Michael Owen Interview (Fourth Edition) Desktop

  1. Arne Slot and Liverpool, what are your feelings?
  2. Where does Slot need to improve the squad ahead of next season?
  3. Can you see Liverpool being involved in the title race again? What do they need to do to achieve this?
  4. Looking at the Golden Boot, can anyone actually beat Haaland?
  5. Which modern football player reminds you most of yourself?
  6. Is Arne Slot a big enough name to manage a club like Liverpool?
  7. What do you think it will be like for Arnie Slot following Jurgen Klopp?
  8. Do you think he's got it in him to become an Anfield legend?
  9. What do you think are the biggest challenges that following Klopp will create for him?
  10. What does he need to do to actually succeed at Anfield then following all of that?
  11. What do you think should be a realistic expectation for Slot's first season in charge?
  12. You've spoken before about the fears that Slot is in the same situation as David Moyes when he replaced Sir Alex. How does he avoid things going in the wrong direction, similar to what happened to Moyes at Old Trafford?
  13. Aside from Trent, should Van Dijk and Salah be offered Liverpool renewals, given their age?
  14. Which squad areas do you think Slot needs to look at and prioritise to strengthen next season? Who should Slot buy for next season?
  15. Is this the last season for Nunez to prove himself in a Liverpool shirt?
  16. Should Ten Hag be replaced at United and by who?
  17. Jadon Sancho, should he be reintegrated back into the United squad?
  18. Should Rashford stay at United or should he move on? And why?
  19. What should Man United do with Mason Greenwood this summer?
  20. What are your thoughts on Pochettino to Man United? I know you've already mentioned him, but is he the right man?
  21. Pochettino's former players: Do you think he should try and sign any of these? Which one would be the best fit at United?
  22. Name your top 10 strikers in Premier League history in order, and you can include yourself as well.
  23. If you could pick one forward or striker for Liverpool to sign in the summer, who would it be?
  24. Same question, but for United, who do you think they need?
  25. What’s your honest final verdict on the Jürgen Klopp era at Liverpool? Do you think he's down as one of the all-time greats for the club or do you think he could have done even more?
  26. What do you put Liverpool’s late season collapse down to? At one point it looked as if they could win the quadruple, but now the Jurgen Klopp era ends with just the Carabao Cup. Was it poor managerial tactics from Klopp or a lack of grit/determination from the squad? Or was it just that simply City were too good?
  27. Do you think Salah, Van Dijk, and Alisson led the team well last season? Or do you think there are questions to be asked of the senior players?
  28. As someone who crossed the Liverpool-Manchester football divide, do you think Cole Palmer should do the same if Liverpool comes calling this summer?
  29. Van Dijk, do you think he's still the right man for the captaincy at Liverpool? Or do you think Arne Slot should consider anybody else, any other options?
  30. So, the Saudi Pro League's chief football executive, Michael Emenalo, recently said that Mo Salah is the type of player who can significantly improve the division. Do you think Liverpool can afford to sell Salah and still be able to compete? And if so, what is his price tag?
  31. Rivaldo recently said that Casemiro and Antony should leave United in the summer. Do you think this would be a good option for both the club and players?
  32. Obviously last season, United had a few dressing room bust-ups between the senior players. Have you noticed a change in the relationship between the players towards the back end of the season? And do you think Ten Hag is too weak of a character in the dressing room to prevent things like this from happening?
  33. Other than Fernandes, who, in your opinion, is an unsellable player at United?
  34. With Arsenal, do you think they need to do some more transfer business to compete in Europe to put them among the favourites next season for the Champions League?
  35. Did Foden deserve Player of the Season or should somebody else have got it?
  36. Obviously, 19 of the clubs voted to keep VAR the other day. Do you think this is the right or wrong decision for the sport and why?
  37. What, in your opinion, are the biggest issues arising from the current implementation of PSR rules and how can they be addressed?
  38. Man City: 115 PSR charges hanging over their heads. People are saying that they should be relegated, or even have the title stripped. Do you agree with that or do you think it would destroy the modern-day Premier League we're seeing nowadays if that were to happen?
  39. Jude Bellingham; do you think he's done enough to win the Ballon D’or or do you have any other big statement calls? Who should be in contention?
  40. Foden recently came out saying he’s never seen someone so mature as Bellingham, was you like that at Bellingham’s age? Can you teach maturity like that or is it just natural?
  41. We talked about the United dressing room bust-up. How do you think you'd have been treated by an ex-manager like Sir Alex, if you had an attitude like Sancho does with Ten Hag?
  42. Pep is set to leave Man City at the end of next season. Who's your money on for the next city job?

In our fourth interview with Ballon d'Or winning striker - Michael Owen, we explore pressing topics from Arne Slot's take-over from Jurgen Klopp, his thoughts on which players Liverpool and Manchester United release and bring in as well as VAR.

Arne Slot and Liverpool, what are your feelings?

Well, it's all up in the air, isn't it really? I mean, anybody that has a massively strong opinion said, "Oh, yeah, he's going to be a perfect match or he's going to be a total failure". I mean, what can you say? It's going to be really interesting.

