Alexis Sanchez can be the driving force of Manchester United, just like Eric Cantona was

Manchester United legend Gary Pallister has stated that new signing Alexis Sanchez, who is expected to make his Premier League debut for his new club against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Wednesday evening could be an inspirational figure as much as Eric Cantona was more than 25 years ago when he signed for the club from Leeds United. Pallister has drawn the similarities from the current United squad to the squad he played with years ago – the side which included the prolific Frenchman. Speaking about Cantona and Sanchez to, Pallister said:

“We used to say ‘we had a great formula one car but we didn’t have the driver’ and Eric then become the driver of that car. I think the same could maybe happen with Sanchez. He’s a dynamic player and he’s got an edge to him as well.

“I like that. I think he could maybe change the way Manchester United approach games. I’m absolutely buzzing. I am still down there every match day. To see someone like Sanchez come to your club, its great news for every Manchester United fan.”

In the run-up to United’s interest in the Chilean to the day his signing was confirmed, the media in the United Kingdom specifically, literally conducted an in-depth investigation into the costing of the player, who was involved in a player swap deal with Arsenal which saw former United attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan head in the other direction, meaning no actual transfer fee was paid for the 29-year-old. That did not stop the media suggesting his wage would be anything from £250,000 a week to £600,000 a week, which shows the scatter-gun approach they used.

Then after the player signed for United, there were stories to suggest players such as Paul Pogba would now demand a pay rise to keep them on a similar pay scale to that of Sanchez, who obviously came to United for the money, as opposed to the offer of trophies galore by Manchester City. City retracted their offer for Sanchez after United were known to be interested, suggesting that the deal was too much for their ‘budget’, despite spending £57 million on Aymeric Laporte, not to mention the reported interest in Riyad Mahrez which is suggested to be around the £60 million figure.

Pallister has suggested that there will not be any squabbles over wages in the Manchester United dressing room. Yes, it is his opinion, but he is an ambassador at the Old Trafford club and will have contact with the current players, enough to give him that opinion and insight if you will. Pallister stated that wages are something that goes through your mind as a player but not knowing if the rumours are 100% true is a big part, which is why players will just get on with their job. Pallister said:

“Wages don’t really cause a problem. You always have an idea what players are getting when they did come to the club although never 100% sure. I look back at my time and I think a lot of the players I played with could have got more money elsewhere in the top flight. But you’ve got the chance to play for Manchester United and that was the difference.

“Everybody I played alongside appreciated that. There was no better place to play football. Things have changed since then, Chelsea and Manchester City have come in with the buying power. The goal posts have shifted a little bit.

“If clubs can afford to play these figures then the players deserve it. They are the people they are coming to watch. As long as it doesn’t put the club at risk, then these players deserve every penny they get.”

The media in the UK are pretty obsessed with Manchester United. There are multiple articles written on a daily basis to serve to the public who seem just as obsessed to read it all, no matter who they support. Recently, the reports have pointed at the club negatively, which is something which I guess gets more attraction as more people in the country and further afield hate United. The thing is, there seems to be no parity from something which is reported about United when it is reported on another club.

Transfers for instance. When United are signing a player, the fee, if applicable, the wages, signing on fee, bonuses, agent fees and everything else involved with a transfer are added on. Yet, then Manchester City sign a player, it is just the transfer fee, which starts to suggest clubs are getting favours from the media which helps to make those respective deals much better. I mean. on Tuesday, City signed Aymeric Laporte after activating his £57 million release clause. There are no reports of the huge deal he will be on to play for Manchester City.

As Pallister has said, when you have the chance to play for Manchester United, that is always the difference aside from individual wages. The game has changed in the last 25 years though, so there will be players who expect to be the biggest earner at a club but that does not mean that all players have that frame of mind. Some players seem to love the prospect of playing for the Old Trafford club, like Sanchez who everyone thought was going to City, it would seem that was all a dream for the blue side of Manchester, one they now say they didn’t have or want. Funny that!

