‘A sit down with Paul Parker’ – 1st June 2022

With the 2021-22 football season finished, we had a chat with former Man Utd and England right-back Paul Parker to discuss Ralf Rangnick’s tenure, Frenkie de Jong links, Marcus Rashford’s England hopes and more.

So, Ralf Rangnick will not be continuing as a consultant at Man Utd. What do you have to say about his short, but eventful, period in charge?

“From a football point of view, it was poor. I have to say that United never stepped forward as a football team, really under his tenure. It wasn’t anything different. Initially, everyone was trying to see a difference with his ideas of what modern people call pressing, I still call it closing down, because he’s been in the game since day one.”

“Everyone was into that to see how United would change, but I think I have to say that it didn’t change. Same personnel, different managers still doing the same things. But I think that the only thing that came out of it was, we have to say he came and said a few things needed to be said. Some stuff didn’t have to be said, but people say that Mourinho was telling people all the time about things, about players and the way he came out and said things, but he said it in a wrong way. He said it was all geared towards him.”

“This man was saying it towards the problems within the football club. So, he was talking more as an analyst of a football club rather than talking as a coach and about himself. So, I think that’s where the difference was in the way he said it and I don’t think that the hierarchy were expecting that. But they should’ve known better cause they emplo”yed somebody who is a troubleshooter. That’s what he is, that’s what he’d done.

“He got somebody who doesn’t sit in a top position as such, he sits around the periphery of a football team, and he watches and he listens. And then he was seeing things, he was seeing body language, he was seeing cliques, he was seeing and hearing animosity. So, he solved problems and he said it and I think he’s done the club a bit of good, cause now the fans feel what they’ve seen was true of certain individuals.”

“Then they saw why the team collectively was poor, cause the individuals there, they weren’t together. So, the new manager coming in, if he’s not read about it, he’s not heard about it from maybe people within, he certainly would’ve heard about it from the outgoing interim consultant manager. 

“So, he’s gonna go in there and he’s got a fresh set of cards and it’s about how he actually deals with them. How he deals with that pack. If he’s gonna go in there and be really, really strong and let everyone know and manage them, it can only be the better and it can be better for Manchester United because since 2013 they just haven’t had anyone at all who’s actually gone in there and managed that football club.”

Do you think Man Utd have missed out by not giving him as a technical director at the club? He forged his reputation as one of the best technical directors in the game.

“I just think that United made the wrong decision from the start. It was the wrong decision. There’s no way around that.”

“But as I said earlier, he kind of opened up the club. You know, he suddenly is coming there and he’s opened the door to the football club to the people who were outside trying to look in.”

“But, could he have stayed on as technical director? I don’t think so. Because again I use the word hierarchy. I think they were scared of him. Maybe they didn’t go and talk to him about it. Maybe asked questions why he might have said things, cause they were maybe scared of the answers. But certainly I think they would have been scared of him being in that position.”

“But the thing about it, I think he wouldn’t have been maybe that kind of person. That’s if he wanted to stay, because if he had anything to say, he would have been talking to the manager about it cause that’s his job. You know, that’s what he is. He may be working with the manager and the people above, but then he would’ve been talking to the manager about the issues with the players.”

“If the manager wasn’t getting what he wanted from the players, then he would then speak to his line manager, i.e. the technical director who would then go and speak to the boards about any situations. That wasn’t to be materialised and I had to speak of anything he had to say to them was to maybe not fight to keep him, really.”

“So that’s again, that’s me outside looking in. It’s my opinion. But I see it sometimes these kind of people don’t really want someone who’s open to both sides. And he definitely was open to both sides and as much as everyone would say the football side was poor, Manchester United never improved. In a certain way, they capitulated entirely cause certain players couldn’t deal with somebody who was upfront and honest.”

“But on the other side of it, he let them know about certain individuals and about the team and maybe in a certain way about the club, what they were doing.”

Man Utd’s pursuit of Frenkie De Jong – the player seems to want Champions League football which he’s getting at FC Barcelona and they have an interesting project as well. Should United and Ten Hag continue to pursue a player who’s not so keen to join Man Utd?

“Normally. I would always say ‘No’. I would say no, they shouldn’t. But, looking where he is, he is playing at Barcelona. I look at what today’s football is about. Every player has their way of giving. You know, even Lacazette is saying he wants Champions League football. He doesn’t even deserve Conference League football the way he’s performed.”

“But, I can get that with De Jong. The difference is his Barcelona board want to sell him cause they need the money. Xavi wants to keep him. So, if it comes down to it, Xavi will have to say to him: I can’t keep him, my board wants to sell you. You are collateral, we need to sell you.”

