Gary Pallister Exclusive Interview with OLBG

Updated: 931 Football

Gary Pallister amassed 535 club appearances between 1984 and 2001, most during a 9 year spell at Man Utd. During that period he helped United to win four Premier League titles, three FA Cup's, the League Cup, the European Cup Winners Cup, the European Super Cup and five Charity Shields. Here he talks to OLBG, sharing his views on what is happening in the game today.

Gary Pallister Exclusive Interview with OLBG

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Gary Pallister Talks to OLBG October 2023

What do you make of Birmingham City appointing Wayne Rooney?

I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for the Birmingham fans. If you believe what you read and Birmingham want to play with a bit more panache and excitement they’ve brought Wayne in to do that. 

He’s managed Derby and DC United over in America so he has more experience behind him now. I’m sure the players will respond to him and having someone with the legendary footballing career he had now managing them. 

It’s been a tough time for Birmingham, and it’s unusual to sack a manager when they are sixth in the league in that playoff spot. I'd say sixth is a pretty good place for Birmingham to be, as there's been a bit of instability for them in recent years. 

But I’m not sure if the sacking had anything to do with the rumours linking him to the Rangers manager job or whether it’s the style of football they want to change and therefore a change of manager was needed. It’ll take a while for the truth to come out but I’m pleased for Wayne that he is getting another opportunity to manage in English football. 

Next Birmingham City Manager Betting Odds

Next Birmingham City Manager Betting Odds

Man Utd have had a little bit of a difficult start to the season, and it would have been even worse if McTominay didn't come on and score that brilliant brace in the last minute against Brentford. Why do you think they're struggling to find any sort of consistency this season? 

Man United had a pretty good defensive record last year, especially at home. I don't think we've fielded the same back four in any game this year consecutively. Injuries as well to Luke Shaw, Malacia and Reguilon haven’t helped. Reguilon was probably one of our more consistent players in the early part of the season. I thought he started the season really well and now he's injured. Throw into the mix Martinez and Varane both being injured quite a bit to start the season, we just haven't been able to play a settled back four. 

I think we’ve been trying to find a blend in midfield as well, with Mason Mount coming into the squad, I'm not sure if we found the right balance yet. I think that's something that the manager is searching for at the moment. I look at the real problem for United being a settled back four and then you throw into the mix a new goalkeeper as well, who the players are getting used to.

He's different to David de Gea. He takes a few chances on the edge of his box and so that takes a bit of time to get used to. You can call them excuses or you can call them hard facts. It is what it is. The players have got to try and deal with that and find some kind of momentum now in the next few games.

Onana’s start to the season has obviously been well documented. Do you think the lack of defensive line-up consistency has hindered him? 

It takes a bit of bedding when you bring a new goalkeeper in, just get used to his style, get used to whether he commands the box and he is definitely shouting at the defence. We saw in the early pre-season game, He had a right go at Maguire in a pre-season friendly. 

It's a bit like Peter Schmeichel. I mean, that took a bit of getting used to before you sort of worked it through your head and processed it and realised you've got to start having a go back at people like Schmeichel otherwise you come a bit victim, but it's done for the right reason. Peter did it often enough and it was all forgotten about straight after the game. It's just a mentality. 

Schmeichel felt as though he needed to be shouting and screaming to be part of the game. Sometimes at Man United being a goalkeeper can be a lonely job; he didn’t always have a lot to do. But you understood that and dealt with it. If you felt as though he was wrong, you had to go back at him. I think it is difficult getting used to a keeper, but as I say, you haven't got a back four that's been there week in, week out. I don't think we’ve played one game back-to-back with the same backline, so that causes problems in itself. 

Do you think he's actually better than De Gea? 

Well, it depends on what you're looking for. Keeping the ball out of the net, I'd say David's the better goalkeeper. Playing with the ball at his feet, I think it's clear to see that Onana brings something that Eric Ten Hag wanted to add to the team. So you give with one and you take away with the other. 

De Gea was an incredible servant for Manchester United. I think he was Player of the Year four times, which for a goalkeeper at Old Trafford, has never been heard of. He's fondly remembered by Manchester United fans, the surprising thing is that David's still not got a new team, because I think he's up there in the top 10 or 15 goalkeepers in the world, so that's an incredible surprise. 

