During the international break Harry Kane scored his 54th and 5th goals for England, becoming his country’s all-time leading goalscorer in the process. In an interview with Betfred, former Manchester United striker Louis Saha has claimed that Kane would guarantee the Red Devils a Premier League title if he was to make the move to Old Trafford this summer. Saha also told us why he believes that Kane’s international teammate Mason Mount wouldn’t guarantee a place in Manchester United’s starting eleven, why he believes Marcus Rashford will sign a new contract and why signing Ousmane Dembélé would be a ‘bargain’ for his former club.
After his dismissal from Bayern Munich, Julian Nagelsmann is now on the market. Now considering that Antonio Conte has now left Tottenham Hotspur, do you believe Nagelsmann should be at the top of your former club’s shortlist of managers to replace Conte?
“He could be. I’m sure that Nagelsmann will be one of the managers on Tottenham’s shortlist, but I’m sure many managers are interested in that job. Many other things have to improve at the club firstly however, as manager’s such as Antonio Conte and José Mourinho were left frustrated whilst they were in the job. The club needs to figure out exactly what the problems are and put in a new strategy ahead of appointing the next manager.”
There was a debate surrounding whether Manchester United’s players looked tired ahead of the international break. Now considering that Manchester United could potentially play 17 games between now and the end of May, are you worried that this fixture congestion could greatly impact their chances of winning additional silverware this season?
“I’m sure the manager is aware of this potential problem and many players in Manchester United’s first-team squad have had to play a lot of games. In the midfield area we’ve seen Christian Eriksen injured and Casemiro suspended, on more than one occasion, but still we haven’t seen a massive drop-off in terms of their level of performance despite these hindrances. The squad is good enough to cope with this fixture congestion and there are many players who are ready to show that they can step in for those who’re injured and prove that they’re good enough.
“The fixture calendar is just insane but that’s largely due to Manchester United going deep in every competition they’ve been involved in. The challenge for the club this season is silverware and it’s all about getting through these hard moments. The international break will allow some of the players to have more of a rest and it will allow members of the squad to recharge their batteries.”
Marcus Rashford is still yet to commit to a long-term contract at Manchester United. The more the player’s stock continues to rise, are you even more worried that the player could be taken on a free by another of the world’s biggest clubs or do you believe Marcus will commit to a long-term deal?
“I would be very surprised if Marcus runs down his contract. I know there’s a card to play in his position as he’s playing very well currently, so he’s going to want to get the best possible contract he can get for himself at Manchester United. Marcus clearly loves the club and he will want to repay the faith of his manager, so the least he can do is consider signing a new contract. The club aspires to win trophies and Marcus is definitely part of that plan so I’m sure that Marcus will be considering signing a new deal and the speculation surrounding his future could be driven from his agent or any other parties that are currently taking part in the negotiations.”
What are your thoughts on Jadon Sancho’s performances since he returned to the first-team fold in January? Have you been encouraged by his involvement or do you believe he needs to be doing a lot more to ensure that he’s a success at Manchester United?
“I believe that he’s improving and he’s playing with other players that are very confident at the moment. When you have a solid centre-back pairing and a strong presence in the midfield, such as Casemiro, then it allows the forward players to play with greater confidence. I saw an interview with Kylian Mbappé recently and he said he feels very confident when he’s playing alongside Adrien Rabiot. When the midfield and defence is a bit shaky, then it can limit how expressive and creative the forward players can be as they’ll be more frightened of losing the ball and being out of position. Manchester United’s settled midfield and defence can only help Jadon improve.”
We’ve previously spoken to you about many of the strikers linked with a summer move to Manchester United, but if you could sign one striker, then who would it be?
“Harry Kane. If there were no limitations with budgets then I’d say Kylian Mbappé, but the realistic option for me is Harry Kane, 100%. He’s the best player in that position in the Premier League and he’s the best target in terms of a player who can easily adapt. There’s no debate about that. There are many talented players out there but the fact that Harry’s scored 204 Premier League goals already is proof that he could do fantastically at Manchester United in Erik ten Hag’s system. He’s certainly the player that would be top of my list.”
With it being reported that Tottenham would want around £100 million for Harry Kane this summer, do you believe that’s value for money for a 29-year-old going on 30?
“Yes it does. They should do whatever it takes to sign him because if you want to win the Premier League then Harry Kane can guarantee that you achieve that. Just look at the consistency of the guy and how he performs for Tottenham and England. He’s also won three Golden Boots in the last seven seasons, which once again highlights his consistency.
“It would be like Robin van Persie going to Manchester United and winning the title for them. He’s the missing piece for Manchester United.”
According to German publication Sport Bild, Manchester United are leading the race for Frankfurt and France forward Randal Kolo Muani. It’s reported that Manchester United are plotting a £105 million bid, now if he’s going to cost that much, should this be a move that United should avoid or do you believe he’s worth that level of investment considering the potential he has?
“I think he’s done fantastic over a short period of time with the French national team. I haven’t witnessed enough of his games at Frankfurt but he’s shown that he can play at a high level in the Champions League this season.