We've seen other teams in the past in the Premier League have had a manager for a long period of time and it's probably, the stats are pointing against him. You would say, when Ferguson left, we all know what happened after that and it's still happening to this day. When Arsene Wenger left, it was not great for a good period of time, now they're just coming back. So, a lot of teams that have had a manager for a long period of time tend to struggle straight after. But that's not to say, two examples in the Premier League era aren’t sufficient to say, that's going to be exactly the same. So, who knows? But what you do know is that Jürgen Klopp was an incredible manager. That's going to be huge boots to fill.

Where does Slot need to improve the squad ahead of next season?

Well, my biggest worry for Liverpool is that their best players, their difference makers, with all due respect, in any team, or let's say Liverpool's team, out of your 25-man squad, 21 of them or whatever are players that you can buy or produce from your youth team. You can do these things. But the difference makers in teams that actually decide whether you're going to win trophies or not, they're virtually impossible to find. So, I'm thinking of players like Virgil Van Dijk and Mo Salah. I’m thinking they're getting to an age now whereby, yes, they've still got time left, let's say, but they're on the wrong side of the age group that you want them to be.

My worry is, those absolutely unique players that are just the difference makers in the biggest of big games, they are the ones that I'm thinking, ‘oh, who's going to replace Mo Salah whenever the time is? Who's going to replace Virgil Van Dijk?’Alisson is another one. There’s certain players that are just exceptional and just world class and they're literally one of the best in the world in that position. And without being disrespectful if any other player - you could say Trent Alexander Arnold is another player that's a bit like that, like so you unique but with all due respect, any other player, if they left Liverpool, you'd think, "Well, okay, it's a bit sad, but you can definitely replace them. You can definitely get another Luis Diaz or Darwin Nunez or Curtis Jones or,whoever it might be”. You can find those players out there. They're really, really good players. You can find them. You can't replace Virgil van Dijk. You can't replace Mo Salah. You simply can't. And that's Liverpool's biggest challenge now. It is to go and try to find the next 20-22-year-old who is an absolute difference maker who can stay in the team for another 10 years, pin you up, and build a team around. So that's my biggest worry. Not for the here and now, but like in two- or three years' time, I think Liverpool is going to be really - just like they did when they got Alisson and got Van Dijk. We need these, this type of player. They just went bang and just spent the big money to do it. I think that's going to happen again in the next year or two.

Can you see Liverpool being involved in the title race again? What do they need to do to achieve this?

Yeah, absolutely. You look around and if the season is about to start now, then there’s question marks about a lot of teams. Arsenal emerged as obviously, they jumped into the category. Now you're talking about Arsenal with Liverpool and Manchester City. But Liverpool came third and Liverpool were right in the race only until the last few games. So, nothing's changed by the manager really, so yeah, absolutely Liverpool are in the conversation about the title next season. Can Arne Slot squeeze even more improvement out of the team that Jurgen Klopp did? That's the question. Can he do even better? And it's a huge task, but we will see. But yeah, absolutely they're in the conversation for the title.

Looking at the Golden Boot, can anyone actually beat Haaland?

No. I don't think so. Obviously, just with a fair wind, I mean he was injured for quite a period of time this season and still won it. What did he win it by in the end? By about five or six? All things being equal, then no. If Harry Kane was in the league still, then you'd say, Postecoglou plays an attacking brand of football, they’’ score a lot of goals. You could maybe make a case for Kane, but I mean, Mo Salah as well, you could make a little case. But no, I mean, if he plays, if he's fit all season, he plays all the time, then no. He'll win the Golden Boot again.

Which modern football player reminds you most of yourself?

Oh, do you know what? I've been asked this a few times. I just don't know. I like to sort of watch players and obviously, I see the game in a certain way because that's how I thought about it and played it, so, I like to see myself in a certain way but I'm nowhere near Haaland. Shape and size and style of play and all the rest of it. Ollie Watkins, nowhere near, and Mo Salah nowhere near. I don't think at the moment there's anyone that I look at and think, oh, I'm similar to him. I just don't see anyone.

And the other thing is that very few teams are playing two up front now. Like I was always with a partner and I look at myself and if I return tomorrow, where would I play? I'm not sure. I'm not sure if the teams would want me as a centre forward, I think I'd have to play as one of the wider players. So that would obviously be a massive change for me as well. So, I honestly don't really know.

Is Arne Slot a big enough name to manage a club like Liverpool?

Well, no matter what happens, and it'll be the same when Pep Guardiola leaves or any top managers, it always happens and has always been the case. It's always going to be a comedown. It's simply impossible to say.

Unless Pep Guardiola walked in through the door, then it's a comedown, isn't it from Jurgen Klopp. So, people have just got to get their heads around that. Back the new manager, hope that everything goes well, obviously, Liverpool fans will give him time and give him support and everything else like that. That's all that can happen. But as I say, unless Pep Guardiola walks through the door at Anfield, then it's going to be a come-down on Jurgen Klopp.

What do you think it will be like for Arnie Slot following Jurgen Klopp?