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PFA Player Of the Year Betting Odds

I guess that heaps a bit more pressure on Onana because everybody's judging him by different standards and he's a different keeper, he's a different personality. He's played at Inter Milan, he understands what it's like to play for big clubs and you're under the spotlight if you make mistakes, but show me a goalkeeper that doesn't make mistakes. 

We're coming into the international break now. Following that, Man Utd play Sheffield United away and then they have the big one, Man City, at home. How important is it that they get off to a good start after the International break?

Well, I think if were to get beat by Sheffield United, then it's just going to add to the chaos at the moment. The Man City game, I always think at this moment in time is pretty much a free hit. I know they've had their problems without Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne. They've looked like meer mortals over the last few weeks, but we know this City side is going to bounce back, especially when Rodri is back in the midfield. 

I never put any pressure on a team when they're playing Man City because the expectations are at the moment, unfortunately, that they're the best team in Europe, if not the World.

The Sheffield United game is the one that stands out. If we were to lose that game, then you've got to understand what's coming. Sheffield United have had a difficult time adjusting to the Premier League and they might be looking at Manchester United and thinking they're not the side they were last season, and if we can take the game to them, then let's see where we go from there.

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Gary Neville came out yesterday and said he doesn't see Manchester United finishing in the top five of the Premier League this season. Do you agree with that comment? 

I wouldn’t say top five is unachievable. I think Gary's looking at the way we're playing at the moment and saying if we would play like that for the rest of the season. I think every game we've played in this season has been a struggle. 

The games that we've won at Old Trafford, Forest, Wolves and Brentford.

Against Forest, we went two nil down and I would say we were the better team overall and deserved to win, but Wolves would consider themselves unfortunate and Brentford certainly would consider themselves unfortunate that they've not got even a point from the game. We've stumbled over the line and if Gary is going off what he's seen so far this season, and saying we're not going to finish in the top five, then who could argue with him? It has been tough to get points on the board, but we're still in touch.

We've got to find a balance, we've got to get players fit, got to get a bit of confidence, we have to get Rashford scoring goals again. Hojlund looks like a great player, certainly in that Galatasaray game, which was his best game in the United shirt so far. Get all these players firing, Mason Mount playing like he did for Chelsea and England, get the balance right and take it from there. It's hard to believe that this side did what they did last season and has started the way they have this year, but the potential is there, and the players are there; we just need a little bit of luck with injuries. 

Do you think they might struggle to get out of the group now in the Champions League? 

They've got to win the two champions league games against Copenhagen. Going to Galatasaray away, I have experienced what it's like going over there and it's not a pleasant experience; they’ll be right under the pump. Their fans will be crazy mad for the game, given the history between the two clubs. We've got to show some character to go to places like that and win. 

It's a tough ask to get out of the group now, and losing at home to Galatasaray has made it ever so difficult. Galatasaray and Copenhagen drew their first game of the group so if we can win the two games against Copenhagen, then it puts us back in with a good chance. That being said, it's still a tough task to go and win two games, especially away at Copenhagen. 

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Man United have had a lot of problems off the field, probably affecting what's going on in the dressing room. What do you think about the Jaden Sancho situation, the standoff he seems to be in with Ten Hag? And do you think that would have stood when you were playing and Sir Alex managing? How would that have been dealt with? 

I think it's a different era that we're living in now to talk about how Sir Alex would have dealt with it back in the 90s or the early 2000s. There's a lot more power for the players nowadays. I think it's a shame that it's had to be put out there in the public domain, the club tried to look after Jaden last year, for two or three months he was given absence to try and go and sort out a few problems he was having off the field. The club have been really patient and really good with him. So I was surprised that this whole situation occurred. 

We don't know what happens in day-to-day life at Carrington. Erik Ten Hag said he didn't train well and that's why he wasn't in the side, that's the manager's prerogative. You would hope that the player would just get his head down, perform better next week in training and give him a decision to make.

But that's not the case, he felt as though he was wronged and has come out and said what he said on Twitter. It’s not an ideal situation, especially when the club has not hit the ground running on the pitch. But Jadon Sancho on his day, when he's got his head right, is a terrific player, as we saw many times with Dortmund, as we saw with England. Right now, Man United need all hands to the pump and nobody's sort of rocking the boat. We could do with a fully fit and firing Jadon Sancho back in the side.

So what do you think the solution to the problem is? To try and integrate him back in, or do you think he has to leave the club in January? 

