Prior to an international break, we caught up with former Manchester United and England ace, Paul Parker. Paul discussed how Fred has evolved under Ralf Rangnick, how Fred and David De Gea are the only two ‘veteran’ players that should start every game, Thomas Tuchel, and why Paul Pogba has been a flop at the club. He also talked about young English players around the league, the Liverpool/Mohamed Salah contract situation and that he doesn’t think Liverpool will win the quadruple.

 

Fred has been one of the shining lights for Manchester United since Ralf Rangnick became manager. Where do you think he has improved a lot?

“I think the main reason why he has improved is because he has a manager that ‘likes’ him. 

“He’s got someone who believes in him, someone who likes what he does and knows how to get the best out of him. There hasn’t been enough people who watched Fred at Shakhtar and suddenly you’ve got in your mind that he runs around and he tackles, you might wanna turn around and say he’s a ‘poor man’s (N’golo) Kante’ in certain ways. I think that’s what people might come out and say cause he runs around but he’s nothing like what Kante is with the ball.”

“But Fred was always getting in the box at Shakhtar cause he’s a good runner, he’s a good athlete. He glides across the ground, his willingness to work hard is rare, in my opinion, in the modern game.”

“Everyone wants to talk about stats and look at this and look at that. Fred is one of those players who, he’s been limited in what he can do because people, maybe they didn’t scout him properly.”

“Look at what he’d done before and he’s just been played as a holding midfielder – that’s not him.”

“He’s a reactive player as well as proactive.”

“I’ve always liked him because when he makes a mistake, he doesn’t go missing, like a few players do in that team. He’s been a shining light and a lot of people try to dull that light – ‘look at how many times he gives the ball away’.”

“You look at how many times he has the ball, he gets on the ball after maybe something has gone wrong.”

“I think that’s what this manager is doing. He’s looking at stats but also looking at 90 minutes of football and then he might relate to the stats and then look and say – ‘hold on a minute, how many times has he got the ball there, why is he giving it away, no that wasn’t him that was somebody else, someone else has passed the buck.'”

“I just think he’s one of the few players within that squad that could be maybe play in the style that Rangnick would want to play. That (style) everyone talks about, this very narrow system he plays, they call it a 4-2-2-2.”

“You can play him in the midfield very very easily. It isn’t a struggle for him like it is for the midfield players United have got. Does Bruno (Fernandes) fit in that system? Not really, if you’re talking about somebody that you want to play that way. Does (Scott) McTominay? No, because he’s not a natural runner. He struggles to run, he has to really push himself to run, grits his teeth.”

“Fred doesn’t. He eases. Which is the trait of a modern day footballer – they want athletes.”

“If you’re talking about football fans, they’ll always relate to Fred because they see he’s honest. They see that he doesn’t need to be told to work hard.”

 

Is Fred ‘undroppable’ from the starting XI for Man Utd. Who else apart from David de Gea, in your opinion, is undroppable from Man Utd’s lineup?

“I really don’t know (if Fred is undroppable) at this moment in time cause the coach is so unsure of most of the individuals there, he doesn’t know what he’ll get and certain players he just knows he can’t play and maybe with a Fred in there he might have to go with someone else. It’s very very difficult.”

“I think in his mind, it must be to have Fred in there. He needs energy, he needs the legs, someone who’s gonna get around. When he plays, when you look at Fred without McTominay in there and you say Fred is better, people come out and say – ‘oh ‘McFred’s not there, McTominay is better’ – it is not better, I think people saw it the other day.”

“It wasn’t world beating, it wasn’t fantastic but it looked better than it has done for a long long while in that midfield.”

“Even though they were still passed through, maybe far too often, the backline maybe not helping the situation.”

“I think Fred makes a difference. He’s definitely one of those players, at the end of the season, he’d get votes for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, which for me is the biggest award any footballer can win – the one you get from the players you play with.”

“You’ve asked me that question and I’m still thinking about it. When I look at it, somebody else, other than those two (Fred and David de Gea), who earns the right to play week in and week out, I’m just gonna go with (Anthony) Elanga. As a young lad, he has shown no fear, he is showing that he wants to play regularly. I think he’s done really well and he’s just caught up with bad luck at this moment in time.”