Romelu Lukaku will bring the physicality which was lacking last season, says Pallister

Manchester United signed Romelu Lukaku from Everton just over a fortnight ago now for an initial £75 million, which could rise to £90 million in total. The player did confirm that his friend and teammate Paul Pogba was driving him past United’s Old Trafford stadium after the pair had dinner together, pushing the thought into the player’s head that one day he would be a Manchester United player, little under a year after Pogba made the switch back to the Theatre of Dreams in an £89 million move from Juventus last summer. Lukaku has already scored two goals for United on the clubs pre-season tour helping sink both Real Salt Lake and Manchester City, failing to get a goal against Real Madrid, but he could play against Barcelona, which could see him score another goal stateside.

Former United defender Gary Pallister has been speaking about many things related to the Old Trafford club this summer, adding Lukaku to his comments and playing him up for a big season at the Theatre of Dreams, which will be what Jose Mourinho wanted to happen when he sealed the deal for the former Chelsea player, who was tipped by the media to head back to Stamford Bridge with United stealing the player from right under their noses. Pallister, speaking exclusively to 888sport spoke about Lukaku’s friendship with Pogba and how it could help him this coming season, saying:

“I think it’s great and we’ve seen their friendship on social media playing basketball together and training together. That can only be a positive for the team and the players themselves. Paul Pogba had his critics when he joined due to the price tag and it was a tough season for him.

“I think we’ll see a better Pogba this year, the one that we saw for France against England. He’s obviously full of quality and a big personality but finding a level of consistency last year was the tough part along with dealing with all of the expectation. He’s going to have a massive season.

“As for Romelu Lukaku, he’s going to bring the physicality that was lacking last season. I know that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a strong lad but he doesn’t move like Lukaku getting behind defenders. So he brings different options to United and I’m sure he’ll score lots of goals as well.”

Pallister also warned that Lukaku will face criticism from the media if he does not start scoring from the start of the season, just like Zlatan Ibrahimovic did last season when his goal scoring seemed to dry up for spells throughout the season. The media will criticise anything related to Manchester United, whereas, with other clubs, they would probably turn a blind eye. I mean look at Manchester City who are famed for having this all singing and all dancing Academy, yet the club has to spend around £200 million to sign four fullbacks, two first choice and two reserves ahead of the new season. Why could their Academy not produce these players saving the club money? Why have so many youth players left the blue side of Manchester? None of these sees any negativity in the media, which shows United still lead the way for news. Pallister said:

“I’ve got to say that you never know how players will settle in at Manchester United as it’s a different animal altogether from Everton, even probably Chelsea. The level of expectation at United exceeds both of those clubs. He’s got to get used to that.

“When you go for that fee everybody expects you to hit the ground running and be an instant hit but it didn’t happen to Pogba last year and I’m sure if Lukaku doesn’t score in his first few games the critics will be on his back.

“He’s a great piece of business though and will bring more dynamism to this United side and more physicality. Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, and Jesse Lingard are all good players but haven’t got the power to worry defenders. Lukaku has that in abundance.”

Mourinho has been tipped to field two strikers for United this coming season, as was the case in the opening pre-season match against LA Galaxy in California. Both Lukaku and Marcus Rashford would play well together. Some might even liken them to the new Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, which seemed to work well with United during the treble-winning season, which is what the pair were famed for, despite scoring throughout their careers at the Old Trafford club. The blistering pace of Rashford and his eye for a goal, not to mention the eye for a goal and the physicality offered by Lukaku could see Premier League defences shivering at the prospect of facing the pair, not to mention Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who will both create chances for the strikers and even score their own goals. Pallister said:

“I think they’ll be frightening. Marcus Rashford is only going to get stronger and better. He’s been on a quick learning curve and found himself in international football and a marked man in the Premier League. But he’s very grounded and won’t get ahead of himself and the pace of the two of them will give defenders and awful lot to think about. There is a suggestion that Jose Mourinho might play the two up front and that’s something the fans at Old Trafford would love to see because them two would really be a handful.”