I think you've got to be in there and see what's exactly happened on a day-to-day basis on the training ground before you can make that kind of decision. It's not just a purely footballing decision. Whether it is down to Jadon to offer an olive branch, I don't know, but Erik Ten Hag, I think, has been really good in his decision-making with his discipline at the club. I think it's what they’ve needed for a long time, and Sancho has fallen foul of this. It's an impasse at the moment and you would think that it's only the player that could maybe break that right now. 

Do you think Ten Hag’s disciplinarian approach is good overall for the club and its future?

I’ll go back to the team I played in. Half of the team consisted of Steve Bruce, Brian Robson, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Mark Hughes. I mean, all these guys were captains. I think, for a number of years, Manchester United have not had people who aren't afraid to dig people out on the pitch. I think it is a tough one, he's made Bruno his captain, I think he's the one who steps up, especially when we concede goals, he's the one who's trying to rally the troops. He's the most vocal of the players out there, and maybe that's why he's got the captain's armband. 

So I guess that's somebody that Ten Hag trusts. I'm not pointing the finger at this team right now, but United have not had these kind of characters for a long time. Maybe that's something that's just drifted out of the game, football's changed in the style that we play, and maybe it’s a consequence of that.

What is the biggest memory that stands out for you as maybe not your happiest point of being a Man United player, but the most special moment where you thought ‘This is the height of club football’. 

Probably 1993. To win the league after 26 years was amazing. I think you had to be in Old Trafford that night when we picked up the Premier League trophy. We were already crowned champions the night before we played Blackburn in ‘93, but to walk into the stadium that night, you realised what it meant to play for Manchester United or to be a Manchester United fan. 

The stadium was awash with so many different emotions. I can't even begin to explain what it was like. There was pride, there was joy, there was relief, there was excitement. A buzz like I've never felt before at Old Trafford, and probably not since then either. 

I think that has to be the standout moment, to be crowned champions against Blackburn and then the party we had for the next two or three days after it as well. 

You won four Premier League trophies and three FA Cup’s at Man United and you only ended up with 22 England caps. Was that a bit of a disappointment to you as you were playing or when you look back at your career now? 

I'm incredibly proud that I played 22 times for England, I was in twice as many squads and just didn't play, especially in the early part of my career. But there were some terrific centre halves around at the time. 

My first England squad, Terry Butcher was the England centre half; what a leader he was. Then they had Des Walker and Tony Adams came along and they cemented that partnership for a long time. I'm not disappointed from my view, because I was playing non-league football at 19, then at age 22, I've made my England debut. It's not something I look back and I feel disappointed. I felt as though I did deserve more appearances, but it's not something I dwell on. I'm quite happy to have played 22 times. 

I’m disappointed I didn't play in a major championship. I think the closest I came was probably ‘96, but I'd had a recurring back injury that whole season and hadn’t played so many games for United and that ultimately ruled me out of the Euros. But I’m incredibly proud to play as many as I did for England. 

The ‘Beckham’ documentary was recently released on Netflix and Sir Alex Ferguson has drawn some criticism for his approach to players and their personal lives. How did you sort of respond to his managerial style and what was your personal relationship with Sir Alex like? 

My relationship with the gaffer was pretty good. You're always a little bit wary of Sir Alex and when he had his moments and you were in a firing line, it wasn't a nice place to be. But my relationship with the Gaffer was great. If I ever see him at the games, which is quite frequent, we have a chat and a catch-up. 

I've only seen the first half an hour of the Beckham documentary, I think David’s still got a great relationship with the manager. I've heard people talking about it and he's been asked whether Becks’ was changed by meeting Posh and the beginning of a different kind of lifestyle for Becks’. I think it was always going to change the dynamic of his relationship with Sir Alex because he knew that it was probably going to distract David from his sole purpose of concentrating on the game. 

Not that you would ever realise, but it did affect him because what people have got to remember is how good a player David Beckham was, and what an engine he had on him as well. He was like a Rolls Royce in terms of his stamina and fitness, but what a wonderful player, a great exponent of striking a football in different ways. 

I watched him many times after training, just seeing him hitting balls with a different weight, with a slice, with a curve, with a dip. When all these pinpoint crosses and passes are made, it wasn’t just luck, it's what he worked for day in, day out. He was an incredible player and, I'm pretty sure the relationship between Becks and the Gaffer is pretty good now. 

Did you know as soon as Beckham started training with you that he was going to be an absolutely brilliant player? He announced himself with that goal at Wimbledon, which I imagine you were stood right behind. 

