The speculation regarding Manchester United’s interest in Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Harry Kane continues to intensify. Louis Saha, who played for both sides in the Premier League, has claimed that if United were to secure the signature of Kane, it would guarantee them a Premier League title. Saha spoke to Betfred to discuss Kane’s future, Marcus Rashford’s contract situation, Wout Weghorst and whether Manchester United are still in the Premier League title race.
Manchester United succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday. Do you believe Manchester United are in the title race, despite the defeat? If not, then what do you believe the club needs to do to ensure they’re challenging for the Premier League title next season?
“I still believe they can go on a run that’s going to put Arsenal and Manchester City under pressure. That’s what we’ve been seeing over the last month or so when you’ve seen players like Marcus Rashford do incredible things. You have to work hard to allow players such as him to perform some magic when the team isn’t playing brilliantly. This season I hope they can do as much as they can to remain up there and that Arsenal and Manchester City can drop points. Mathematically it’s not impossible but it will be very tough to achieve. They’re not far away and they have a lot of strong players in certain positions.”
As a former Manchester United striker, we want to ask you about your first impressions of the club’s new signing Wout Weghorst and overall are you happy with the signing?
“We are looking for goals and in his first two games he’s been given the chance to try and adapt as quickly as possible. The team is playing well so he has the best platform to do that. He definitely needs to get his head on more crosses and he needs more crosses into the box. I can see an [Kylian] Mbappé and [Olivier] Giroud relationship developing between Weghorst and Rashford. He’s a very traditional striker and can give the team balance up top. I’m waiting for him to score his first goal, so we can see him playing with more confidence.
“He needs to up his game because he’s playing for a big club that’s looking for goals and more quality. I hope we can see that in the next few games.”
Was there another forward that you realistically believe Manchester United should have signed in this window and do you believe that United need to invest again in the January market?
“I want to give Weghorst a chance because he’s an international striker who can give Manchester United a solution. Of course I’d have loved to have seen them sign a forward like Victor Osimhen. I think he was a missed target two years ago when he left Lille for Napoli. He should have already been signed but now his price is going to be even more than what Napoli paid for him. He’s a player that’s very physical and clinical in front of goal as well as being very technically gifted. There aren’t many players that fit his profile in Europe and it’s not easy to find strikers who’re as clinical as he is and are capable of being the difference.”
Speaking of Victor Osimhen, he’s said to be one of the club’s main targets for the summer transfer window. He’s the top goalscorer in Serie A this season with 13 goals in 15 league games and is 24 years of age. Do you believe he has all the credentials to be a success in the Premier League?
“Yes, but every player needs time to adapt to the Premier League. Serie A is very physical and you need to be very tactically aware. When Manchester United signed Edinson Cavani, you had a player that knew where the goal was and you want to see the club sign a striker who can smell the goal, like Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Andy Cole. Osimhen is one of those forwards, that’s for sure. He’s done it with Lille, he’s doing it with Napoli and wherever he goes he’s going to be terrific.”
Another striking option Manchester United are linked with is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane. Do you believe Manchester United should be doing everything in their power to secure his signature, despite the fact he will be turning 30 this upcoming summer, or would you prefer them to opt for the signing of a younger forward such as Victor Osimhen?
“If Harry Kane goes to Manchester United, then I can guarantee that he’s going to win the Premier League. You can’t ask for much more as he knows the Premier League and he’s scored so many goals for Tottenham and the national team. With Manchester United’s current set-up and their approach to games tactically, then having a forward that can come into that team and score you 25 goals a season will be the last piece of the puzzle. You need somebody who can do the big job and the big job is to score 25 to 30 goals.”
Marcus Rashford is in exhilarating form at present and has scored 9 goals in 9 appearances since his return from the World Cup. He’s still only 25 years of age and in your opinion, does he have the ability to be one of the best players in world football?
“Yes. Over the years, when he was not playing as well, he was overthinking things and lacking directness but now he’s got confidence to say to the opposition, “Okay, if you don’t punish us, then I’ll punish you”, and I love how clinical he has become with the open foot finish as it provides more difficulty for the goalkeeper. He’s focusing on the right things at the moment and he has a level of aggression which he possibly didn’t have before.
“The body language he has now is that of a different player. It’s incredible. It’s what Manchester United fans want from Anthony Martial. I saw an interview with Martial recently where he claimed that he wasn’t an actor, but it’s not about acting, it’s about doing the right things. The right body language connects with the fans and the other players and that’s something that Martial is missing. I get frustrated because he’s a terrific player who can do so many great things.”
It’s reported that Manchester United’s main priority at present is to tie Marcus Rashford down to a new long-term deal, with his current contract expiring in the summer of 2024. Are you worried that Marcus could depart the club if the likes of Real Madrid and PSG, who he’s been linked with previously, come calling with huge offers in terms of wages considering he could be available as a free agent?
“Yes I am a bit worried but at the same time he’s a player with his future in his hands. He’s stated many, many times that he loves Manchester United and he’s been a star at the club for many, many years. His form is partially down to the resurrection of the spirit of the club. He’s having fun, he can improve and he can reach a higher level before he thinks about moving somewhere else. He can win the Premier League with Manchester United and I hope he can achieve that before he goes.”
Casemiro has been a very successful signing for Manchester United, despite having his doubters in the British media. When you look at the likes of Declan Rice, Rodri, Fabinho and Thomas Partey, where does Casemiro rank amongst the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League? Is he the best?
