Former England international and double winner with Manchester United, Paul Parker, talked to us about his former club, Brentford’s hopes and the Premier League in general.
Ralf Rangnick apparently wants a complete overhaul of the Man Utd defence – he wants to sell Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Do you agree with him on that?
“If he’s gonna get money back into the pot to spend on the team and it’s not going to be invested in an NFL team in America, then yes I totally agree with that.”
“The place needs a big broom going right the way through it, when you spend over £150 million on three defenders and clean sheets are a rarity.”
“Most Man Utd fans would agree with it (offloading Maguire, Shaw and Wan-Bissaka). Totally agree with it.”
“Some might say that Luke Shaw has done this and done that, but it’s been bits and bobs. If you play for big clubs and you haven’t got consistency in your CV, then you’re not good enough to be at a big club.”
“Not everyone can play great every week but there’s a certain level you don’t drop below. And they’ve dropped below that level far too often, for everyone to go ‘it’s okay, they had an off day.’”
“As long as the money goes back in the pot to go out and replace those players or maybe get two defenders and get a player in another position that’s fine. For all that money you can get better defenders who’ll be able to play the game better for Man Utd for less money.”
“You don’t have to spend £80 million on a centre-half. It didn’t make any sense at the time and when Harry Maguire’s not playing for Man Utd, people will say ‘wow, why was that money spent, where was it spent, what was the reason for it.’ Harry Maguire comes to Man Utd for 50% of that (the fee that they paid for him), people would look at him differently, without a shadow of a doubt. Because then you wouldn’t expect it. 30 miles down the road, was a centre-half that cost £5 million less (referring to Virgil van Dijk) but was doing double of what the £80 million was doing and was doing it a lot better.”
Two goals in two games for Marcus Rashford. Does he look to be back on track for Man Utd?
“He’s just scored two goals, that’s what he’s done. When he’s given a chance to play 90 minutes, that’s when people should judge him. You cannot judge him by two goals and say ‘he’s back’. No, it makes no difference. He’s just scored two goals.”
“His biggest problem was starting games. If Marcus Rashford wants to be an impact player then that’s what you bring him on for – he makes people weary, he can run behind when teams are tired.”
“But when you’ve got Marcus Rashford, the footballer, out there you want Marcus Rashford to be a decision maker. When he gets in areas where there’s two-three players to pass it, you expect him, like other people do, to pass it along the line.”
“People question why (Anthony) Martial has gone out on loan and not Marcus Rashford. You wanted maybe Martial’s technical ability in a Rashford, with a little more drive because he’s a local boy. Marcus Rashford is an athlete. Good athlete. Martial has got great technique but a poor attitude. Didn’t bother him. If you can get that into Rashford, where things bother him, and you give him the technique of Martial, you would have had an incredible footballer.”
“Rashford can’t beat people when he stops still. He needs pace to beat people. People, when they stop still, that’s when decision-making is needed, to make the passes. He tries to beat them and the moment he loses the ball, his head goes down and he’ll trunch back.”
“That’s not what people want to see. They want to see what (Anthony) Elanga is doing.”
“In the FA Cup they play Middlesbrough – this might be where he (Ralf Rangnick) might turn around and give him (Rashford) the chance to go out there and do it, maybe up against a lesser team. Touch wood that works out for United because Middlesbrough are a very in-form team in the Championship.”
“Rashford has to do it and do it consistently over 90 minutes of football – not just by coming on as a sub and scoring goals and saying everything’s alright. His performances, prior to being put on the bench in the Brentford game, were shocking. He got playing time after playing time but playing shocking.”
Anthony Elanga is becoming a fan favourite at Old Trafford. Do you think he has the talent to be a key figure for Man United in the future?
“Without a doubt. Forget about his age, he wants to go past people. Elanga, for me, has been a revelation on that left side.”
“He reminds me of a young Ryan Giggs, the way he drives forward. He wants to beat people and he’s tracking back to go and get the ball. It’s just application – he wants to win the ball back – he’s everything the fans want to see.”
