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HomeOpinion/FeaturesLee Sharpe exclusive: Man United, Rashford, Mainoo and more

Lee Sharpe exclusive: Man United, Rashford, Mainoo and more

The Football Faithful sat down with former Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe this week to talk about his former side, discussing the goings on at a club where he made 243 appearances and won three Premier League titles.

Lee opened up exclusively to us on the future of Erik ten Hag, Marcus Rashford’s underwhelming campaign, and the club’s emerging youngsters, at an event hosted by sports betting site BetVictor.

Lee Sharpe exclusive: Man United, Rashford, Mainoo and more:

Q: Manchester United are conceding a huge number of shots and chances right now, do you think that’s an issue with the tactics or personnel?

“I think it would have to be a little bit of both. I think the system is not helping them and the personnel are not helping the system. You can’t have that many shots on target from opposing teams without something being quite right.

“It’s not just down to a back four it has to be a team game. I don’t think the back four and goalkeeper are getting as much protection as other teams do. It’s part formation, part tactics, and part personnel. It’s a bit of everything.”

Q: Where do you think the squad needs investment to get greater solidity?

“It’s a difficult one. They’ve had so many injuries and an inconsistent back four this season, it’s very difficult to get some sort of understanding and balance. In front of that, I don’t think (Sofyan) Amrabat has quite worked out, I don’t think Casemiro has the legs to get around the pitch like he used to, likewise (Christian) Eriksen. (Scott) McTominay has obviously got legs but I don’t think he’s good enough to play week in week out.

“I think a midfielder or two definitely need to be brought in and, as far as the defence goes, I think you’re looking at another centre-half because of the injury list and inconsistencies of the back four. You need someone who is going to stay fit. I don’t know if that’s because of training or just bad luck. They need consistency across the backline.”

Q: Do you think the absence of Champions League football – or Europe – will impact recruitment?

“It will impact the names and level of players you can bring in, for sure, because the big players will want to play in the Champions League. You just hope the lower number of games can give people more energy so they can go on and do better things next season.

“With less games you’d expect less injuries, more consistency, and a better season next year. Hopefully they go on and get top four next season but it’s such a difficult ask as there’s so many good teams.”

 

Q: Do you believe Erik ten Hag is still the right man? If not, who?

“It’s such a tricky question. You’ve got to give a manager time because we’ve been going through this for the last 10 or 12 years, managers getting 18 months or two years and then they’re out. It is a difficult situation. Do you give him more money and another season or two, and hope get gets this right? Or does Sir Jim Ratcliffe come in and start from scratch and say no we’re building our own team here?

“The names mentioned, you’ve got (Roberto) De Zerbi, the guy from Portugal (Ruben Amorim). I think (Unai) Emery at Aston Villa is one of the best managers out there, I don’t know if we’d even entertain or look at him. That’s a bag of worms you’re opening (new manager) and you’re going down the same routes again. It just makes my head explode, thinking about another manager and starting again, with the mess the club are already in and where we’ve got to get to, to compete with everyone else.”

Q: Marcus Rashford, what have you made of his form? How do Manchester United get the best from him or is it time for him to take on a new challenge?

“Another difficult question. I think Marcus Rashford is one of the biggest talents at the club and on his day one of the best players in the Premier League, if not Europe. His ability speaks for itself.

“For some reason this year he doesn’t seem to be putting the effort in as much and that’s when people get upset. You can have bad games when you try hard, but when you’re jogging around and not putting the effort in, that’s when people get upset. You need your big players to stand out. He’s not a young lad anymore, he’s an experienced player.

“He signed a new contract and you expect him to perform and to see him at half-pace and just jogging around, it’s a little bit criminal. To get the best out of Marcus Rashford, I think that’s only Marcus Rashford that can do that. I don’t know what’s going on with him off the pitch or personally, if he’s struggling with the game or struggling with things at home. There’s a distraction because he looks a total opposite player to the season before.

“He was quick, electric, scoring goals, and a danger in every game he played. Now he looks thoughtful, he’s thinking about things too much, and not playing naturally. He looks like he’s got something on his mind. He’s a top player, but I don’t know if he wants a move or there’s something else going on, or if his heart is still at the club.”

Q: How impressed have you been with the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho’s improvement? Is that the future?

“Massively. I think it always has been about the young lads. I think because people like Rashford have played so poorly and we’ve had such bad injuries, it’s been a chance for Garnacho and he’s grabbed it.

“He’s been fantastic, he’s gone at people, a little bit like Rashford was doing last season! He’s scored amazing goals, scored in big games, I think he’s been absolutely electric.

“Kobbie Mainoo, it’s so impressive when you see people like Kobbie come in and do the simple things well. He’s scored unbelievable goals against Wolves and Liverpool, I think he’s been such a special player. Long may that continue.”

 

Q: Should Mainoo make the Euro 2024 squad?

“That’s another difficult question. He’s a young lad. On form it would be difficult not to play him. But I also think if Gareth Southgate is not 100% on playing him then I would half think about leaving him at home so he can rest.

“I know it’s not in Gareth Southgate’s interests to leave him at home so he’s better for Manchester United next season but there would be an argument for leaving him at home after what he’s gone through this year. But the way he’s played and performed, I think there’s definitely a place for him in the team.

“That would be an awesome line up with Bellingham and Rice.”

Q: Do you think he’s ready to start at a tournament of that pressure?

“I think he is. I think he can play against the best. We’ve seen him in big games this season when the games quick and hostile and he’s coped well. Whether he’s Gareth Southgate’s first choice in midfield, I don’t know, but I definitely think the way he has played and with his ability he can get into the starting team.”

Read – Thierry Henry’s poise, Roy Keane’s red mist and the most iconic Premier League imagery of the 2000s

See more – Iconic Duos: Striking synergy perfected, Cole and Yorke

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