Yeah, I remember just as he hit it (the halfway line goal against Wimbledon), I thought, you cheeky…. and as I'm watching it, I'm thinking, that’s got a chance. When you're watching it and it goes over his head and it hits the back of the net and straight away I thought ‘he's just announced himself to the world.’ The only player who I think had attempted that on camera was Pele. I'm sure it had been attempted before, but that was the high-profile video that we'd all seen when he just missed the post, it was a World Cup game I think and at Wimbledon, Becks’ just absolutely nails it. 

You're kind of thinking, yeah, he's announced himself to the world. That being said, I was also thinking ‘the gaffer is probably going to hammer him after that for being so cheeky’. As soon as that went in, you just thought, that's a game changer for Beckham. 

Tell us a bit about your first spell at Middlesbrough?

It didn’t go particularly well. We got relegated my last year there in 89. I probably didn't have the best relationship with the manager Bruce Rioch at the time, I wasn't enjoying my football. It was professional and it was personal why I made the decision to leave and Manchester United had to pay a British record transfer to get me out of the club during my first spell. 

We bought Neil Webb that year for 1.5 million, a seasoned international. Mickey Phelan, national player for 700,000 pounds. Danny Wallace, who'd been around for God knows how long and been terrific. I think we signed Wallace for 1.2 million and they're buying a centre half from Middlesbrough for 2.3 million who had only played one season in the top flight and got relegated.

It just goes to show that Middlesbrough played hardball, got a good price for me and, needless to say, put me under a little bit of pressure. Being at Manchester United and the record signing in the early days was tough. If anything went wrong, I took a big portion of the blame and had a difficult time. It was personal and it was professional at the time and I had no regrets, obviously, about making that move. 

After your Man United career had sort of come to an end in the late 90s, you went back to Boro. So what were your feelings about going back? And how was Middlesbrough so much different then to the Middlesbrough that you'd left when you first joined Man United? 

Middlesbrough had a bit more money. There's absolutely no doubt. It was completely different, there's a new stadium, we're playing in front of 35,000 fans, completely different to my experience at Ayresome Park and Middlesbrough the first time. I can't remember what crowds we were playing in front of at Ayresome Park when we got to the First Division, but it was a different dynamic. Steve Gibson had announced Middlesbrough to the world a few years earlier when he brought Juninho, Emerson, Ravanelli, Gazza, Merson and the likes of that he brought to the club. So it was different times and obviously, one of the deciding factors was coming back home. 

The chance to try and win a trophy at Middlesbrough, which was probably the Holy Grail as Boro had never won a major trophy, so the chance to win with Middlesbrough was part of it. Brian Robson was the manager. I don't think I would have left Manchester United for any other club at that period of time. I could have stayed there the following year, the year United won the Treble. So I look back at that and think, what if? But as I say to many people, we played Dortmund in the semi-final of the European Cup and both goals that they scored deflected off me. So, maybe I just wasn't destined to be a Champions League winner. And if I'd have played in ‘99, I might have scuppered the bid. 

Going back to Middlesbrough was a completely different environment; it was a far bigger club than when I left before. 

What was your happiest memory, do you think, playing for Middlesbrough? 

It's really hard to call between the two promotions that we had after liquidation in ‘86. The club nearly went out of business, we started the following season with a squad of, I think it was 16 players, most of which were built made of kids mainly 18,19, 20, and 21-years-old. We had two or three senior players and were the favourites to go down. 

We ended up finishing second and gaining promotion with a great brand of football. Regardless of the personal problems I had with Bruce at the time, I thought he was a terrific coach. We played some terrific football, we had great wingers, played 4-4-2 and looked to outscore the other teams, but we also built on a solid back four and had a great goalkeeper in Stephen Pears. That night, I think we drew nil-nil with Wigan at Ayresome Park. We found out, Swindon hadn't won, so were automatically promoted. The joy of getting promoted that year was fantastic. 

The next year, we go up into what is now the Championship and again, we're the favourites to get relegated, and we end up going up through the playoffs, beating Chelsea, playing a terrific brand of football. 

The day at Chelsea was a little bit mad because the final whistle went and were promoted; but all the Chelsea fans invaded the pitch. We ended up running for our lives, so we didn't get a real chance to celebrate straight away with the Boro fans. 