“He’s doing so well and that’s why he ‘has’ to be starting games.”
“Sir Alex Ferguson told me when Gary Neville was playing in my position when I got injured and then was ready to come back, he virtually said to me – ‘Gary Neville, he’s doing well, he’s a young lad, I don’t want to affect his confidence, by pulling him out now when the team’s doing well and he’s doing well because it could affect him long-term. It hurt me at the time because I wanted to talk about the previous three seasons, what about what we had achieved as a team and I’d done, my involvement.”
“Every week the same back four played, back five, I should say.”
“When you smell the coffee and look at the mirror, you fully understand – Elanga needs to play games and that means Rashford has to got to wait until an opportunity occurs for him to come back in and play.”
“To pull some people out when they’re playing well doesn’t paint a good picture for the interim manager at all. He has to show confidence in the players who are playing well or otherwise it’s going back to Man Utd under Ole Gunnar Solskjær – ‘whatever happens, you’re playing, I’m gonna keep you happy’. You play, doesn’t matter, while the people on the bench get bitter and bitter and bitter because they’re not playing. That’s where a squad suddenly turns into a team because you lose that squad because they don’t believe in the person in control because he’s not utilising the squad.”
“You speak to any United fan, watching United prior to 2010, they saw wide players under Sir Alex Ferguson, keep wanting to go past people. Go past people, sometimes get tackled, but keep going and going and going. Haven’t seen that since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.”
“You’ve got players that want to come inside all the time. Want to not play crosses in but curl it around the defenders and they’re only good if they hit someone on the head – they’re poor crosses when a centre-half hits them out as they can hit it out even further than normal.”
“Elanga wants to get to the byline and deliver crosses. He’ll run past people without the ball. He’s unselfish when he runs because he’s willing to run and even when he doesn’t get the ball, he’s not throwing his arms up in the air and cussing people. When he makes one run and doesn’t get the ball, he makes another run. That’s what United fans want to see.”
“So, it’s a bit stereotypical but certain clubs have got a certain DNA. Fans are brought up in a certain fashion because their parents, their grandparents talk about it. United fans want players that can get them off their seats. Elanga has got people off their seat, every time he’s played. That hasn’t happened in quite a while – it’s been quite dour, very dour at United.”
“Dynamic players (like Elanga) is what’s needed for United to be successful and compete with Man City and Liverpool. Man Utd are a long long way behind Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea because those teams are consistent in what they’re doing and they play at such a tempo, in all areas. United are competing with Arsenal and Tottenham in the so-called top six that who’s going to get fourth, even though it’s poor, between the three of them and it’s all touch and go.”
Jesse Lingard being loaned out to Newcastle. Good deal for all parties involved?
“I think Jesse Lingard needs to go. He’s nearly 30, if he’s not already. You can’t just be one of the names at Manchester United and be ‘Mr. Instagram’ around all these big names at a big club. He’s got to go out and prove that he wants to play football and he doesn’t need Manchester United around him.”
“He needs to stop taking pictures and start becoming a footballer. If it means going to Newcastle, they can demand even more from him cause he comes from Manchester United, good for him. They’re gonna demand more from him because it seems that he wants to be Mr. Social Media and he’s gonna have to demand more from himself.”
“He’s got fans who’re gonna be looking at him to go there and give nothing less than what he gave when he went to West Ham. They’ll be looking at him and asking questions – ‘why didn’t you go to West Ham, why didn’t you want to leave Man Utd before you did’?”
“He’s got a lot to prove at the moment. “
“Sitting at the bench for United is what he’s done up until now from when he was at loan at West Ham has been absolutely ridiculous. It’s been a waste of his career. If he’s been content with it, then there’s got to be something wrong where you haven’t shown a desire to want to play football and are content with being on the bench. What’s happened to your personal pride, your ego of wanting to play football and getting the adulation that comes with a win, what he got when he was at West Ham? They (West Ham fans) still talk about what he’d done. They saw him as the person who got them on the road to where they are now. It would have been an incredible place for him to play football, this part of London.”