Manchester United were in talks to sign Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata with the club coming close to signing the player despite a fee not being agreed with the Madrid club. Out of the blue on a Thursday morning just over a fortnight ago, it was reported that United had agreed a £75 million fee with Everton for Lukaku, which was soon denied by the Goodison Park club. Come the Friday evening, Chelsea had matched the offer United had made but it was too late. Early on the following Saturday morning, United tweeted they had agreed on a fee with Everton subject to personal terms and the player passing a medical. Lukaku was on holiday with Pogba in Los Angeles, the destination of United for their pre-season tour and by the following Monday, all was done. Arsenal had signed Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette, who United were linked with but never made the move. Pallister feels the Lukaku signing is much better than that of Lacazette and Morata, saying:

“I’m going to say Lukaku because he is proven in the Premier League. The other guys come over to the Premier League and the pace and power is different but Lukaku has done it regularly for West Bromwich Albion and Everton. He is a proven Premier League goalscorer and I think that’s why Mourinho gave up on Alvaro Morata. Lukaku is very bullish, brash and quick. He’ll mess defenders about.”

Manchester United will go a very long way this coming season if Lukaku does gel with his teammates and they all put in the performances to get United to where they want to be. United supporters will be expecting Jose Mourinho to lead the club to a Premier League title challenge, possibly even expecting him to bring that trophy back to Old Trafford come May 2018. United are in good hands, the three trophies, two of them major last season have shown just what Mourinho has brought to the club over the past year and if that success continues, United could be back on the road to glory, which is something we all want to see, especially to show the ABU’s (anyone but United brigade) that Manchester United are back and normal service has resumed. Of course, sweeping the board may not be possible next season, just a title challenge would be good to see, it has been four years since United challenged and won the Premier League trophy.

Read the full 888sport interview with Gary Pallister, including his thoughts on which club made the best signing of the transfer window.

Pallister: This season will be make-or-break for Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial has a great start at Manchester United after signing for the Old Trafford club on deadline day in the summer of 2015. That season the player scored 17 goals in all competitions and showed the English media up for writing him off after United made a ‘panic buy’ spending an initial £36 million on the player, which was immediately deemed a ‘waste of money’. Ray Parlour, a former Arsenal midfielder and now pundit tweeted about Martial being a massive waste of money, but days later after he scored against Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League, also putting out some more decent performances, the former player admitted he was wrong, getting my respect. Martial’s blistering pace and his ability to cut into the box, weave through the defenders and score remarkable goals is something the player should be known for a lot more. Last season the Frenchman did not do himself much justice, looking

Martial’s blistering pace and his ability to cut into the box, weave through the defenders and score remarkable goals is something the player should be known for a lot more. Last season the Frenchman did not do himself much justice, looking laxidasical at times and being the brunt of much criticism from United manager Jose Mourinho. his summer though, on the clubs pre-season tour of the United States of America, Martial has looked like the player United signed nearly two years ago. The assist he made for Jesse Lingard to take the lead in the last-minute of the first half against Real Madrid showed Martial’s class and Mourinho and every United supporter will be hoping that stays. Gary Pallister, speaking exclusively to 888sport believes this season will be make-or-break for Martial, saying:

“It was a tough year for Martial. He had problems off the pitch and at times he looked disenchanted. Jose questioned his attitude a few times last season and what he was doing on the pitch but he’s had some good moments in the pre-season games and hopefully, he learns from last year. Old Trafford is a goldfish bowl and he will be under pressure but there is no doubting the talent that he has. He has pace and power but last year I don’t think his head was in the right place. It is make-or-break time in a way and he has to ensure he starts the season well.”

Martial has the ability and without making excuses for him, last season was tough as he had many off the field problems which would have affected his mindset ahead of matches, which could have been the main reason for his poor performances. The player this summer has been the subject of much speculation, the player suggesting most of it is rubbish using his Twitter account to go against the stories the English media have written about him wanting to leave the Old Trafford club. Anthony Martial has also been linked to Italian club Inter Milan who reportedly asked for him to be made part of the deal which saw Ivan Perisic leave for the Theatre of Dreams, which would be a poor deal for United and seemingly will not happen. The player has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain also in a swap deal for Marco Verratti, something which seemed to be dreamt up by the media.

