Louis Saha: United Will Sign Kane and Win the Premier League

Louis Saha spoke to Compare.bet yesterday about how he believes Spurs’ new record goalscorer Harry Kane will lead Manchester United to the Premier League title. He also spoke about United’s form under Erik ten Hag, Chelsea’s transfer strategy and why Everton will remain in the Premier League under Sean Dyche.

MB: The Carabao Cup final is set now, with two of your old clubs facing off. How do you expect the game to go?

LS: That’s going to be an exciting game. The two teams are enjoying great momentum at the moment and have a lot of confidence going forward. They play exciting, tactical football, so I think we can look forward to a great final.

MB: Newcastle signing Anthony Gordon for a big fee suggests ASM may struggle to get consistent game time. Do you think he should leave? And If so, which teams do you think should be targeting him?

LS: I don’t know. They’re in a good position this season and will need a good strong squad if they’re to go all the way. There can be no doubt about Saint-Maximin’s quality, what’s important for him is that he stays consistent for the remainder of the season. It’s not for me to speculate on where he should go, because if he plays brilliantly for the rest of the season and they win the cup we might be having a different conversation. For me it’s all about the club at the moment, and making sure all the players are performing at a high level, so I’m not going to speculate on where he should go.

MB: Do you think Newcastle spent too much money on Gordon?

LS: I think it was a great deal for everybody. He still has to prove himself, he’s young, and it was a lot of money, so it was a good bit of business from Everton. But at the same time, he could be a great player, especially with Newcastle playing so well. There will always be talk and debate around big transfers like this, but in three months’ time, when Gordon is playing well and scoring goals for Newcastle, people will stop talking. He’s just started, and needs to adapt to a new club, but I think it’s a great transfer for him – Newcastle is definitely a move in the right direction. I can’t wait to see more of his potential than what we were able to see at Everton, because I don’t think the Everton setup was right for him.

MB: Antony’s form at United has been talked about a lot, with some already labelling him a flop after his huge money move in the summer. What do you make of how he’s looked in a United shirt so far?

LS: I understand the criticism because of the big fee and perhaps we would expect more from such a talented player. But he has been very cautious in his dribbling, we expect a bit more from him. He’s been brilliant in some games but the kind of diversity we’d expect from him was not there. Perhaps physically, he’s had two or three weeks where he was not at his peak. But when you look at the system, I think it’s right – the tempo, his capability when under pressure with the ball, and his ability to switch over to Rashford on the other side is very balanced and allows the team to be very confident in position. So all the people who claim he should be able to do this and that, it’s very easy when you’re sitting and watching the game. But to balance it, for a manager, and not having a player who commits too early and then you’re under a counterattack, and you don’t know how to defend all of these things. I think the game now at Man United is more controlled, with a better understanding of the tempo, how you have to behave and choosing to dribble at the right moments, dealing with counterattacks. I think it will all come with confidence. It’s only been three months so far.

MB: In the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, we saw Jadon Sancho playing in the 10 and Bruno Fernades on the right wing, and it looked to work well. Do you think ten Hag will persist with this and why do you think he chose to do this?

LS: It’s an interesting option but those can switch and we’ve seen it with Casemiro, Fred or Eriksen. Those guys are very mobile and it gives a lot of trouble to the opposition to try to really read them. And that’s to him. Sancho is definitely a player with the capability to go both sides and provide a pass, give a bit more and providing better shot options than Eriksen or Fernandes because of his skills. So definitely an option to look at. And again, when you look at all the tactical changes because things aren’t so organised in the first half because perhaps players are getting tired, it’s important for Sancho to impose himself in a position that is right for him. When he was playing freely at Dortmund, he was very difficult to read, and with his fitness it was easier for him to fit into this United team. So this is why I’m looking forward to any young player joining United now because the foundation is there. You can see there’s a pattern, people will come in and they will adapt. If their strength is going forward then they can really be successful. Maybe before they were in a position where they were being asked to help with the team’s confidence which is a big task for them. So now the balance is right they’re attacking more and are defending on the front foot. It’s a different game of football.

MB: What did you make of Sancho’s individual performance against Forest? Does it look like his fitness concerns are behind him?