“When I look at the senior pros, there’s no one who deserves the right in that way.”

“Other people come up and some are for Bruno, lot of them are now for Ronaldo cause he’s just scored a hat-trick and they’re on about his goals. But when you look at the performances of players and when you look at the way some of them are conducting themselves, then you have to say Fred and David de Gea have been clean cut in what they’ve done, without a shadow of a doubt.”

“There’s been a lot of players showing poor attitudes, persecuting players with their body language, it’s been totally wrong. Players who have been lazy, a lot of that comes to light with the game against Man City, that’s when it all had come out.”

“Those two and Elanga, I’d put him there as a young boy who kind of seems to be growing up very quickly. He can only improve if he plays with the best of players.”

 

If Thomas Tuchel becomes available, should he be Man Utd’s priority to get as manager?

“If we’re talking hypothetically, then I would say that you’re looking at someone who’s been reasonably successfull when he’s come to the UK, in the Premier League and what he’s doing.”

“I think it’s very difficult for him to be at Chelsea, with that kind of buying power and the way that Chelsea work with him on what he wants to achieve, what the club are looking for – if he goes to Man Utd, it’s gonna be a completely different working environment so his stock as a manager could be threatened if the club wouldn’t give him the same kind of purse strings and the say on how he wants to do things”.

“Any manager of that ilk and allowance, there’s a very very good chance that he can deliver, and that’s been a problem with United, they haven’t done that to any manager. They haven’t given them the opportunity to manage. They say that you are a coach and let other people do it for you. When you’re talking to someone like Tuchel, I don’t think its any different from Klopp, a modern day manager, he still wants a say and work with the right people that he wants.”

“I think we have to say it as well, the situation at Chelsea isn’t good, what’s happened and there’s a reason why it was delayed until a few days ago, about what was going to happen.”

“I don’t believe we’re getting anywhere near that. The only thing that Chelsea are going to lose at the end of the season is that buying power, they’re gonna have to maybe start using some of their younger players who’ve gone out on loan and have done very well. So lot of those young players and maybe start integrating them with some of their quality players and go that way.”

“For them to go out and spend nearly a hundred million for a Lukaku, I don’t think that’s gonna happen again.”

 

Looks like Paul Pogba will leave Man Utd this summer. All things considered, has he been a flop for the Red Devils?

“Yeah he’s been a flop. An inconsistent flop.”

“There’s been good games, I don’t think there’s been very very good games, I don’t think there’s been outstanding games. If it has been outstanding then what happened after that, would’ve been average.”

“When you look at a player with that pedigree, what he costs, he’s a World Cup winner – he hasn’t done himself any justice at all, for that.”

“If I was him, if you could look at yourself, you’d be a little bit embarrassed.”

“You’ve come to a great club like Man Utd and you haven’t delivered.”

“You can use all the excuses you want, about it, the ability is with you and what you got to do is show your ability. And if you’re not showing your ability then everyone will then be looking at everything else around you.”

“They haven’t done that. People have been looking at him because he’s been so poor. He’s been scrutinized because of being so poor.”

“You can have bad games, cause you’re human but when you’re playing with no effort and it doesn’t seem to be hurting you and you allow someone speaking on behalf of you about your situations – things that in fairness, he should have been fined so many times about the things that’s been said and what has come out about the club and your situation.”

“Again, just poor decisions by Manchester United, I mean. We all should have known, it all was going to go wrong when you sign a player and there’s emojis going around of that player around the pitch. How does that work in a dressing room?”

“Would that have happened with Sir Alex? Never. Not at all.”

“It doesn’t matter who the player is that he signed, if he would’ve paid £200 million for a player, that player would come in and he’s one of them, he’s everybody, he’s in that changing room with the rest of them.”

“The whole thing was a marketing exercise and it might have worked.”

“The most important thing is what happens on that green grass and it never worked there. Never worked there at all.”