Achieving two promotions when you're favourites to get relegated, that was a wonderful experience and, to this day, a lot of Boro fans who witnessed all that will say it's probably their favourite ever Boro team.

Gary Pallister Talks to OLBG Spring 2023

Gary Pallister amassed 535 club appearances between 1984 and 2001, most during a 9 year spell at Man Utd.

During that period he helped United to win four Premier League titles, three FA Cup's, the League Cup, the European Cup Winners Cup, the European Super Cup and five Charity Shields. 

This was sandwiched by spells  with Middlesbrough that yielded over 200 appearances combined. He was capped 22 times by England between 1988 and 1996.

Following his retirement, Pallister has worked in the media and has appeared as a television pundit for both BBC Sport and ITV Sport.

Here he talks to OLBG, sharing his views on what is happening in the game today.

Paul Ince said United are playing like the dog and duck this week, what did you make of his comments and what do you think are the biggest problems at United at the moment and how do you solve them?

I heard what Incey said, I read the article and that's Paul's opinion. I think Manchester United have been taking a lot of stick over the recent months and recent seasons.

It quietened down a little bit last season when they finished second, but they've had their problems this season which we can't get away from. We've lost Solskjaer, brought Rangnick in and if you look at his record so far, they've only lost one league game which isn't too bad.

But it's the manner of the performances, too many draws and being unable to see games out.

I still think we're looking for the side to be more of a team this year, there's individuals who have qualities, come in for big money and have the ability to hurt other teams. It's just finding that togetherness, that gel and that understanding of being a team, that's what's standing out.

I was at the Brighton game, and I could sense the frustration around the ground with them being booed off at half time. You're watching a Brighton side who were dominating the game and David De Gea, not for the first time this season, kept us in it.

There are problems to be solved, I think we can go overboard with Manchester United at times with the expectations are being such higher than many other clubs. We've fallen below that, it's not quite a crisis but it needs to be addressed and it needs to be a better Manchester United than it is at the moment.

The club is in a bit of a limbo because Ralf is in there as an interim manager, there's questions whether he'll be there at the end of the season and what is going to happen if someone comes in and he goes upstairs.

That's looking likely and if that is to happen then Manchester United have to get it right, get the right manager in and see where we go from there.

Harry Maguire is having a rough time of it. What do you put that down to?

He went off to the Euros injured and missed the last part of the season for Manchester United before going off with England. It was one or two games before he started in that tournament and I actually thought he had an exceptional Euros for England, he was outstanding, as was Luke Shaw.

I think he started the season fine, but he picked up another knock and I'm not sure whether he came back from that too early from the injury.

There might be a hangover from the Euros, he's had no time to rest. He'll be the first one to admit that he's made mistakes and I think without question, Harry Maguire is a terrific centre half.

I think he is the only natural leader amongst those Manchester United players as captain. He's had a tough time and it's making him look a little nervous, I've been there myself when you've been a record signing as a centre halve with the spotlight on you.

Sometimes you can feel as if you're fighting a lone battle, especially when he's getting the flack he has been getting. I would back Harry Maguire to come through this spell, probably one of the most challenging of his career.

I think he'll keep hold of that captain's armband and be a big part of Manchester United moving forward. He's one of the only real talkers in that side and one of the only leaders in terms of shouting, screaming and getting people playing around him.

It's been a difficult time for him, but in that dressing room I'm sure he has the backing of the players and the manager.

Should Harry Maguire be dropped from the Man Utd starting XI and would he perhaps benefit from a rest from the starting XI? 

I didn't want to be brought out, I remember when I had a bad time at Manchester United and the gaffer told me he was thinking about leaving me out. I told him no, I was getting a bit of stick at the time, but you've got to play your way through it.

It's tough and it can be a lovely place when you're getting it from all sides, Harry has been under the spotlight, but I'm sure he'll want to play.

He'll want to be a part of bringing Manchester United coming back to form and becoming a better team. He's got the captaincy and the responsibility, so he'll feel it's down to him to lead and he can do that by being on the pitch.

I don't think he's the type of character to look for a cop out like that, so he'll want to play through it. It doesn't do anyone any favours and it could be seen as a sign of weakness if you're not hurt about being left out.

I'm 100% positive that he'll want to fight his way through it.

From a defender's point of view, do you think the criticism levelled at Harry Maguire this season has been fair?