LS: I really hope so because when you’re not feeling light, especially as a forward, you tend to doubt or overthink. You don’t have the right energy and worry if you’re going to be able to recover and be able to defend. It just doesn’t feel right. But when you have the right fitness, and especially when you can take in the confidence from the players around you – when you have a Casemiro, a Bruno Fernandes, Eriksen – this is a great experience. These players know when to run and when to pass at the right moment. If your role is to give predictability or unpredictability, you can do this with confidence and against the right balance. So when his fitness is right, his talent will be shown up alongside players like Rashford, or Martial if he goes into games with the right approach. In situations like this, United is scary.

MB: The injury to Christian Eriksen could have huge implications in the coming months. How do you think United will cope without him?

LS: It’s a difficult one. He’s a terrific player and has done really well since arriving. The relationship he has with Casemiro is unbelievable. Those two players were meant to play together, it’s amazed me. They really help the other players around them with their qualities. He’s going to be a big miss, but United have great players. Bit by bit Sancho is coming back into the squad in the number ten role. Bruno Fernandes pressing from the front. There’s enough quality in the squad to maintain the tempo and confidence. Fred in midfield is playing a bit more forward, McTominay can still play in there. So there are players in the squad who can understand what is missing. Those players that are not playing who are part of the squad, it’s their time and they need to shine at the right moment.

MB: United signed Marcel Sabitzer on deadline day. What are your thoughts on the move?

LS: I think it’s a great move. I really like the player. He’s very consistent in his play, he doesn’t lose the ball. Great passing range. He’s got great energy, Leipzig were a team that were great at pressing high, suffocating teams. He was the engine of that Leipzig team. I think he’s the right type of player and something we have missed on the pitch, a proper number eight who is box to box. It’s a great addition, especially with two midfielders out injured. It’s a great opportunity for him to show how good he is despite a difficult experience at Bayern. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit and Bayern have their own problems. Manchester United is a club at the moment where anyone who wants to improve, their confidence and fitness, United is great. The fitness of this United team now, it’s unbelievable. They bring this approach to every game and they will hurt a lot of teams.

MB: Chelsea spent a staggering £323m in January. What do you make of their transfer business?

LS: It’s strange. I’ve seen an interview with Pep Guardiola, where a lot of people were criticising him, talking about financial fair play and all of those things. That has been thrown out of the window by Chelsea. It was very strange and I couldn’t understand it. All of these players coming in, it’s strange changing basically every player but they’re still lacking a proper striker. Leaving Aubameyang out of the squad for the Champions League. The strategy doesn’t seem very consistent. It’s not a bad thing for the Premier League because they’ve bought some exciting players. But we’ve seen other clubs, like the strategy Newcastle have implemented, they’ve done better business, being cautious and looking for options that provide more guarantees and less adapting needed. Especially in the January window, it’s difficult to adapt over the winter. They are building for the future that’s for sure, looking ahead to next season and assessing the squad over the next six months. But they’re also a club who put a lot of pressure on the manager. You bring in players to fit the managers style, then in two months you can see Graham Potter being in trouble if the results are still the same. So it doesn’t make sense if you don’t solidify the position of the manager, that many transfers and dealing with the new players, adjusting tactics, so it’s a bit strange for me.

MB: Chelsea have supposedly moved to a heavily data-focused transfer strategy, but are without a backup centre forward to Havertz (who’s primarily an attacking midfielder) and Aubameyang. What do you make of this? Can Potter create an effective attacking team without a robust bank of strikers, like Pep did with City?

LS: It’s definitely a challenge for Graham Potter. It’s a very curious one because they have spent so much money and it still feels like they don’t have the right ammunition in attack. It’s a strange one, they have all these wide forwards but no strikers. It’s fine to buy all these players but the major formula you have to look for is how the manager can use them and I don’t know if that’s been discussed. It’s hard to have that amount of players to deal with, to make them happy and to make sure they are all understanding what the manager wants from them. For me, this is the wrong formula, the manager is under pressure and putting him with all these players with huge price tags is hard for him.

MB: After beating Arsenal this weekend, what did you make of Everton’s performance and do you think Sean Dyche can keep them up?

LS: Having seen this performance against Arsenal, I think he’ll keep them up. I was doubtful when he was hired but to find the right formula to beat the favourites for the title in their first game is a very good sign. The players’ energy was the best I’ve seen in years from Everton. They knew where to run and when to go. The work they’ve put in on set pieces was clearly already working. They are focusing on the right stuff and it’s what the club needs at the moment. Dyche did brilliantly in that game. The players looked like they had a weight off their shoulders and looked freed up to be able to perform. It will be interesting to see how they perform against the smaller sides now because it’s good to do one performance against a big club, but you have to be able to consistently battle throughout the season.