 

Bukayo Saka – is he one of the best English talents out there? How important is he for Arsenal’s quest for a Champions League spot?

“There’s a lot of good young English players out there at the moment that are doing very  well, but people are only talking about the ones that are at a big club.”

“But there’s Conor Gallagher at Crystal Palace on loan from Chelsea, there’s (Armando) Broja at Southampton. There’s a lot of ex Chelsea players. A right back (Tariq) Lamptey that left Chelsea to go and play for Brighton. (Tino) Livramento, the right back is another one.”

“There’s a lot of good young players out there who are doing really well but because they are not at fashionable clubs they are not getting a mention.”

“I think Saka has done okay. But what has happened is now Arteta has made Arsenal a team. Yes the young players have come in, but now he has kind of unified everyone together. You watch Lacazette now, he looks a better man. He got himself zoned in with these young boys around him in the team. It’s amazing what you can do together as a team rather than on a team of individuals. There’s a lot of them in the Premier League.”

They are still taking a lot of stick, because people still want to give them a ‘half time award’ for their first half against Manchester City where they still ended up losing the game. They just have to go and take those big games, what they achieve in the first half, they have to look to do that again.“

“I think this is a different Arsenal at this moment in time. I think they have the legs now to go on and grab that fourth spot. If they do get it, you’ll see Arsenal players dancing on the pitch for finishing fourth. Last time they did that was under Arsene Wenger. Not saying Manchester United would be any different though.“

 

Mohamed Salah’s contract is set to expire at Liverpool by the end of the season. How big of a loss would that be for Liverpool? Do you think we will extend? Could you imagine any good replacements out there? 

“I think you have to look at what you’ve got within the club. They have gone and signed (Luis) Díaz, and Díaz has hit the ground running. How has he been missed?! I really don’t understand it. You look at Manchester United. They signed Fernandes, and then you think ‘what about him?’. Younger, quicker, runs with the ball and dribbles well. Just amazing. When you look at him and Jota, you think ‘wow, what business Liverpool has done’. That’s what you get from letting a manager manage.”

“Would they try and replace him? There’s nothing out there. Liverpool have improved on Salah as a player, so I would say with Diaz, Jota, still got Firmino there, they got Mané. Mané seemed to have plateaued for a little bit. Salah has been scoring goals. You aren’t going out there and replacing Salah with another Salah. I think you have to look at what you got within. You got young Harvey Elliot in there as well. Would they be devastated if he went? Yeah, because he gives you kind of a guarantee of goals and assists. And the threat in people’s minds when he gets the ball.”

“If he leaves, it’s not going to be as bad as what it is being made out to be. The worry for Liverpool, if they break the bank too far, how are that going to affect the heads of other players? And he’s not eternal.”

If it (a contract extension) doesn’t work out, you can ask yourself, where is he going to go? Who’s going to go out and break the bank to get him. You think to yourself, maybe  Barcelona? Maybe not. Real Madrid, could they get help to get him? PSG, they mostly would pay it, but does he want to go and join the circus? The rotating managers that go on there.” 

“I personally, if I was looking at him and football at the moment, he has to stay at Liverpool. Where is he going to go and be satisfied with life as a footballer?”

“If it’s about money, I could see him in France playing in that league.”

“I’d be shocked if he leaves Liverpool.”

 

Do you think Liverpool has what it takes to win the quadruple this season?

“I’m going to say no.”

“There have been so many times that teams have been in this position. So many times. I don’t think so. Klopp won’t talk about it. All Klopp will do and say is that it’s about his next game – let’s see what happens next. I think the moment you start thinking about it and the moment people start talking about it, that’s when it starts going a little bit wrong. At this moment in time, Liverpool is looking at the Champions League and the Premier League. That’s what they will be talking about. Those two.”

“I can’t see Real Madrid beating Liverpool. I just can’t see it. The only way Liverpool or Manchester City is going to be knocked out of the Champions League, is if they play each other. In the rest of Europe, there’s not enough strong teams anymore. I can’t see anyone beating those two teams to be perfectly honest. I think the winners are going to come from Liverpool, Manchester City or Chelsea.”