Absolutely, I think anything to do with Manchester United can be well over the top. That's part and parcel of being a player there and understanding that it is different from a lot of other clubs because the bar is raised so high.

The expectation is so high and as a player you have to deal with that.

My advice would be for him to just battle through it, I was very fortunate that the dressing room I was in were a great help. I had Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce & Mark Hughes, who had been through a difficult time at Barcelona.

These guys you could go to and get advice from and come through the other side. But it's just part and parcel of being at the club and dealing with a massive price tag as well.

It's the same thing I dealt with, £2.3 million sounds like pennies now when you're talking about £80 million, they paid for Harry. But back then £2.3 million for a centre halve had never been heard of and that brought it's own pressure.

I joined with four other players that season, but I was firmly in the spotlight and the one that received most of the stick because of the price tag.

Harry can't help that; he can only be what he can be. Generally, his Manchester United career has been fine, I don't think anyone's had any real problems with him until this season.

A lot of the stuff has been highlighted, but he's strong enough to admit he isn't at his very best. You have blips throughout your career and the excuse is always the price tags, so it seems like you're not allowed to make mistakes because you're brought in for a certain amount of money.

He only has to look back at how he performed at the Euros to not worry about what people are saying away from Manchester United and I have no doubt that he believes in his own talent.

How important is it for the stability at Man Utd that they have a first-choice centre-half pairing - and do you believe that pair should be Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane?

I do think it gives you a bedrock, everyone talks about myself and Brucey, but we had two great fullbacks alongside us.

Paul Parker stuck to people, wouldn't let them get away, he maybe wasn't eye catching on the ball but what a job he did. On the other side there was Dennis Irwin who was one of the best fullbacks to ever play in the Premier League.

He was such a technically gifted player with both his left and right foot. Behind us we had one of the best goalkeepers in the world for a number of years in Peter Schmeichel.

It's about the unit, partnerships are important, and it probably helped with me and Steve that we were from the same part of the world. We'd already met through a testimonial game before I went to Manchester United, so I already knew him a bit before I got into the dressing room.

It helps you settle in, then after me and Steve there was Nemanja (Vidic) and Rio (Ferdinand) who also had great fullbacks either side in Gary Neville and Patrice Evra.

Edwin Van der Sar as well, so it all becomes a great unit and I think the club have been searching for that since Nemanja and Rio left. Varane game by game is looking stronger, and I certainly think it is the partnership that will hopefully evolve and help Manchester United become stronger.

The more they can play together and stay away from injuries the better, Varane's had a couple of injuries already which can be a concern.

Steve and I rarely got injured in the first few years, so when you play week in week out, you know each other's games down to a tee. Hopefully Maguire and Varane will get the chance to evolve that partnership.

 Would a Declan Rice or Kalvin Phillips make a difference to the form and stability of Maguire and Varane? Who would you like to see signed?

I think both of those players would tick the boxes. When you look at the midfield, Fred has had some dips and peaks through his Manchester United career, and you worry that he doesn't contribute enough goals in there.

I love McTominay’s aggression and work rate; he looks like he's desperate to do anything he can to be in a Manchester United shirt. You want more quality in those areas, we don't know what's going to happen with Paul Pogba and there's all kinds of speculation around that.

A fully fit and fighting Paul Pogba is going to be wanted by any team because he's a wonderful talent, but maybe he hasn't hit the heights he would have hoped to in his Manchester United career. It's something that needs to be looked at and sorted, as does another centre forward.

Haaland is well up on the list for Manchester United and a number of other top European clubs. In days gone by, you feel as if you have every chance of getting those players to your club, but because we are where we are at the moment players will look at that before coming.

If Manchester United aren't in the top tier of European football, then players might not be interested in coming and look elsewhere.

It's vitally important Manchester United get that last Champions League spot to be able to attract the players they want to attract to this club.

Can you pick a cheaper midfield alternative for Manchester United instead of Declan Rice, with West Ham seemingly looking for £100m+? Perhaps Bissouma from Brighton?

I'm sure there are cheaper alternatives, but when you're Manchester United you want to try and make a statement. We've done that with Pogba and Maguire, we've brought Ronaldo back to the club.

You want to make statements and being at the top table in terms of the best sides in the Premier League. You want to be bringing in the very best because Manchester United, along with Real Madrid, are the two biggest clubs in the world.

Right now, I think players are having second thoughts about coming because of the perceived problems. You want to be aiming high, Declan Rice has proven over the past two or three seasons for both West Ham and England that he can be game changing.