Yeah, obviously it will be tough, expectations and everything else, but he has walked into a club that's in great health. Winning trophies on a reasonably regular basis, they’ve got a very good team, support has been in great form for a decade or something now. It's been a great journey the last 10 years being a Liverpool fan. So, I think he walks into a really settled club. I think he also walks into a club whereby they've brought in a lot of the hierarchy back. Michael Edwards, people like that have come back. Whether that helps or hinders the whole process, remains to be seen. A lot of people left under Jurgen Klopp and they were highly regarded. And now Jurgen Klopp has left, a lot of them have come back in. That remains to be seen whether that's going to be a huge advantage as well to Arne Slot. It feels like quite a strong structure behind the scenes.

Do you think he's got it in him to become an Anfield legend?

Well, listen to me, you've got an opportunity to be but I mean, the one thing with Liverpool is that their fans are very, very supportive.

I know everybody thinks I played at a lot of clubs and whatever, and obviously been around football all my life. There’s certain clubs when managers are not doing well and whatever, and they get on their back or get on players' backs. You'll never hear Liverpool fans getting on players' backs. If you've got that red shirt, they support you. And okay, it might not work, for whatever reason, that's just life. But Liverpool fans are very loyal. Very loyal to their team, very loyal to their manager. And as long as everybody's seen to be trying their best, then he'll certainly get the backing of everybody at the club.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that following Klopp will create for him?

Well, everything really.

Expectation. You come into a club where there's no room for error really, winning the league or winning the Champions League or finishing second and winning a couple of cups or whatever it might be. I mean, there's not much room for error.

Demands are high, expectations high, coming off the back of a great decade of football, not just football that's turned into trophies, but real amazing nights, amazing games, great style of play. I think the whole package really. You don't come to Liverpool and get an easy ride. In terms of now, the pressure's off. I mean, it ramps up another 10 levels probably. So, he's got loads of struggles, twists, turns, challenges and everything else everywhere he turns really. That's what comes with the title.

What does he need to do to actually succeed at Anfield then following all of that?

Well, play attractive football and obviously win titles. It's pretty simple at Liverpool. As I say, there's not much room for error. Playing great football is a huge help, but you've got to win as well. Obviously, the icing on the cake would be to integrate yourself with the city, and with the people, like Jurgen Klopp did. Everybody loved him at the club and that would be icing on the cake. But the first thing to do is to obviously produce good winning attacking football.

What do you think should be a realistic expectation for Slot's first season in charge?

It's hard to say really. I think signs of playing good football, we'll see quite early on the style of play and how exciting it is on the eye. But in the long term, you'd have to think that they have to be competitive. I mean, it's all right being supportive and giving managers time and things like that but he does walk into a very good squad already and a very good club that's very stable at the moment. So, say, they come fifth and they don't win a trophy, and saying, 'oh yeah it's just building blocks', well no, the building blocks have been put in place. I think that winning something obviously would be perfect. And if they don't win anything, they've got to be challenging. They've got to be in the conversation. If they had a season like this season just gone, winning the Carabao Cup and coming third in the league, I'm not saying Liverpool fans would be happy with that, at all but I do think that that would be just about acceptable getting one piece of silverware and challenging for the title. That would be quite an encouraging start to his career. But I mean, it's hard to say, there are so many different things that you could deem as successful.

You've spoken before about the fears that Slot is in the same situation as David Moyes when he replaced Sir Alex. How does he avoid things going in the wrong direction, similar to what happened to Moyes at Old Trafford?

Flipping heck, imagine if I had that answer. I mean, people like Unai Emery or some of the most experienced, talented coaches on this planet, would probably love that answer as well. There’s lots of people and it wasn't just David Moyes, it was greats like Van Gaal and Mourinho and others. Sometimes it's just very, very difficult to follow the Lord Mayor's show, isn't it. We've seen that in the past, but as I say, two examples being Arsenal and Manchester United doesn't mean that that's it. That's like cut and dry. That's exactly what happens. So we'll see if that trend continues - but the problem is you've got to be yourself. You can't just sort of think, oh, right, Jurgen Klopp's left, let's do it exactly the same way as him. Because nobody can do it that way. He's got to be himself and whether the players take to that; the club takes to that, we'll just see. But there's certainly no magic wand or no magic recipe.

Aside from Trent, should Van Dijk and Salah be offered Liverpool renewals, given their age?

Well, it all depends on what terms and things like that, doesn't it. There’s always fans out there that are so desperate that say ‘just give them whatever they want’ and I'm not a person who thinks that, of course. But you've got to keep the difference makers. You've got to find difference-makers.

Liverpool have probably got three or four in their team that are the difference between, being a decent team and a great team. And every team is the same. There will be good players, great players, and then there's just the absolute elite, and Virgil Van Dijk is the absolute elite. Mo Salah in his position, is the absolute elite. If you take both of them out of the team, they're not going to win the league next year. They are that important. So, unless you replace them obviously with top equal players. So, yes, I would very much like to see Mo Salah and Van Dijk continue. There's no sign of them ageing, apart from, obviously, we all age every single day. But there's no sign in their performance that they're ageing. Yeah, I would like to see Liverpool have both of those players for the foreseeable.