“He blew that!”
“He didn’t want that because he’d rather go and sit on the bench at Manchester United, because he was never gonna be a regular player again. You’ve got to want to be one of the XI, to walk out, at any ground, after your team’s winning and get the adulation that comes with it – it’s one of the major points in being a footballer.”
“If it is gonna happen, he’s going to be at Newcastle, which has got a big support base. Bigger support when they’re doing well. If he goes and does well there, then he’ll be a living legend in Newcastle. He can then do as many Instagrams as he likes in Newcastle, because they’ll accept that if he’s there and does well and gives his hundred percent. That’s what he’s got to do, when he goes to Newcastle, give his hundred percent and his life will be so enjoyable.”
“Even Manchester Utd fans, if he goes and does well for Newcastle, they will be so pleased for him. A lot of them are disappointed that he’s come back to United just to sit on the bench and are questioning him as a footballer. He’s a Mancunian but they just want him to want to play football.”
Christian Eriksen is looking close to signing with Brentford. What do you make of him going there?
“This could end up maybe being the signing of the season, really. When you get somebody so cheap of such quality.”
“I think everyone will look at it and maybe be sceptical because of what happened to him, but there’s a lot of footballers out there, which a lot of us don’t know about, have had something similar.”
“This got highlighted as well, because obviously it was during the Euros, but if I remember correctly, Daley Blind is no different. No different at all. And a few years back this would be a little bit of a big problem, because no one would really understand it. There weren’t proper experts. People didn’t have the expertise at that time. But the expertise must be immense now.”
“It’s all about the individual. It’s about the character, the individual. And obviously you have a family, how can they feel about it? And how much he can listen to the people who know the situation and what they say. And I think if he had any negativity from them, he wouldn’t be doing this. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure he doesn’t have to do it. Quite sure if he’s okay, financially. His family is okay. But he wants to play football and he wants to play as long as possible.”
“Brentford will sign him, and I believe that there’d be a lot of clubs wishing that they had gone down there, but a lot of clubs would have been worried about their insurance. And Brentford obviously, their relationship on the Danish site is stronger than any other club in the country. And I think it’d be a fantastic signing for Brentford, but I think he’s that one player that they’re missing at his moment. Benrahma leaving was a big miss because Benrahma was a ball carrier from midfield to that front and front line of attack. And I’ve seen recently that Ivan Toney is a decent player, not showing how good he really is. I think he’s dropping off to do that work, and his starting position to score goals is too far away, too much work to do. So because he’s (Eriksen’s) array of passing, he will make a big difference.”
“With Christian Eriksen, you sign a player who has everything that Manchester United haven’t got at this moment in time, a player who can dominate a midfield just by the way he controls it. Because he controls the tempo of how they’re going to pass, no difference to a (Jesus) Neves or Moutinho. It’s about experience and knowing how to do it without running around like a headless chicken. So in that sense, he’ll be the difference.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank just got a new contract. What do you think of him as a manager and how he is doing with the Brentford team?
“I think if you describe their coach (Thomas Frank), you can describe him as ‘Marmite’. And you either love it or hate it. There’s no grey area. That’s the way Thomas Frank is with people. And that’s the way it is. But I see a very passionate person in what he does, a very emotional person. There’s a great picture of him with a kid or a young child when he goes over. And that wasn’t a publicity stunt. That was just him. I watched Brentford play Bournemouth to get to the final, the second leg. I was there and watched that game. And I think just before the players came on, he ran round the pitch slapping hands as best as possible, to as many people as possible round the whole pitch to every single supporter.”
“He went and did that just before the team started to come out. And you know, people say ‘oh, it’s all publicity’ and whatever. But I take a good look at him, and the way he is, and he loves what he does. The particular players, you know, they like him as well. As you can see, his relationship with the players is good.”
