Cole insists current crop of Man United players must turn things around
Champions League status imperative to attract top new talent – says former star
Ray Parlour, Robbie Fowler and Andrew Cole in Dublin yesterday to promote Setanta Sports’ live TV coverage of upcoming Premier League fixtures. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Former Manchester United star Andrew Cole believes that the club’s current group of players must turn things around at Old Trafford as the cost of dramatically overhauling the squad is simply prohibitive while attracting the players could prove impossible in the event that the team fails to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
“Everyone keeps talking about rebuild, rebuild, rebuild,” said the 42-year-old who was in Dublin yesterday to promote Setanta’s coverage of some big English games over the coming weeks, including next Wednesday’s clash between Arsenal and United.
“But this is a team that missed out on the Premiership by goal difference the season before last; won it last season by 11 points.
“So when we talk about rebuilding, are we talking about five, six players? If you’re buying five or six players, you’re talking about maybe 200 million. Now if you spend that kind of money – and you’re all going to be fishing in the same pond for the best players – if one team’s in the Champions League and one team isn’t, you tell me what’s going to happen.”
Many of United’s current problems have been put down to the change of manager but Cole, who works as an ambassador for the club, is sceptical.
He readily acknowledges Alex Ferguson’s boots were big ones to fill but seems to feel David Moyes’ change of tactics, and players’ failure to bring the same intensity to the new approach, may be the bigger issues.
“It’s a tough one for me, this talk about transition because Man United are not the only ones who changed manager before this season. Man City did, Chelsea did. If you look at Europe, Barcelona and Bayern Munich changed managers. So what is transition?
“If you’ve got good players they know what they want, know how to get results, will always have that winning mentality. It’s as simple as that. But Man United don’t seem to have the same intensity as last season, to be playing with as much pace as they used to.
“When people talk about Man United, they talk of them being very attack-minded and always wanting to score goals. If you look at Man United this season, they’ve played a lot with one up front and packed the midfield.
“Alex Ferguson said that Man United is a 4-4-2 football team. Now there are many ways of playing 4-4-2 (but) it’s very attack-minded and I just think the intensity and attack from Man United this season has not been at last season or the season before.”
Part of it, he admits, is probably down to the simple fact of Ferguson’s departure itself: “If I was a manager, I’d turn around to my squad and say ‘Right, the king is gone, and the best time to attack is when the king has left’.”
On the subject of intensity, Cole was asked what Roy Keane had brought to the United dressing room in their days there together and the former England international quickly replied: “fire and desire”.
Cole spoke warmly of the Corkman as he recalled his “winning mentality,” and fierce determination.
He hopes to see the former midfielder manage again in the Premier League but suggests Martin O’Neill’s assistant might have to adapt a little more to a changing game.
“Roy will have to change,” he says. “Every job he’s gone into in management, he’s always done confrontation; he’s fallen out with someone. When you’re a player, you can do it; you can fall out with your manager as much as you like. As a manager, if you keep falling out with your players then at some stage your players are going to say to you: ‘I don’t care who you are, I don’t want to play for you’.
“The days that managers can rule by fear are long, long gone. Now you’ve got 16 year-old players with agents, foreign players saying: ‘I’m not going to do this or that’. You have to marry all those egos together. You can’t say things to players because the players will say: ‘Okay no problem, I’ve got three years left (on my contract) so sell me or I’ll sit here.’”