Pallister is right though, this season has to be the season of Anthony Martial at Manchester United. Playing him on that left-flank will play with the opposition’s defences throughout the new season, which could see United scoring more goals through Martial himself, or with the Frenchman assisting for his teammates. Romelu Lukaku, the clubs new striker could well gain from Martial playing on the left flank, which could see the Belgian marksman scoring goals a plenty in the Premier League and beyond. I am sure Martial wants to get his career back on track at United. He has had to learn a new philosophy if that word still fits as we heard it a lot under the management of Louis van Gaal, so this second season under Mourinho will need to see Martial earning his plaudits again, not more criticism. If he puts his mind to it, there is no reason to stop him costing United more money with the various clauses added on to his deal which saw him switch from AS Monaco.

Read the full 888sport interview with Gary Pallister, including his thoughts on which club made the best signing of the transfer window.

Mourinho can lead Manchester United to the promised land again, says Pallister

Manchester United can be steered to UEFA Champions League glory by Jose Mourinho according to former defender Gary Pallister. The last time United won the elite European competition was back in 2008 with Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club. Ferguson did guide his team to two more finals, both against Barcelona in both Rome (2009) and London (2011) losing both matches with United just not getting themselves into the game. The next European final came under Jose Mourinho last season with his team lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy, the first time the club has done so, by beating Dutch side Ajax 2-0 at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Mourinho has experience in the Champions League and on accepting the vacant manager’s position last summer, he would have been gutted to not lead his side into the elite European competition. Pallister, speaking exclusively to 888sport about Mourinho steering the club to glory in the competition, said:

“Manchester United have a seasoned UEFA Champions League veteran in Jose Mourinho. He’s won it and been in finals and semi-finals so he knows what it’s all about. We’re also coming off winning a European final last year and we’ve got quality players to have an impact. It’s of course always difficult to win but I expect the English clubs to perform a lot better now in the Champions League after a quiet period.”

Many will suggest United are not near good enough to win the Champions League again, which I get, but luck in involved too. Many supporters wrote United off in their quest to lift the Europa League last season because the Ajax side they were player had been very good throughout the tournament, but that seems to have been an underestimate on that night in May as the side did not score a single goal with United dominating the match from the kick off. If United did the same in the Champions League, which will be another tough ask as the club will be taking on the best teams in Europe again, they could go a long way in the competition. Of course, Pallister does not say this could happen next season, that would be a big ask, but you cannot rule it out, not yet anyway.

The last time Mourinho lifted the Europa League trophy as a manager was with FC Porto and the next season he won the UEFA Champions League with the club, history could repeat itself. The UEFA Champions League final will be played at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev in the Ukraine, not a stadium where United has much history, but it is the date of the final which will mean more to every Manchester United supporter, especially the ones who were around the last time the final was played on that date – the 26th May – Sir Matt Busby’s birthday – it would have been his 109th. This could be written in the stars for Manchester United just like the Europa League final was last season with it being played in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s homeland, a game he was not able to play in

Read the full 888sport interview with Gary Pallister, including his thoughts on which club made the best signing of the transfer window.

Manchester United’s defence is ready for the new season, says Gary Pallister

Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister has spoken about the club’s defence ahead of the new Premier League season. United strengthened in that department last summer with the arrival of Eric Bailly from Villarreal. This summer Jose Mourinho has added Victor Lindelof from Benfica, seemingly a player who could form a partnership with Bailly and a pretty good one at that. There is strength in the defence at this present time with Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling (should he not leave the club this summer), Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Axel Tuanzebe, who can all play central roles in defence. Mourinho also has Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw as the fullbacks – Valencia on the right, Shaw on the left and Darmian who can play either role. There is depth in these roles also with Blind and Rojo (when fit) who have played left-back before and youth player Demetri Mitchell, who could be the next rising star. Pallister, speaking exclusively to 888sport, talking about how United do not need to strengthen at the back further this summer, said:

“They’ve brought in a new defender in Victor Lindelof and when you add him to Eric Bailly it looks very good. They’ve also got Marcos Rojo in there who came to the fore last year and was terrific until he suffered a serious knee injury.