Which squad areas do you think Slot needs to look at and prioritise to strengthen next season? Who should Slot buy for next season?

I don't necessarily think there's anybody or any position that is really weak. My biggest concern is finding the next absolute genius players, the difference makers. And if any of those come up, then that's where Liverpool should be looking at for the next couple of years. As I say, their elite players are getting older, the likes of Van Dijk and Salah and with all due respect, you can replace virtually every other player.

There are great players all over the world, but finding the best centre-half in the world is not easy or replacing him is not going to be easy. Finding a right-side attacker that scores 30-something goals every year is just like nigh-on impossible. So, there's going to be two big hitters departing, or ageing or whatever over the next, three, four years. That's my concern about Liverpool, not the rest of the team.

I don't think any major areas of the team are weak. I mean, they had a bit of a makeover in midfield last year.I'd like to see one more top-class player in there. I don't think it's the strongest midfield in the world, but overall, I don't think there are any glaring gaps in the squad.

Is this the last season for Nunez to prove himself in a Liverpool shirt?

I don't think so. I think the only thing that you could say is that people really like him. People are really hopeful that he could turn into a top player because obviously, they see some attributes that are phenomenal and hard to teach. But I think if he continues like he is now, I think people will probably just accept that that's what he's going to be forever.

When I first saw him, I thought, geez, he's raw. I expected it obviously. I knew his age, but I expected that of a younger player. That he’s going to learn more about the game and the role and things like that. But with his age, you think to yourself, well, if he’s not learned it by now and I've been saying it for a couple of years now, but probably I'm starting to think that what you see is what you get now. A talented boy who's got great attributes that will certainly have a big role to play for Liverpool. Two years ago, I thought this kid could be anything. I was so excited in a way to see what he could be. Now I'm starting to come around to thinking what we see is what we get.

Should Ten Hag be replaced at United and by who?

Yes. I would replace him but I have no idea by who. I mean, Tuchel is out there, Pochettino is out there, and Graham Potter is out there. There are other names being mentioned as well. I remember when Klopp and Guardiola and whatever came, there seemed to be a real load of managers that were free and available at the time. There was a load of big hitters out there, a few years ago. And it just feels like there's a little bit of a dearth of managers that are available at the moment. But as I say, Tuchel and Pochettino leaving, they're two big names. So, god knows. I wouldn't have a clue who they'll choose. I would think they'll go with Premier League experience though. But to answer the other part of the question, yeah, if it was my decision I would part company with Ten Hag.

Jadon Sancho, should he be reintegrated back into the United squad?

Well, he will be if there's a new manager. If there's not a new manager, then it'll be fascinating, won't it? Because he doesn't want to apologise for something that he doesn't feel as if he needs to apologise for. The manager just wants an apology. It all sounds a little bit petty and when you're buying someone for that amount of money, and you've got such a good player, you would think that somebody somewhere would just have the maturity to just say, come on. And it might be one of the coaches just in preseason training, just going to Sancho saying, listen, the manager's blah, blah, blah. You just go and knock on the door. Maybe you don't have to apologise, but just go and have a chat with him or whatever. Just something. But at the moment, it's pathetic, isn't it?

Things are hard enough, aren't they at Manchester United, for you to be arguing and waiting for an apology and things like that. And I get discipline and I get all that. I mean, that's all fine but I don't know. If it comes to this, where one of your big assets are not playing for you and you're shipping them out the door just because you're not going to say sorry or something, it's like, come on. You've got to knock their heads together and do it for the benefit of the player, the manager, the team. We're not under nines here.

Should Rashford stay at United or should he move on? And why?

I think so. I think he should stay. I mean, he's a local lad. He's obviously a talented boy. And with all due respect, he's a great player, but where's his move? Who buys him? He's not going to cost 20 million grand, is he? He's going to be 80, 90, 100 million or something ridiculous. So who buys him at that? I can't imagine. Having been so up and down and out of form for periods, I'd be very surprised if any of the big hitters would want to go and spend massive, massive money on him. So, I think as much as it's all, pie in the sky and everybody likes to get excited by it, I just don't see any option really, bar him finding his form at Manchester United. And it might be under a new manager, it might not be, but there's certainly been given the back-in Ten Hag likes him. As I say, he's talented, very talented.

I would be starting him for England in the Euros. I think we need pace. On the left-hand side, we need pace somewhere in the team. And I think he's never let England down. I still think he's that good. I would be an advocate for him to stay.

What should Man United do with Mason Greenwood this summer?

Well, that's not footballing reasons, I suppose, is it. That's sort of more, higher level, and what the club wants to do from a higher level. That's sort of out of the remit, I guess, of someone like Ten Hag even, the manager or the playing staff or anything else like that. I would guess that's going to be a decision for the board-level type of thing. Because there will be repercussions if they introduced him back, I guess, so that's a board-level thing.

What are your thoughts on Pochettino to Man United? I know you've already mentioned him, but is he the right man?

