager and new backroom staff.
Aaron Ramsdale has been outstanding since making his Arsenal debut… a lot of Arsenal fans questioned his signing in the summer, is he proving those supporters wrong?
He’s clearly done his bit for Arsenal to climb up the table. He’s a good goalkeeper, he’s still young. So it’s a mixture. He needs to bring confidence to the back four or back five and they need to trust him. It looks like it’s on a good way at the moment for him and for Arsenal.