Do you think Brentford is going to be relegated after this season?
“Brentford we’re never gonna go down. They’re still always gonna put teams under pressure and not make it easy. We saw that in the first 45 minutes against Manchester United, how good a team they are. So he will go there and he will improve them. A player of his stature, going to Brentford, he will lift not just the players within the club, he will lift the whole community, supporters of Brentford, with a player like him, of his standing, wants to come and play for Brentford.”
“I said it even before the season started. I saw them playing in the Championship. I saw the way they played.”
“But Brentford won’t go down. They’re better. The most important thing for them is next season, and getting the right players to keep them to where they are or even better. And if they can get Eriksen over the line, that will then help them towards other players coming to them.“
“And as we’ve seen already, and I know myself, even from so many years ago at Manchester United, there are so many good Danish players out there. And it’s about getting the right one and getting them all together. A lot of Danish players have always played in great clubs, who have done great in Europe. I always think about the brothers, the Laudrups. I played against them a few times. I think I needed surgery after the way I twisted my stomach. There seems to be a grip for the kind of making for the second coming of Danish players in the English game.”
Leicester City has two Nigerian players, who just got knocked out of Afcon, Ihenacho and Wilfred Ndidi. What do you make of those two players, and does their return to Leicester make a big difference for them?
“(Kelechi) Iheanacho has been very in and out. I think he’s had his best 12 months for a long, long time. He was always on the periphery. He has done unbelievable things when he was at Manchester City. The problem is, he’s one of those players that when he starts, he struggles and he always gets taken off. And it seemed like at Manchester City, he was always going to be a ‘Super Sub’.”
“And he went to Leicester. And then he suddenly had this kind of thing when he played with Vardy, he seemed to score goals. He needed help. He couldn’t do it on his own. He needed someone to help him. But then that dried up and now they’ve got another one in Patson Daka, who has been a bit of a revelation, so Iheanacho has to get past him now to get a run in the team.”
“When you look at (Wilfred) Ndidi, he was the one I’d say they missed, even though when he was there, they were still very, very inconsistent. Everyone talks about Leicester, but you don’t know what you’re getting. Could they (Ihenaco and Ndidi returning) make a difference? They might. But I don’t know if they’ve been seriously missed.”
“Brendan Rodgers is a manager that for some unknown reason doesn’t doesn’t enjoy continuity within a football team. He wants to keep messing about all the time, and that’s why Leicester got to a certain height when they won the FA Cup, and they haven’t really gone near that since.”
Alex Iwobi will be returning to Everton, who has sacked Rafa Benitez since he left for Afcon. What do you think about Iwobi and is he part of the foundation moving forward for Everton?
“He’s been poor for Everton. I think Ancelotti signed him. But when you look at Iwobi, he started off quite exciting at Arsenal. He gets that move, leaves Arsenal for 40 odd million, I’m sure. He goes to Everton.”
“If you’re really doing that well at Arsenal, things are going great. And you leave and go to Everton. Things aren’t really going that great in my opinion.”
“I don’t know why but it seemed a strange one to a lot of people. And he hasn’t gone out there and done it. No different to (Theo) Walcott up there as well, he is another one that left Arsenal.”
“Duncan Ferguson while he’s in temporary charge, and the way Duncan Ferguson was as a player I can’t see Iwobi getting into his team. I can’t. I look at it, and I think to myself, that they’ve got Demari Grey and they’ve got Andros Townsend, and he wouldn’t get in front of those two, and those two play either side really. And he’s not better than them. He hasn’t been better than them.“
“He is in the wilderness at the moment in time. And then it’s got to wait for another manager to come in, maybe. He’s got to make a decision about him, but he hasn’t shown enough under the two managers he has had so far at Everton. So, you know at the moment, he’s in turmoil. And he’s mostly wondering, you know, what’s going to happen to him. I’m quite sure in his own way he wants to come back to London.”