Yeah, I could see it. I think he started looking good at Chelsea towards the end of the season. I know a while ago as well when Manchester United were looking for managers and Pochettino was out of work or whatever, I know it was sort of a desire amongst it there. I could definitely see that. He obviously would - I presume he would go for free, there wouldn't be an any strings attached type of thing. So, from a financial point of view, it'd be a very good move. I think he's got enough stature to walk into that club and to manage a club of that level. Of the managers out there that are available, I could definitely see that.

Pochettino's former players: Do you think he should try and sign any of these? Which one would be the best fit at United?

He’s not even there yet! Well, I don't know. Harry Kane? I'm sure he'd love Harry Kane. There's another one that could have potentially gone there a while ago. I can't even think off the top of my head, who could be potentials but he's the one that would spring to mind straight away. I'm sure Manchester United fans would like that.

Name your top 10 strikers in Premier League history in order, and you can include yourself as well.

I would go; Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney, Andy Cole, Sergio Aguero, Robin Van Persie, Robbie Fowler, Jermaine Defoe, Mo Salah.

If you could pick one forward or striker for Liverpool to sign in the summer, who would it be?

Mbappe. I mean, it's obviously an unrealistic question, isn't it, but Mbappe would be my number-one pick. Harry Kane would probably be my second-best pick. All very unrealistic but if I had one pick, it'd be Mbappe. I mean, Real Madrid this season or next season, my God, how good are they going to be!

Unless there's somebody, loitering that's 18, 19, that might be the next big thing. That the scouts have got on their radar but I don't think there's anybody at the moment that I think is worth going and spending fortunes on at the moment that’s better than what they've got and who’s going to be like value for money. I like Ollie Watkins, I like Isak at Newcastle. I like these players, but what are these players going to cost them? Are they miles better than what they've got? If I were Liverpool, I’d personally be keeping my powder dry. I'm saving plenty of money and when some big hitter that is the next Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk or whatever it might be, some elite, absolute top-class player, then just go wham. Like they've done in the past with Van Dijk and Alisson.

That's what I would do. There's no point in buying for buying's sake, just to keep fans happy and things like that. You've got to be top class and to be better than what you've got already. So, there's no point in just buying another 30 million players that's just like a squad player. The squad's big enough. Just keep your powder dry and just spend it when a good one becomes available.

Same question, but for United, who do you think they need?

Oh God. How long have you got? It's hard for United because I can't believe over the years all these players that get signed, they're all top-class players when they sign and obviously, 95% of them turn into less than top-class players when they sign and walk through the door. You look at loads of them. I can't believe that, let's say Pep Guardiola was the manager of Manchester United, I think people would view a lot of these players in a totally different light than they're currently viewed. And that's been the case for a long time. I'm not blaming Ten Hag for this. I'm just saying that's been the case for a long time. But I think a top coach can absolutely improve a lot of these players.

I always remember when Jurgen Klopp came in, nobody had heard of Andy Robertson and nobody had heard of a lot of players. People laugh at Jordan Henderson saying he couldn't do this, couldn't do that. James Milner, oh, he's a journeyman pro. He improved virtually every player tenfold at that club. It was incredible. Like players that you wouldn't even think are world class, turned world-class in a space of months. And I just think that with Manchester United, it's alright. Everyone's saying, oh yeah, let's have a mass clearout. I think there will be a lot better players in there than people realise.

Once things start going in the right way and turning around, you might find that they're a better team than you give them credit for. So that's what I would personally do if I were the chairman of Manchester United, I'd be looking at trying to change my coach and trying to get a top coach that’s going to get more out of the current players before I start looking elsewhere. I mean, Man United have spent more money than anybody,in recent years. Quite clearly, it's not the answer, is it? It’s not like people have been seeing this for one year. It's happened for like a decade. I don't understand why people just think this wand of spending money is going to change everything. It's not, it has to change from the top.

What’s your honest final verdict on the Jürgen Klopp era at Liverpool? Do you think he's down as one of the all-time greats for the club or do you think he could have done even more?

He definitely goes down as one of the all-time greats. Not just for what he did on the pitch, the style of play, the trophies he won, he basically won everything. It’s just the way he connected, he brought the club together, I think he will go down as one of the all-time greats. The only unfortunate thing is that some guy called Pep Guardiola is managing at the same time as him. Because if Man City weren't what they were, then I'm sure he would have won a lot more.

That'll probably be his regret. Only winning one Premier League is probably going to be a regret in a way, but hey, it's one more than they had before he came. But no, I think he's been absolutely amazing and I think all the fans obviously love him. I think he'll go down as one of the greats.

What do you put Liverpool’s late season collapse down to? At one point it looked as if they could win the quadruple, but now the Jurgen Klopp era ends with just the Carabao Cup. Was it poor managerial tactics from Klopp or a lack of grit/determination from the squad? Or was it just that simply City were too good?

Well, obviously City were too good for the whole league. I wouldn't sort of blame that on Liverpool struggling. Because it wasn't just in the Premier League. They got knocked out of the FA Cup in the late stages and the Europa League in the late stages as well.