“They need to sell for  £60, 70, 80 million, it’s gonna mean a lot to Barcelona and they could even make a go and purchase young players to mould in the Barca way. So I don’t think any United fans will take that personally to be perfectly honest.”

“He’s at a club like Barcelona, football-wise equal to Manchester United. They achieved everything that way. We can talk about history, as well. In their own personal history, Manchester United. But this is about playing football and the moment he knows, he finds out or he accepts that the board are not gonna accept him staying, they will make it difficult for him if he stays.”

“I’m sure Xavi won’t let him into that. But he knows it himself he could leave Barcelona and join, knowing that a great club like Manchester United wants him. That shouldn’t be held against him.” 

“Now, if he was at a different kind of a club and a different level, then you would say the moment he turns down Manchester United, you start talking about monetary issues.”

“Why do you stay when you can, if you achieve 50% of what you achieved for that club, it would be even bigger for you as a player, given a bigger platform. Then you gotta go and do it. You got to take a point and go and do that, but I see where he is and understand, it’s a waiting game.” 

“Cause at the end of it, he’s got his previous manager who got him to where he is now and the national team. So, people have got to understand that it’s not that easy sometimes being a player, an overseas player and making that decision when you believe you are at a great club already. The hardest thing to accept is that you’re not wanted.”

Anthony Martial’s loan spell at Sevilla was a failure and it was said he didn’t have the ‘fire in his belly’. He returns to Man Utd but do you think he has a future here? Or is it time to part ways?

“It’s time to part ways. Too many managers. He has the opportunity to get away from a place where he looked as miserable as sin. I saw him actually play for Sevilla at London Stadium in the Europa League. He got taken off quite late.”

“To be honest, he could have walked off the pitch and people wouldn’t even know he was there until maybe when they put his number to actually let him know that he has left the field. ‘Cause they were playing with ten men when they were on the field.” 

“So, he hasn’t done himself any favours, he’s gone out on loan. Hasn’t gone and done anything, He’s gonna go and come back. Another manager comes in, is he going to have enough in there to go and prove himself? I can’t see it.”

“United spent nearly 50 million on him when you look at how long he’s been at the club, six seasons. Six or seven seasons, hasn’t justified himself now. Is there a chance of a change? Is it worth taking a gamble looking at what happened with Pogba? I think a lot of United fans now, they had a few months away, quite a few months of him not being there, not being able to talk about him.”

“When it comes out and knowledge that he’s coming back, the majority of fans will say no. You got to cut your losses and not have him around. Another manager is just sometimes you have to say it’s not working or hasn’t worked.”

Reports have emerged that Raphinha is interested in joining Manchester United from Leeds. Do you think that’s an option that United should pursue?

“I would have to turn around and say that hopefully if he says we would like like to join Manchester United, he’s left his accommodation, hotel, or whatever, because I think that everyone knows that is exactly what he, if he’s come out with a statement like that, that’s absolutely incredible to come out and say that.”

“But, in the end of it, he’s been at Leeds a little while and he’s an overseas player, so he doesn’t really maybe get it or he just doesn’t see it that way. He just sees it as an opportunity to join, you know, a great club. You know, a club that’s gonna make his name even bigger in his homeland and if he was to go and join them.”

“Now, he’s not a centre-forward, he’s a wide player, he’s creative. He plays off the cuff. He improvises. So, I would say that he’s everything that Manchester United are about. When you look at Manchester United wide players, none of them have really done a lot. Only one player has really made an impact as a wide player, but he is inexperienced and he needs to be working with better quality players, more honest players, more professional senior pros, and that’s Elanga.”

“When you have to say Sancho showed glimpses. Rashford, let’s leave Rashford out of this. They haven’t had anything from someone from a wide area who’s gonna be fright in the forward position. So, yes I have to say that he would be a very good signing and the fact that he’s playing in the Premier League is a fact that makes even more sense. They haven’t got to worry about integration. You know, into playing that football.”

“So, common sense says, if he’s available, when you talk money I think he’s like £35 million if you add on him, I think. No I don’t want to come out and, Mr. Stats man will come out and want to pull me down, so it might be a million pound there, but I would say he would be a very, very good signing for Manchester United.”

“That’s if he wants to stay in the UK. Then, it’s up to the manager. But when you look at some of the players the manager (Erik Ten Hag) played for him, you look at Ziyech, you look at Raphinha, you look around and say, well they’re very similar in the way they want to play.”

“So, is he gonna look at Ziyech who is not a regular and maybe had a decent season in patches. Would he like to join up with his manager, his previous manager? So, when you look at those kinds of players, they are Manchester United players.”