Not just that holding midfield role but he can score goals and has that hard-working appetite along with real qualities in his game. If he's on the list of targets, then I'd be pulling all the stops out to get him into the club.

Given the current situation at the club, will signing a new striker become a priority again in the summer?

I think so, Edison Cavani has done a wonderful job since he's been here, and it's been a strange one for him since they got him to stay then went and signed Ronaldo. His game time has been limited because of that and due to the injuries, he's had which you can expect from someone who is 35 years old.

We've been looking for that big signing upfront which Ronaldo was that in the summer, but he's 37 and I think being a centre forward is genuinely a young man's game. You need a lot of legs and I remember Sir Alex saying he used to look closer at forwards when they got to 30 because it's a tough position to play.

Especially when you play that lone role which United generally do play.

They were in for Haaland when Ole was in charge and I don't think that would have changed. It would be great if Manchester United could get that over the line and get him into the club, but they'll face a lot of challenges from other clubs to get him there.

He's a proven goal scorer in the league and in the Champions League, so he'll cost top dollar.

Can you see any clear improvements from Ralf Rangnick's work since he took over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? 

At this moment, we're still a team of individuals and we haven't got it right. We don't look as compact as other teams, there isn't a set way to play, and we rely very much on individual moments from a Bruno, Sancho, Ronaldo or Pogba, players like that.

It's very much off the cuff, everyone talks about this press, the closing down and whether we do that as a team and you'd have to say in response to that, probably not. It's there for everybody to see, Manchester United are still trying to become that close knit unit with a playing style like the other top teams.

I think Ralf has obviously been trying to put in a plan for this side, but we haven't quite seen the fruits of that labour as of yet.

What I will say is that we've only lost one league game under Rangnick, but you can't hide away from the fact that some of the performances haven't been good enough.

We haven't been able to hold leads, we're still relying on David De Gea to keep us in games.

There's still issues there and we're still trying to be better, we just have to wait and see what happens whether Ralf goes upstairs, and a new manager comes in. At this moment in time, you wouldn't actually say we're setting the world alight and we're not up there currently with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and even Chelsea.

That's where the bar has to be for Manchester United and there can be no excuses, everyone has to take responsibility for the performances and where we are in the league.

It's frustrating but there's a new man in that club in Richard Arnold as well, he needs time to get his ideas across. I've got every confidence that he can turn things around as we enter this new era and hopefully it's a better one for the club.

How do you think the Solskjaer era should be remembered? What were the big positives?

The positives were the positivity he brought back into the club. I think there was a lot of backstabbing and moaning behind the scenes before he came in.

You talk to people who work at the good and the opinion was that he brought back the feel good factor to Manchester United and Old Trafford. Whether you want to knock Ole or not, he tried his best to bring back the entertainment to Old Trafford and put smiles back on faces of the fans.

He wanted to make them an exciting side and ultimately it didn't work out for him. The games against Liverpool and Manchester City were harsh realities and the actions spoke louder than words on those occasions.

Although they finished second, there was a sense that Manchester United were still a long way off from competing with these sides, which cost him his job. For a while he brought some smiles back after watching some real turgid football under previous managers.

I think he can take that away from him and he'll always have the love of the fans, but when the axe did fall I think it was fair to say that everyone knew it was the right thing to do.

 Who would be your ideal manager to take over at Man Utd in the summer? Pochettino and Ten Haag seem to be the favourites at the minute.

I was an advocate of Pochettino after Jose was sacked and I think he ticks a lot of the boxes. If I'm honest I don't know an awful lot about Ten Haag, but I've seen Pochettino manage here.

He had an instant impact with Southampton and an instant impact with Tottenham. He created the best Tottenham side I've seen since the days of Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman, Pat Jennings and the likes of that.

A lot has been said about Tottenham having a weak underbelly and I believe he changed that. He plays with a bit of style, he wants to entertain, plays attacking, and aggressive football and I think he handles the press really well.

I think you look at him as one of the top five managers in world football. I believe Ten Haag has a good CV and the work he's done at Ajax is incredible.

It'll come down to what they think is best behind the scenes at Manchester United and whether you can get these managers in. I think Pochettino would be my ideal choice because he knows the Premier League and he'll know what is expected from the Manchester United crowd.

I think he could actually deliver that.

 What do you expect from Jesse Lingard while he is still at the club, can he still have a key role to play in the top four race?