It seemed to unravel a little bit in the end, didn't it? I don't know why; I don't think anybody can say for sure why. Some people say that it's because Jurgen Klopp announced that he was leaving too early and things like that. I don't buy that either, because as soon as he announced it, Liverpool were still flying along. They were still doing well for the weeks after he announced it. And if anything, it could be seen as motivation to do even better. I just think it happened. I just think it doesn't necessarily have to be one major reason. Sometimes it can be a key player gets injured or a key player gets suspended or whatever, but I don't know. It just happened, didn't it.

I think people always want that golden nugget. What do you need to do to be a Premier League footballer? I get asked that all the time, Jesus Christ, mate, how long have you got? There are about two million things I'd need to tell you what to do. It's like, what is the one reason? In life, in football, there is never, ever one magic wand that says turn this dial and then everything will change. I mean, I don't really go too deep into any one theory about Klopp leaving or about anything like that.

Arsenal and Man City were relentless. They went the full distance. Liverpool had a good solid season, they got to a good number of points. That's just what happened. I also think players-wise, I think Man City have got a better team than Liverpool - end of story. I think Arsenal are playing better. I mean, Liverpool were, in my eyes, the third-best team last year. So, it's not like they underachieved. I mean, I watched them for the first half of the season. I couldn't believe they were near the top of the table. They were playing really average for the first half of the season. It's not like they underachieved, they were the third-best team, player for player. There were other teams better than them this last season.

Do you think Salah, Van Dijk, and Alisson led the team well last season? Or do you think there are questions to be asked of the senior players?

No, they've done it for years, haven't they. I don't think there are any questions. They've been absolutely pivotal to Liverpool's success every year. Now they're going to be needed even more, of course, with this big change in the club. Obviously, Mo Salah probably didn't quite reach the normal levels. I mean, if you take away his past few years and just look at his numbers in isolation, they're still incredible, but maybe didn't play as well as normal. I think they are important. They're going to be even more important going forward.

As someone who crossed the Liverpool-Manchester football divide, do you think Cole Palmer should do the same if Liverpool comes calling this summer?

What, go from Man City to Chelsea to Liverpool? Raheem Sterling's done it hasn’t he.

Like to me it's all about, and obviously I've mentioned this a million times in my career, but if there's a massive discrepancy in terms of one of the clubs being bigger and you've got more chance of winning a Champions League or a League at another one, you tend to always want to better yourself in life. I mean, it's not just footballers. I guess most of the population would always try to better themselves. So, if that's seen as the case, and of course he went from Man City to Chelsea, that's probably me talking in riddles, but you know what I mean? It was only because he wasn't getting a game. But if he had the opportunity to go to a team that was going to give him more chance, then that's when it becomes interesting. As things stand, I mean, are Liverpool going to win the league or is Chelsea going to win the league? I'd say Liverpool have got more chances but it's not like, oh, you're a guaranteed winner of the Premier League. But listen, if Man City came back in for him now and wanted to spend a hundred million, then that's a different question but at the moment, I think he'd probably stay put at the moment.

Van Dijk, do you think he's still the right man for the captaincy at Liverpool? Or do you think Arne Slot should consider anybody else, any other options?

No, 100%. Van Dijk is a great leader and a great player. I think he's the best captain. No question.

So, the Saudi Pro League's chief football executive, Michael Emenalo, recently said that Mo Salah is the type of player who can significantly improve the division. Do you think Liverpool can afford to sell Salah and still be able to compete? And if so, what is his price tag?

Well, it's going to be detrimental to the team if they do. However, we all know, I mean, he's going to be retiring at some point in the next few years anyway. So of course, nothing lasts forever. So, there's no point in saying ‘is it going to be detrimental?’, of course it is, but so is him packing in the game or whatever in a few years’ time. So, you've always got to be looking that one step ahead. And if someone comes in and offers you a load of money, as a club, you've got to consider all things.

The offer, the length of contract that he's on at the moment, his age, what he contributes to the team, is there anybody that can replace him? There's a load of things that you've got to sort of consider. At the end of the day, it's a business and if Saudi offers 50 million for Salah, I think it's quite an easy decision because he guarantees you 30-something goals. It's quite an easy decision to say no, despite his age, despite everything, it's quite an easy decision. If the Saudi League offers 200 million, then obviously there's more of a decision to be made. You've got to then start weighing up the consequences. At 200 million, I'd say, thanks for your service Mo. For 200 million, if you want to go and earn even more money in the future, and we get 200 million, then as much as we'd love you to stay, it's probably a good deal all around. So, there are two extremes, like 50 million and 200 million. If anything happens in between, then obviously that then becomes what's the best thing for everybody.

Rivaldo recently said that Casemiro and Antony should leave United in the summer. Do you think this would be a good option for both the club and players?

Football changes. If there's a new manager that comes in, then it might all change. At the moment, I mentioned before about Manchester United, anyone that walks through the door, within a few months they say they're probably 10, 20, 30 percent less of a player than when they walked through the door. And you've just mentioned two names there that probably I'd go even further than saying 30%. It hasn't been for a decade now an easy place to play. Even the best footballers in the world have struggled at Manchester United in the last decade. So, it can suck your performance out of you.