“For me he’s the best because I haven’t seen a player, bar maybe Bruno Fernandes, that’s made such a huge immediate impact. Before he arrived, the team used to sit too deep, but that’s not the case anymore as Casemiro sits in his position and says “Listen guys, I’m taking care of all the counter attacks, let’s recover the ball and hurt them”, and the balance he provides is crucial to any team that wins the Premier League. Manchester United have always had good midfielders in recent times, but they didn’t have the right players to play in the position that Casemiro occupies.
“Casemiro doesn’t need to score goals, but he does, and he doesn’t need to make assists, but he does. He has had the biggest impact at his club than any other Premier League midfielder in his position has had at their respective teams.”
Casemiro’s fellow summer signing Antony has had moments of brilliance since his £86 million move from Ajax. However, his recent performances have drawn criticism from pundits and fans alike, so in your opinion, what does he need to work on in particular to ensure that he’s a success at Manchester United?
“There’s a need for diversity in his game because he’s starting to become very predictable, despite the fact that he’s very skillful. The skills that he has doesn’t provide a link with the players around him, so he needs to address that. He needs goals and he needs to provide a level of unpredictability, which isn’t easy to do. Defenders are becoming aware of his game and he’s exclusively a left-footer, so he needs to diversify his game. I can understand the criticism because he’s cost a lot of money and he’s come with a lot of expectation, but we need to remember it’s his first six months at the club and in the Premier League. We need to let the kid adapt physically to the league and I’m confident that he can become a player that’s very decisive. It’s about creating more options around him so he can produce moments of magic.”
Jadon Sancho has returned to training at Carrington after Erik ten Hag sent him abroad to allow Jadon to work on his physical and mental health. Do you believe this move could prove to be a masterstroke by Ten Hag and do you believe having a fully fit Jadon back could be vital for the club’s ambitions for the rest of the season?
“Yes, I believe he can still be very helpful. He needs to build up his confidence and Erik ten Hag will want to get Jadon in a position where he can help his team. It’s nice to see that the club are taking their time and taking care of the player. It would be great to see Jadon get his confidence back because he has a duty and hopefully he will be fully motivated when he does get his opportunities. We’ve seen Marcus Rashford come back into form and Jadon is capable of following suit. It’s all about believing and he just needs to take it game by game and enjoy himself again. The pressure is always going to be there, so he just needs to take it game by game. If a kid like [Alejandro] Garnacho can do it, then I’m sure Sancho can do it too.”
Long-term Manchester United transfer target Declan Rice is said to be of serious interest to current Premier League leaders Arsenal. Would you encourage United to hijack any move Arsenal make for West Ham’s captain? With Casemiro being such a success at the club, do you believe he could be in the same team as Declan Rice, or do you believe Casemiro’s signing means that United don’t need to pursue a move for Declan?
“It’s difficult because I love what I’ve seen of Declan, especially his quality and physicality. I’m not saying he hasn’t proven it at the top level but I’m sorry, he’s playing for a decent club but he’s never had the experience of playing for a massive club such as Real Madrid, which Casemiro has. I think Declan is a great player, but in his position you need to have the expertise of finding the forward players at the right moments and being a game changer. You saw it when Fabinho came into Liverpool, he changed them into a different team. At this moment in time, I can’t see anybody getting anywhere near Casemiro.”
Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel have been tipped as potential replacements for Antonio Conte at Spurs, if the Italian is to depart the club in the near future, after he refused to comment on whether he planned to stay at Tottenham beyond the end of the current season. Would you be happy to see either of them come in? Who do you believe would be the ideal appointment for Tottenham? Would you stick with Antonio Conte?
“I would keep Antonio Conte. I love his passion and I still believe he can improve Tottenham. They need a balance because for Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, player’s such as them need a midfielder that’s going to provide them with chances. I haven’t witnessed any of the Tottenham midfielders showing that they can be potential game changers for their side in difficult games. I don’t know whether Antonio Conte has players such as that at his disposal, so if a new manager was to come in, then they would potentially experience the same problems too, so they need to be aware of that.
“Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel are two great managers. Tuchel has great experience with both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, so it’s a tough decision regarding who the club should bring in if Antonio Conte was to leave in the near future.”
If you were to predict which four Premier League sides will finish in the Champions League places this season, then which four teams do you believe it’ll be?
“I believe it will be Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle United, the four sides who occupy those positions at the moment. You can see Manchester United finishing either second or third because they’re playing very well at the moment. I believe it will be those four sides and I have no doubt about it. Newcastle United have done tremendously well this season and deserve to be in the Champions League. It will also provide them with a boost for their recruitment over the summer and it’s good for the Premier League.”
Who do you think will win the Premier League this season and why?
“Arsenal look good. They’re in a great position and have a game in hand, so it’s hard to see them drop many, many points. They’ve still got a number of crucial games left, but they showed on Sunday against Manchester United that they’re very concentrated, very professional and they can remain at the top of the table. It would be nice for the Premier League to see Arsenal upset the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, who’ve been at the top for the last four or five years.”
Manchester United are 4th in the Premier League, they’re in the semi-finals of the League Cup, they’re in the knockout stages of the Europa League and they’re in the 4th round of the FA Cup. How many trophies do you believe they’ll win this season?
“I see them winning the FA Cup and the Europa League.”