“Then you also have Chris Smalling and Phil Jones who have a lot to prove. It looks like we’re keeping David De Gea which is great because we’ve seen in the past how difficult it is to replace top quality goalkeepers – it took us a long time to replace Peter Schmeichel when he left the club. Antonio Valencia has come on leaps and bounds and his outstanding performances led to Jose Mourinho calling him one of the best right-backs in the world.

“The only question mark is at left-back. Luke Shaw has had injury problems and he’s found it hard to catch the manger’s eye. Mourinho was quite tough on him last season. Then there’s Matteo Darmian who is a right-back playing at left-back. Overall though we have a lot of the bases covered and there’s a lot of quality in there.”

Pallister also spoke about how Luke Shaw could prove him wrong this season. The last campaign saw the England left-back struggling through both form and injury, being criticised by the manager and then given the chance to earn his place on the team, looking good at times. Shaw was then injured before the end of the season, needing surgery on his ankle which will see him on the sidelines until September when he should be available again for the first team. There will be some competition for Shaw though in the form of Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and possibly even Demetri Mitchell, who will be looking to rise through the ranks and challenge for a starting position this coming season. Pallister, suggesting Shaw be patient, said:

“I think Luke Shaw can nail down that spot for himself. I know there were tough times last year and it was a difficult season for him but just before that terrible injury to his ankle his form for Manchester United was fantastic. You just think that with a bit of patience he can get back to that form again.”

Part of the strengthening in the defensive department saw both Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof sign for the Old Trafford club a year apart. The fact that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have questionable injury records suggests Jose Mourinho was right to bring in Bailly and this summer, Lindelof. United cannot be reliant on a pair of central defenders throughout the season. We have seen this before, a few times and it does not seem to work out. United, once injuries are out of the way, should have six experienced central defenders with Axel Tuanzebe also waiting for his chance to prove himself to the manager. Bailly and Lindelof may for a great partnership ahead of the new season with Jones and Smalling able to play together and with Blind and Rojo also able to form a partnership. It will give United and Mourinho many options in defence to rotate and keep his squad fresh. On needing extra cover for injury prove Jones and Smalling, Pallister said:

“I’ve not seen an awful lot of Lindelof as I haven’t been getting up at 1 am to watch the friendlies. But I’m hearing reports that he’s a top quality centre-half and you need strength and depth to any squad and there were question marks over Smalling and Jones last year and Jose felt he wanted another defender.

“It just makes the competition for places even harder for the English players in the side and the problem both Smalling and Jones have had throughout their careers is they have been blighted by injuries. That’s why Jose has gone out and bought.”

Pallister also spoke about Victor Lindelof maybe not guaranteed to start in United’s team next season. During much of the pre-season time he has had on the pitch, the Swedish defender has looked able, both on and off the ball, but against Real Madrid, he gave away a silly penalty and even missed a penalty in the shootout which could suggest he may need some time to adapt. Last summer Eric Bailly looked inexperienced in pre-season matches, especially against Wigan Athletic, but come the FA Community Shield and his first Premier League match, the Ivorian had settled and was named Man of the Match for those two matches. Lindelof may well prove all of his hater wrong, but we should not take it for granted that everything will fit into place with the Swede. Pallister said:

“Moves are never inconceivable but with the amount of games United will be facing next year everybody is going to play a certain amount. Maybe Lindelof has been brought in as first choice but that’s not always the case. Chris Smalling or Phil Jones can put in performances and that changes.

“We saw that with Henrikh Mkhitaryan where it took five months before he got into the first team and proving himself on a regular basis. Who is to say that won’t happen with Victor Lindelof?

“It’s not just about how you play but how you are in training and around the place. Smalling and Jones are both England centre-halves and when they came back towards the latter half of last season they had to prove themselves and did well. They never sulked and took the criticism on board.”

It seems that Pallister feels United’s defence is ready for the new season, as do I. Many would have liked another central defender, but at this stage of the summer it does not look like any players are leaving, despite Chris Smalling being linked to many Premier League clubs. United will need all defenders to play to the best of their abilities, which will not happen all the time, but the majority of those who are fit and ready to go have the experience playing for United knowing what is expected of them. Only Valencia, Jones and Smalling remain from the Sir Alex Ferguson era and Mourinho may well call on the trio to show their new teammates how to win matches, challenge for trophies, but I think it will be Valencia, Bailly Rojo (when fit) and possibly even Lindelof who demonstrate that this coming season.