I mean, we've seen it. We've seen great players in the past. These two are similar. Things can change. They've committed again, they’re getting paid. So, it might not be their choice at the end of the day as they’re under contract, but they've certainly not been performing as well as they can be for Manchester United. Whether that's their fault, the club's fault, the manager's fault, the team's, whatever it might be, that's been the general way of things for the last 10 years.

Obviously last season, United had a few dressing room bust-ups between the senior players. Have you noticed a change in the relationship between the players towards the back end of the season? And do you think Ten Hag is too weak of a character in the dressing room to prevent things like this from happening?

I don't think he's too weak of a character. If I was going to crib Ten Hag, it would be about what you're seeing out on the pitch, his style of play, or what is his style of play, I should say.

I think he's actually tried to be very forceful and have standards and be all those things. My question marks over the manager would be other things rather than that. He's actually shown, getting rid of Cristiano Ronaldo, putting Rashford on the bench when he turned up late, moving Sancho because he wouldn't apologise, whatever it is, he's actually shown with big players that he can show discipline. So no, I wouldn't agree with that or say that. I'd say my question marks about Ten Hag would be other things rather than that.

Other than Fernandes, who, in your opinion, is an unsellable player at United?

I’ll have you 100 quid that there’s not! I love this kind of thing. It normally happens with about three weeks to go of the season. Like, one of the papers just has a massive back page - Manchester United clear out or whatever. It happens every single year at this time. It's just incredible how people always buy it. I can assure you there won't be more than three players, like players that you know. I don't think people realise how hard it is to move players on. Players that somebody wants, and who are going to give you the right offer that you could get rid of or trading players.

You look at the history of football clubs, how many players signed over the summer? If Manchester United have a mass clearout, one, it's impossible. Even if they did, do you think they could bring in ten players or what? It's just utter bollocks. There won't be a mass clearout. They haven't got the money. They've spent over a billion quid in the last couple of years, it's just not going to happen. There will not be a mass clearout. There might be a signing or two signings, but that will be the same with every single club. It's just pantomime. Everyone says it all the time, as I say. The back page of the paper about three or four weeks to go in the season says it is every single year and people buy it. There will not be and there never has been one in a football club where you get rid of like 15 players or something of the mass. It just won't happen. I will have an egg on my face if they sell any more than three players.

With Arsenal, do you think they need to do some more transfer business to compete in Europe to put them among the favourites next season for the Champions League?

I think they're going the right way. They're improving all the time. If they do need to sign anybody, it's possibly one player. I mean, the one player that you think could help in one position, is a centre-forward, but Havertz did really well towards the end of the season. Obviously, you got Jesus anyway, but if a top centre forward becomes available, then that could be one position whereby Arsenal need to go and get someone.

There’s no point in just going spending 50 million quid on an average Joe that's not better than Havertz, that's not better than Jesus. If there's an exceptional one that comes available in the next few years, then yeah, go get one, but a bit like Man City, they had Aguero. City were happy to not even play with a centre forward for a while and Pep did it exactly the same at Barcelona.

There's no one good enough and then all of a sudden someone called Haaland came around and they were like ‘right we’ve got to get him’. Unless someone's going to be brilliant, like way better than what you've got, what's the point in hoarding another 50 million pound players? That's just pointless. So, Arsenal are in that boat, they're flying. Why do you upset anything? Just let it all go. And only if an absolute elitist becomes available, that's when you move.

Did Foden deserve Player of the Season or should somebody else have got it?

Yeah, I mean, I voted for him. I didn't think it was a season whereby it was universally everybody, oh yeah, he's head and shoulders ahead of everyone. You could have made a case for about four or five players;Cole Palmer, Foden, Rodri, Declan Rice, and Ollie Watkins. There was a fair few players that you could mention. But I thought he was just about the best. He got my vote.

Obviously, 19 of the clubs voted to keep VAR the other day. Do you think this is the right or wrong decision for the sport and why?

Well, the right decision, but if you ask 20 fans, I reckon 19 would say scrap it, and probably pundits as well because half of them don't know the rules.

But, no, I don't love everything about it, but people need to just understand what it is there for. And of course there've been one or two mistakes. Of course, there has been - look at cricket when it first came in, look at rugby when it first came in, there were mistakes for ten years.

The hardest thing with VAR is the unrealistic expectation of fans and players and managers and half of them that, as I say, don't even know the rules.

We're all offered the chance to go and sit in the VAR room, to come to meetings. Howard Webb hosts a meeting on Zoom every month, to discuss it, to iron things out. Why did this happen? Why did that happen? This is the problem with it. If somebody half thinks something's a foul, if there are 10 people in the room and seven of them think it's a foul and three of them think it's not, the seven that think it is a foul, they're like, that's a penalty, but it's not a definite mistake.

If that’s your attitude, you are never, ever going to be converted. VAR is there to help with big mistakes that like universally we all think that is an absolute travesty. It's a huge mistake.

