Paul Parker: Manchester United fans would love a team with Liverpool’s flair
Manchester United have an improving team and aren't out of the title race just yet, but the fans at Old Trafford would love to watch a team with some of Liverpool's flair - says Paul Parker.
How many Liverpool players would get in the Manchester United team? There’s too many to name.
Maybe Joel Matip and Georginio Wijnaldum would be in contention too, and maybe even a centre-forward like Daniel Sturridge who can make something out of nothing, pull something out of the bag when a game is tight. Liverpool have gone that way and they have a lot more flair than United.
Liverpool manager Jurgen KloppReuters
United are missing a bit of dynamism. I don’t think there’s much of a change of pace or enough craft, and they should be looking to add a bit of a spark, that little bit of flair.
There aren’t many players there at the moment who can pull create something out of nothing. There’s Juan Mata, Paul Pogba might do something, Zlatan Ibrahimovic might do something, but they need a little bit more. It’s a particular problem in wide areas, where Jesse Lingard has become a workhorse rather than bringing any flair, and Anthony Martial is still struggling. There’s nobody going past players out wide and, other than Valencia, there’s nobody consistently delivering quality into the box.
But, then again, that’s not what he wants.
" Mourinho wants to dilute the flair and creativity in favour of a team who are more work orientated with a decent work-ethic, and that’s what Manchester United are working towards at the moment."
If you’re looking for a Manchester United team of old with plenty of flair then that’s not what you’re going to get with Mourinho.
" The easiest team to build is something solid. A team with flair and individuality is very difficult to build and only certain managers can do that. Mourinho won’t – he builds teams that destroy… and they are the easiest teams to build."
Against Liverpool on Sunday he is going to set up defensively and shut the game down. That’s just the way he works.
It’s the way he builds his sides. He sets his teams up to not get beaten by the other top teams. Don’t get beat by the top teams and then that gives him a chance to sustain something.
" If he does anything different then Paul Parker will eat humble pie."
Who are Manchester United's most important players?
I think you have to say Ibrahimovic, thanks to the goals he has been scoring; I think you have to say the goalkeeper; and I think you have to say Michael Carrick.
Mourinho had his own ideas of what he wanted to do when he arrived and maybe Carrick was still seen as a Sir Alex Ferguson player. It wasn’t a new situation – we’ve seen many, many times that managers go into new jobs and want to make changes, without using structures from anyone else, so they can say they did it their own way.
" But every man, dog, animal, dinosaur, reptile was saying that Manchester United had to play Michael Carrick… and there was only one man not listening."
In the end it’s been forced upon Jose to go and pick Carrick, but since then it’s been blatantly obvious that United needed Carrick in the team to give them some stability, to give them some presence and composure in midfield. Mourinho doesn’t have anyone else who can give them that, which is why, if Manchester United want to go anywhere this season, then Michael Carrick has to play.
Where will Manchester United finish?
I still think United are fighting for a Champions League spot because they’ve had a great, great run… although they needed that run on the back of some poor results, too many draws.
They kept talking about too many draws and being unlucky, but they weren’t unlucky, they just weren’t good enough. But I think they’re still fine for top four and I wouldn’t feel confident saying that the title is out of their reach either, not at this stage.
Manchester United hauled back a 12 points difference in a far shorter space of time from Newcastle back in Kevin Keegan’s time... so I’m not going to say it’s impossible.
You’ve got to think though, are Chelsea really going to go and lose three games on the bounce? I really don’t think they will. Over a stretch of time Chelsea will drop points, but it’s hard to see Manchester United keeping this run going for long enough.
How good are Liverpool?
Liverpool have been a lot stronger than last season.
However, they’ve still got their frailties and Klopp needs to find someone to give them some stability in the middle of the park. They need a player who can hold things together when they go 2-0 up, but they don’t have that person who can sure thing up from a winning position at the moment. They seem to get a little bit frightened when they are in control of games with a few minutes ago.
Their defensive problems will always be their undoing, but defence starts from the front and you have to look at the whole team, it isn’t just the back-four. You have to look at the whole group and how they capitulated at Bournemouth. They need more leaders of men, players who buck up those around them and get the flair players to work hard and show a different side of their game. You need those unselfish players.
" Jordan Henderson tries, but he’s not a captain of Liverpool in the way that Steven Gerrard was – he’s still got a long way to go."
Against United I expect Liverpool to play as they always do, and away from home that counter-attacking style should really suit them. At home they can sometimes get a bit edgy, but playing away suits them.
They’ve got plenty of attacking options these days too, although Mane being a low is a massive miss, just as he’s been a massive miss for Southampton since he left there. He’s excitingly unpredictable and Liverpool will miss that.
Africa Cup of Nations
It’ll be interesting to see how Mane goes in the Africa Cup of Nations. That’s a terrific competition and I’ll try and watch as much of it as I can.
That being said, I’m surprised that Fifa still allow the competition to take place during the European domestic season, given that so many players go over there now. It really impacts certain clubs and who they go and buy.
Take Liverpool – if they go on a bad run over the next few weeks and struggle to score goals then people will start to ask questions about Mane not being there and why they signed somebody who was going to be away at this important time of year.
Clubs and managers often use that as an excuse, but they shouldn’t. You know when you buy them that the top African players are likely to be away at this time of year.
It’s a unique situation for the clubs and could have a big impact on the Premier League title race… but I’m looking forward to the tournament all the same.
-- Paul Parker