Read the full 888sport interview with Gary Pallister, including his thoughts on which club made the best signing of the transfer window.

My Favourite Three: Sir Alex Ferguson signings; Hughes, Stam, Pallister

Sir Alex Ferguson started managing Manchester United on the 6th November 1986 and despite it taking until 1990 for him to win his first trophy, it was a turbulent time for the Scotsman who had his own discontent to deal with after sections of supporters demanding he was sacked, which would have been the worst mistake in the club’s history, a mistake which was visited after the gaffer retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, appointing former Everton manager David Moyes, a guy who was sacked just nine months later. During Ferguson’s near 27-year reign of the club, he made some great signings and some not so great signings. I will talk about my three favourite Sir Alex Ferguson signings…

Mark Hughes

Many may not see Mark Hughes as a Sir Alex Ferguson signing being that he came through the club’s Academy and played for the first team from 1980, making his debut in the 1983/84 season, until 1986 when he was sold to Barcelona for £2 million, a big fee for a player back then, in fact in today’s money, Hughes transfer to the Catalan club would have cost more than £5.5 million today, still not a big fee for the player United got back, but it was a bargain. Ferguson paid £1.8 million for Hughes in 1988, just two years after he left the Old Trafford club, making £200,000 in that time from the fee Barcelona paid for the Welshman. In his first stint at United, playing in three seasons, Hughes made a total of 121 appearances, scoring 47 goals. In his second stint, after Ferguson re-signed him, Hughes made 352 appearances, scoring 116 goals, leaving the club for Chelsea in the summer of 1995. During his time at United, Hughes won many trophies including two Premier League titles, the FA Cup three times, one League Cup, three FA Charity Shield’s – two shared, one UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and one UEFA Super Cup. Post-Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Blackburn Rovers, Hughes went into management, managing Wales, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and he is currently in charge of Stoke City.

Jaap Stam

Yip Jaap Stam is a big Dutchman was what was heard from the terraces at Old Trafford and beyond when the Dutchman played for Manchester United between 1998 and 2001. Stam was one of the best central defenders the club had in the modern era and he was tough to replace, not to mention the way he left the club which made it so much harder. The bad blood between Ferguson and Stam has been sorted out, so that won’t become a factor of this article. Stam was a favourite of mine, he was a no-nonsense defender, one who protected his area and most of the time got the better of his opposition. Stam cost United £10.6 million in 1998, the year United started their best ever season, ending it with the treble. Stam would have cost £17.7 million in today’s money, which is dwarfed by the recent transfer fees of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof who cost United upwards of £30 million a time, but in the modern era, fees are very much different. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were the best defenders since Stam, with Bailly coming close after just one season. Stam is now managing Reading, a team which just missed out on a promotion to the Premier League, beaten by Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final in May.

Gary Pallister

Gary Pallister was also a favourite of mine, much in the respect of Stam, he did what he needed to do and did not expect to be a major star of the side, which is much different to today’s game where most players seem to have ego’s, even if they are not considered very good. Gone are the days where you will see a footballer mix with us normal folk, which is a shame – there seems to be a divide. I have met Pallister a few times and he is a true gent and loves talking to United supporters, well any supporter really. He has some great stories to tell, which makes him down to earth as many players of his time were. Pallister signed for Ferguson’s United from Middlesbrough in 1989, the year before Ferguson won his first trophy for the Old Trafford club, for just £2.3 million – about £5.5 million today – an absolute bargain, breaking the national record for a defender. Pallister won four Premier League titles, lifted the FA Cup three times, the League Cup once, the FA Charity Shield five times (shared once), the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup once and the UEFA Super Cup once. Pallister left United in 1998, nearly ten years after he signed for the Old Trafford club, heading back to Middlesbrough for £2.5 million, with Ferguson again making £200,000 profit on the player he brought to the club nine years before.

copyright: JW