Now people just want VAR every two minutes. People have just got unrealistic expectations of it. One, they don't know the rules and two, they don't know what VAR is there for.

If you're not educated about something, I don't understand how people get airtime. I don't understand how half of these managers come on. I mean, there was a huge example with Gary O'Neill last year. He was coming on complaining about it, and it was just like, blatantly you've not been to a meeting Gary. You're saying that to your hundreds of thousands of fans and you're giving the wrong advice, the wrong sentiment, the wrong thing to all your fans. I don't know what the word for it is, but how can you have a discussion with people in general when no one even gets it or understands it or knows what it's there for and just goes on their belief or whoever they support and things like that. And then start saying, ‘oh, it's corrupt’.

It's tiring, it's boring and the refs give their best and make far less mistakes than they've ever made before.

I mean, they think that if you foul someone and get a second yellow, but the first one was falsely given as a yellow, well, that should be retractable. Oh, so we're going to go back to the 15th minute, even though we're in the 90th now? So no, that wasn't a yellow, so that can't be a red? Let's hang on for a minute. What are you talking about! People just don't understand this. It's infuriating.

Anyway, things will be better. We'll have the automated offside, next year. So, people that don't like the lines on the pitch and things like that, they'll be pacified this year, which will make it better. Things like that. I would be for VAR, definitely.

What, in your opinion, are the biggest issues arising from the current implementation of PSR rules and how can they be addressed?

I've always been against financial fair play. I think there's a better way of policing and safeguarding football clubs than doing what we're doing. I just think that overall, it's just protecting the bigger clubs and it's giving no hope to the smaller clubs. Let’s say Bournemouth’s income is only, 100 million from sponsors or whatever, and Manchester United's a billion, and you can only spend a certain percentage, even if they have Bill Gates owning them tomorrow, how on earth are they ever going to be able to compete, there's no point in ever having a dream if that is the case. I’ve never, ever thought that was fair and whatever. However, I do understand the need to protect it. You can't just go and spend fortunes, leave a massive debt and then, pass away or leave the club, or whatever. Then all of a sudden, the club gets wrapped up, like we’ve seen in the lower leagues. But I just think there are better ways of doing it.

Man City: 115 PSR charges hanging over their heads. People are saying that they should be relegated, or even have the title stripped. Do you agree with that or do you think it would destroy the modern-day Premier League we're seeing nowadays if that were to happen?

We'll see what happens in the first place, and obviously discuss, once the news is out there, but it'd be pretty hard to unravel the last decade of success. So, I will be guessing what could happen. Imagine it, if you say, they should be demoted and you sort of retrospectively do it. Well, you'd have teams that would have been relegated by one place, teams would have been Champions by one place and the team who came fifth would be in the Champions League - and that's if they get found guilty. God only knows what will happen and my brain is probably too tired or something thinking about the ramifications, so we'll see what happens at the end of the day. That's according to me.

Jude Bellingham; do you think he's done enough to win the Ballon D’or or do you have any other big statement calls? Who should be in contention?

He has obviously done great. If England go and have a great Euros then he would be the obvious one. Vinícius Júnior has done equally as well. And then you've just got to wait for the Euros, haven't you?

If Mbappe goes and scores a hat trick again in a final, like he did in the World Cup, he could be a late runner. As things stand, it probably looks like it is a toss up between those two, Vinicius Junior and Bellingham, but there is still the biggest tournament to go of the year, so, things can change.

Foden recently came out saying he’s never seen someone so mature as Bellingham, was you like that at Bellingham’s age? Can you teach maturity like that or is it just natural?

I think that I was quite mature. That’s just how you’re brought up. I guess that's people that you've been surrounded by and all the rest of it. Just your general intellect and awareness and things like that. So, yeah, I mean, he is incredibly mature. And I think that's the reason he can move to a foreign country at such a young age and then move again to a new foreign country. If he didn't have that maturity, it might blow his brains. And, yeah, I was pretty similar. Obviously, got into Liverpool's team and won the Golden Boot in my first season at Liverpool so I was pretty mature myself.

We talked about the United dressing room bust-up. How do you think you'd have been treated by an ex-manager like Sir Alex, if you had an attitude like Sancho does with Ten Hag?

Well I didn’t. Everyone you talk to says Sancho is a nice lad. Sir Alex was very disciplined. He had discipline and rules and regulations. It looks like Ten Hag has the same hence why they are apart at the moment. Again, we'll see how that one plays out. There might have to be an olive branch from one side, or there'll be a change in manager and that happens naturally I don't know.

Pep is set to leave Man City at the end of next season. Who's your money on for the next city job?

God knows, it's a long year. Again, it's going to be like Klopp. It's going to be a comedown whoever manages after Pep that won’t be easy to do. The inevitable one I felt if Burnley had done well, was Kompany, but obviously, now he's got another huge job. That might be out the window for now.

If Arteta was at a smaller club doing really well, then he could be but obviously, he's at Arsenal now. Again, he's not going to swap that. So, a year's a long time in football. We'll see when it happens. If it does happen.

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Last Updated: 14 June 2024
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