MB: Everton didn’t sign a single player in January, while all their relegation rivals spent big. Do you agree with Jamie Carragher that they are the ‘worst run club in England’?

LS: I can say I’m not impressed because historically they are a bigger club than Brighton and Leicester for instance, and now they are so far behind them. You would expect better choices with players and with managers. People can criticise the club, the board, and the players. At the same, to call them the worst run club is an exaggeration, especially coming from Jamie [Carragher] that will always make noise! The club needs an electric shock, I know the board has the best interests of the club at heart, but they need to realise they need to do more. They have a good squad and have players that will come back from injury and dips in form, which they will hopefully see in the coming games. If they can get four points from the next games they will be in a great position.

MB: Englishman Will Still has been getting headlines here in England due to his 13-game unbeaten run – how is he viewed in France and do you think you could see him managing in the Premier League soon?

LS: He’s doing an incredible job at Reims and he seems to have a great connection with the players. They look very, very good. We’ve seen some clips where he is talking to the players and they put his words into action straight away, particularly against PSG when they drew there. All these things are a good sign, and what I see is a lot of people appreciate what he’s doing because it’s a sign of things changing in France. The club is being fined every game because he doesn’t have the right qualifications and he shows that not every manager has to go through an enormous amount of experience to reach the top. When you know football and have the right people around you you can achieve a lot and anything can happen. I wish him the very best, it’s good to see a young guy doing a great job. It’s about the infrastructure around the manager, giving him the right tools to succeed as well, which he has had. His team is showing great quality going forward and they are playing with confidence. Ligue 1 is a very defensive-minded league so to be able to do that with the players he has he can be very proud.

MB: Harry Kane became Spurs’ greatest-ever goal scorer yesterday, while Erling Haaland was completely ineffectual. What do you make of the comments some people are making that Kane would have been a better fit for City than Haaland?

LS: That’s a very big thing to say! People love to talk. When Haaland was scoring two goals last week this wasn’t being said! Haaland is a terrific player and he is clearly enjoying his football. Harry Kane can play everywhere, and my prediction is this: Harry Kane will come to Manchester United and win the Premier League. He will have seen the last few games from United and seen that if he joined that attack they could be special.

MB: And 267 goals for Spurs is an incredible achievement isn’t it?

LS: It’s an unbelievable achievement. He can be recognised as one of the best in the world. He has a modern way of playing, but at the same time, he’s very old school. He can score from anywhere and what he’s done at Spurs is amazing. I think he can reach higher levels, especially in terms of personal achievements because the guy can do it, and he’s a terrific guy and a great ambassador for the Premier League. I really wish he will become a Manchester United player.

MB: Weghorst is obviously a stopgap as a loan player, what do you make of the Osimhen links? Would he be the right man for United to sign up front in the summer if they can’t get Kane?

LS: Osimhen is a great player. Kane would not need any time to adapt if he joined United, whereas Osimhen might, just because the Premier League is harder to adapt to. Osimhen was brilliant for Lille, and then he’s made another step forward at Napoli and looks like he will lead them to the title. He’s quick, big, keeps the ball in situations when you think he can’t, and he seems to always play well in big games and big situations. I also heard he is a huge supporter of Man United so that helps!

MB: Matt Doherty was released because Spurs didn’t realise they already had eight players on international loans. Does this highlight a lack of strategy and direction at Spurs?

LS: These kinds of situations can happen, especially to the clubs with so many players on their books. They can’t control everything and in this situation, everything changed so quickly. The Premier League is a monster because the players have so much power and control with their agents.

MB: Garnacho has been getting some playing time as of late and seems to have passed Elanga in the pecking order. How good do you think he can be?

LS: Garnacho is such a terrific talent and it’s great to see him getting minutes even when United are playing so well. He’s only 18, and he’s still a baby, but of course, he needs to start scoring more goals and creating more assists, and the same could be said for Elanga. It’s brilliant for Erik ten Hag to have all these brilliant talented players, that understand that they are role players for now, and they may be in the starting eleven in a few years. As we have seen in midfield any team can get a few injuries and they need good players ready to come in.

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