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were not called up to the England squad for the games in June. Between the pair, who should be more concerned about not getting into the England squad?

“For those two to get back in, they’ve got to work miracles. Work miracles from August onwards, from the first game, that is if they get into the team. They’ve got to work miracles to be honest because Jarrod Bowen had a fantastic season because he would’ve been in England Squad earlier if he didn’t get an injury when he got his foot injury.”

“He would’ve been in the England Squad from the previous window of games. But, he’s got an injury and many deserve it more than him. So, they’ve got to get past him. He is a new boy in, last in and first out, maybe. But you think of the work they’ve got to do to get past him, and the assists he makes. And the opportunity he’s made and the goals he’s scored in the wide area.

Those two will be nowhere near him. If one of them is gonna cut it, it will be Sancho. Maybe working with a European coach again, it could make a difference for him.”

“Marcus Rashford has to understand that he’s got to understand that he’s got to get out of his system of entitlement.”

“He’s entitled to nothing, you have to work hard to get anything in life. And then once you get that, you have to keep working hard, even harder to stay in that position.” 

“Because it is hard to get to the top, top of the League, and it’s even harder to stay at the top of the League, and Marcus Rashford has to realise and he’s got to prove a point.”

“Being a local boy doesn’t guarantee you are going to play regularly for your local team. He’s got to put everything away in the cupboard, and the only thing that should be in his mindset is football. And once he does that, it gives him a good platform to start again. But, I think he has to realise that he’s not gonna play, he’s not gonna be involved in the England Squad.”

“If the World Cup would have been when it should have been, in June and July, then, all I have to say is the doors open for plenty of time.” 

“But, Gareth Southgate has got to make his choices a lot earlier, and he’s got to put faith in people, from day one and it’s starting now. At the moment, he definitely can’t put any faith in Marcus Rashford, because there has not been any consistency at all. There hasn’t been any flashes, there’s only been glimpses. It’s not enough for the club football, let alone international.

Man Utd have made an approach for Daniel Bachmann of Watford. What is needed from a number 2 goalkeeper?

“First, he’s gonna compete with the goalkeeper at number one. That’s what you want. I’m assuming that the incoming manager knows about him. He’s got to go and get him.”

“David de Gea deserves the opportunity to be number one goalkeeper. It’s not how many goals he let in last season, it’s about how many goals he’s stopped. Because it could have been 87 or 57. So, if it had been 67 goals he let in, Manchester United would’ve been maybe tenth.”

“So, think about what he’s stopped. Stop thinking he’s not good enough because he can’t hit people with the ball in their feet from sixty yards as a goalkeeper. The first rola as a goalkeeper is to make saves, organise, stop the ball from going in the net. When they are talking about Alisson, talk about Ederson, look how many mistakes those two make.”

“Look how many shots you get against Ederson, look how many goals he lets in.” 

“Same with Liverpool. How many times did Alisson cause problems, because he is impetuous?  Because he wants to be a footballer rather than a goalkeeper.” 

“So, be happy with what you got at this moment in time until it’s such a time that the goalkeeper is nurtured. And you can come out and say that you got a decent team.

“David de Gea hasn’t been given the opportunity to have a good back-four in front of him. He’s had a cumbersome back four, nothing regular in front of him. Individually, poor defenders, maybe the best defender of all of them, is someone who I have highly criticised is Wan-Bissaka.”

“But, if you look at the regular players, the best defender this season’s from all-around defender has been Lindelof. So, yeah, he hasn’t had the best tools in front of him. It is as simple as that. Have the back four, have the best midfield in front of him. Now, a lower league mid-field in front of him.”

“Up front, we have to turn around and say, and one player’s that made a difference and the goals he’s scored and that’s Ronaldo. And that’s it.” 

“United has been poor all around, and all people wanna do is blame the goalkeeper.”

“Saying how he wasn’t the difference, he was the problem. You’d put another goalkeeper in there, and you’d have made no difference because of the tools in front of him. You put Alisson in front of him, you put Edison, and you wouldn’t have made no difference at all, United would have conceded more goals. Simple as that.”

James Garner is attracting interest from the likes of Leicester City and Leeds United. He helped Nottingham Forest gain promotion and now is back at Man Utd. Will a loan spell to another Premier League club be good for his development or should United keep him?

“I was at the game at the weekend, and he didn’t stand out, didn’t stand out at all really. Forest wouldn’t stand out. It might be one of their poor performances, but that’s down to nerves, what that game means. As good as, but not that Forest are so bad. The best season for football-wise in any team in that division.”