It's a difficult one for Jesse, I think he expected to leave during the January transfer window. But Jesse's been at this club for a long time, and I don't think you'll get anything less than 100% playing in a Manchester United shirt.

He's got a lot of friends in the dressing room and probably in the stands, so I don't think you have to worry about his attitude. He'll probably be disappointed that his career is seemingly coming to an end there, but while he's here and on the pitch, I have no doubts that Jesse will be trying to help the club to try and get into that fourth spot.

When you've come through the ranks like he has I think it's in your blood, so until the last game he plays in that shirt, he'll give 100%.

 There’s only the Champions League left for Manchester United to win a trophy, how do you rate their chances?

It would probably be a minor miracle! I'd love to say United are getting better and in with a chance, but we've hit a brick wall at the moment.

When you look at the likes of City and what they've just done to Sporting Lisbon, can Manchester United play at that level? No I don't think they can.

But it can happen, I remember watching that Chelsea side win when Drogba scored that header in the final, they weren't the best side that year.

They managed to find a way to the final and then ended up winning it, so it isn't an impossible task but you'd have to say we're not playing well enough as a side to really be classed as a favourite to win the Champions League. We're rank outsiders so you can never say never and things can get better because we have players who are top quality who can change games.

We need to be a better team rather than individuals before we can be in with a shout, but who knows, the final is a few months away so there's time.

It's a difficult task to get through Atletico because they're a hard side to beat, but it's one tie at a time, if they can get through it then it might give the players belief.

You take that confidence into the next game, but if I was a betting man, I would probably keep my pound in my pocket.

 Roy Keane pulled out of the running for the Sunderland job, do you think it’d be possible for him to go back into management with his personality and how modern football is?

I think anything is possible with Roy. I think he would be sorely missed in the punditry box if he went back into management, but I think that's where he would like to be.

I chatted to him a few months ago and I think he'd love to be back involved in a coaching role because that's where he feels more comfortable.

He's older and wiser now as well, but I thought there was a chance he'd get that Sunderland job. He made an instant impact when he was there the previous time, and he shook things up at the time.

You don't know what went on, they've got Alex Neil who is a decent manager. But I think eventually, Roy would rather be out on a football pitch coaching or managing rather than sitting there talking about it.

He's back in the frame I guess, other clubs will be looking at that, so I'm sure he'll be back in management in the future.

What were your first impressions of Roy Keane when he walked through the doors at United?

It happens to a lot of players which I've seen, the first year they come in they're taken a back because there's so many big characters in the dressing room. When Roy walked in, we had just won the title for the first time in 26 years and then he joined, so he had to come in with a bunch of lads who had just won the title.

He was quite shy at first, he wasn't the demonstrative figure he then became later down the line as he settled in. He developed into someone who had great games, scored a lot of goals, was all action and got the fans to love him.

The more confident he got from his performances, the more confident he got in the dressing room and that moulded him into the leader he was.

That's something that isn't present in the current Manchester United side, I was lucky enough to play in teams that had four or five captains.

There were plenty of players who would give you an ear full if you weren't doing your job. There's a lack of abrasive characters currently and Roy was certainly that type of character.

You didn't always have to take it, you could have a go back and I had a lot of fights or arguments on the pitch with Roy as I did with other players. It gets your mind concentrated, a bit more fight and a willingness to go the extra yard when people were in your ear.

But initially in that first season, he wasn't the Roy Keane we came to know, he was finding his feet in amongst a dressing room that had known each other for three or four years.

It wasn't like Eric when he walked in, he was already the king of the place Mr Cantona when he arrived. But he was at that age where he could do that, he'd been through a lot already in France and seen it all.

He's probably the only player I've seen do that when they first arrive into a dressing room, but as for every other mere mortal it wasn't the case.

You’ve been a big advocate in speaking about issues surrounding dementia following footballers careers, the FA haven’t backed the idea for funding for aftercare for players – what do you make of this?

It's disappointing, it's been a topic in football we've been going on about for a number of years now. It brought it home to me that as defenders you're more likely to suffer from dementia because of the number of times you head the ball.

Our own professional football association have taken a lot of flak over this. If the FA aren't seen to be responding to this or taking actions as our own union is and the players are then they're going to leave themselves with some big problems.

I think you've got a duty of care to look after people in the game and if this is the FA's stance then I think they're making a mistake.

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