“Because if you look at where they started it from, their manager coming in, worked with the majority of same players, and I know that Fulham won the League. But, if you are talking about the manager of the year, I think that you have to talk about Steve Cooper, for what he has achieved.”

“And having lost at the weekend, saying unlucky wouldn’t mean anything for what they have been through. Could those players raise themselves and go and do it again? It would be very very difficult to get them going again and Steve Cooper having to work even harder to lift themselves and go again.”

“So, this is a hurdle they have to get over and get on with it. Otherwise, it’s gonna be an even a tougher job. Even board members and chairman, they were all tense. And I bet they knew it themselves.”

“He’s gonna go on a loan, I think he needs to go on a loan. Should it be in the Premier League? Yes, it has to be in the Premier League, I think for his own sanity, to be given the the opportunity to play in that league.”

“Should it be with Nottingham Forest? I think it should be with Nottingham Forest. I think if Steve Cooper wants to keep him, then he should be relaxed because he knows the club already and he has been there long enough.”

“And if he is gonna integrate into the Premier League, he should be with them. People talk about oh he is gonna struggle, Forest is gonna struggle. But that’s the way of finding out about players. Can they dig in? Because it is not gonna be as comfortable as, not that it was that comfortable in the Championship.”

“Or it’s gonna be even more hard because he’s gonna be playing with a different style, with a different team, with a different tempo. It’s gonna be more onus on him because he’s gonna get a little bit more time with the ball, and he’s gonna be closed down by teams, and he’s gonna be more organised, defensively, in midfield than what they were in the Championship.”

“So, he needs to come out, he doesn’t need to become a squad player and sit around on the benches. He’s got that impetus now and he doesn’t want that, he doesn’t mean much as people say and going back and you’re gonna be hard at squads. He knows he is gonna be one of those.”

“I don’t think he wants to be one of them to be perfectly honest. So, after what he has achieved, he has achieved the promotion and one says he’s got a winner’s medal because at the end of the day he was a runner up in the league. The third runner up in the league.”

“So, it’s a playoff medal, and I really don’t understand why they get medals for that really, and don’t in the Cup. Get nothing to runners-up as if up a set of players getting medals for working hard, but then don’t get.” 

“So, yeah. James Garner deserves an opportunity to play regularly in the league to find out himself, can he cut it? And then maybe then he’s cut for Forest, which is a great club, as you well know yourself about Forest.”

“Then, there is a good chance that he might be able to do it for Manchester United. When you have to say that there is a difference in the way that James Garner plays to the way Scott McTominay plays. And he is a younger player than Scott McTominay. That means that he is learning the process and that he is gonna be a lot quicker. And you have to say he flows better, he is more of a natural athlete. He uses the ball a lot better, a forward-thinking player as well. He is more disciplined as well. So, he could make a difference.”

Djed Spence, he was in the news recently for calling out Neil Warnock with an interesting post with a cigar, and he is sought after in England. Do you think stuff like this can be a red flag for teams recruiting him or is it something that you can kind of ignore, if you really want Djed Spence?

“Well, his attitude, you mean? – Yeah, his attitude. I think it’s more. I think he’s just somebody who you’re talking about what you put out on social media. I mean, that was wrong, it was wrong what he did, it was disrespectful, especially some other manager that people love to hate, but they respect him for his achievements as a manager.”

“I think what he (Neil Warnock) actually said in his response, he made a wrong decision, ‘cause the lad’s gone forward, but it wasn’t gonna work for him, you don’t get fullbacks playing like that, for Neil Warnock they don’t play like that. So it wasn’t more he was looking for, he was looking for someone defensively and maybe the bonus of going forward.” 

“So, I can understand that. Every manager’s let players go, every manager can tell you a story about a player which they wish and don’t really or are worried about coming, you know, people having a go at them about and their friends about it, but he did make a mistake, he suited Nottingham Forest, he didn’t suit Middlesbrough.”

“But now, by making a statement like that, he’s opening himself up now for ridiculing. People are gonna be holding that picture back now, and those words, and I hope it comes back to bite him, to be perfectly honest, and that’s what I always said about football you know. I used the words egg on your face, there’s always another game with football, so you can enjoy it, but enjoy it within, not express it with your teammates, but don’t go out on your own and do things like that, especially with a cigar in your mouth.”

“To do a picture like that, he doesn’t make any,  especially with youngsters around, as well.” 

“He proved himself as a very, very good Championship attacking full-back when he plays in Nottingham Forest, I think you can find that, his defensive abilities are gonna be tested, ‘cause going forward I think it’s gonna be more of a bonus than rather a done thing as it was in the Championship.”