“I don’t agree with the reported price tag as he wouldn’t provide Manchester United with the same level of guarantee that someone like Harry Kane would offer them. However, Randal is a very talented player, he’s got great stamina, plenty of skills and he’s aggressive in the box and good in front of goal. He has a similar profile to Marcus Rashford, so I understand why Manchester United would be considering him as a transfer target but I do have reservations about his price tag. I don’t remember many Ballon d’Or winning players with price tags as large as his.”
Mason Mount continues to be linked with moves to Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with it now looking very likely that Mason will leave Stamford Bridge this summer. Looking at Manchester United’s strongest possible starting lineup, do you believe Mason is good enough to guarantee a starting berth at Old Trafford?
“He’s certainly good enough to play for Manchester United, there’s no debate about that, but is he good enough to guarantee a place in their starting eleven? No, I don’t believe so.
“I don’t believe Mason has performed in the way he would have wanted to with Chelsea over the last six months or so and for me, he doesn’t score enough goals or assist enough for a player that has the potential he has. The guy can do everything, he’s very active, he’s very clever and there’s still room for improvement. Bruno Fernandes scores more goals and provides more assists than Mason and they occupy the same position. There’s no guarantee that Mason could go to Manchester United and make that number ten position his own. He’s good enough to eventually do that but he would have to work very hard.”
Mount’s fellow Chelsea teammate Mateo Kovačić is another player linked with a shock move to Old Trafford, with Kovačić’s contract also expiring in 2024. It’s expected that Chelsea will be looking to de-bloat their squad this summer considering the number of players they brought to the club in January and if Kovačić was to make the move to Old Trafford, then how excited would you be by his arrival?
“I believe he’s done great for Chelsea but to be perfectly honest, I don’t see how he would make a massive difference at Manchester United. I appreciate the charisma he’s got and how good he is with the ball at his feet but in terms of end product, I’m not so impressed. He should score and assist more as he’s a terrific player. Manchester United don’t have a lot of room for players to sit on the bench as you can’t bring in a player to then leave frustrated at a lack of gametime. You need to carefully find players that are capable of making a massive impact and I’m not entirely sure that Mateo is capable of providing that. You see players like Fred who is starting to score and assist more when he comes in and [Marcel] Sabitzer is showing good momentum currently, so there’s already a lot of competition in Manchester United’s midfield.”
Manchester United, along with Manchester City and Real Madrid, have been linked with a move for Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma. Mitoma has been a revelation in the Premier League this season and in your opinion, is he good enough already to play for an elite club?
“Yes. He’s a terrific player that’s very smart, mobile and agile. You’ve seen Leandro Trossard show what he can do at Arsenal and I believe Mitoma is capable of doing the same for a bigger club. He’s shown a lot of consistency for Brighton this season and I’m very impressed with him. There’s a difference between playing for Brighton than there is playing for Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal, so it would be a big step for Kaoru.”
Mitoma’s teammate at the Amex Stadium, Evan Ferguson, is also linked with a move to Manchester United. He’s 18 years of age and has seven goals in 16 appearances for the first-team this season. From what you’ve seen of him at Brighton, do you believe he has enormous potential and should United be targeting young talents such as Ferguson?
“Yes. When you’re challenging for trophies, you also need to continue to focus on bringing young players through and getting them to a level where they’re going to shine and be capable of being one of the best players in the world. It’s hard to find an 18-year-old at the top level that’s playing and scoring as much as Evan has been doing.
“You have to consider how you can incorporate the player into the team and a different system, but yes, Evan is a very clever player and he’s very mobile also. I haven’t watched enough of him to be sure about him as a player but he’s certainly shown what a threat he can be.”
As a former Manchester United and Fulham striker, we just wanted to ask you about reports linking United with a move for João Palhinha. Do you believe he’s been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season since his move from Sporting Lisbon? Do you believe he’s good enough to play for Manchester United?
“Yes. I’m very impressed with what he’s done at Fulham and he’s had a similar impact for them as Casemiro has had for Manchester United. His position is one of the most important in regards to the balance of the entire team and he’s definitely shown that he can play that position brilliantly, both with Fulham and Portugal. He’s very clever, he always wins the right tackles at the right moments and I can see him fitting in at all of the big clubs.”
Facundo Pellistri is set to be offered a new contract at Manchester United, before being loaned out next season. Do you believe a loan move is the best option for him or do you believe he should remain with the first team squad next season?
“It’s a similar situation to Alejandro Garnacho because they’re both really young lads, playing under a lot of pressure as they’re playing for a team that haven’t won major titles for a while. He should look for a smart loan move where he’s going to play more games and show how strong he is mentally. He needs to play with consistency and show to himself that he’s ready. Garnacho has shown a bit more, scored more and has had a bigger impact.”
Speaking of youngsters at Manchester United, how good do you believe Alejandro Garnacho could become? He’s drawn comparisons previously to a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I can see in his eyes that he wants to perform, however you can’t compare anybody with Cristiano Ronaldo. There’s no comparison. Ronaldo is a lion and no disrespect to Garnacho, but if he can be half as good as Cristiano then that’s absolutely fine. Ronaldo’s work ethic and body shape has allowed him to play for 20 years, so Garnacho would have to gain at least 20 cm or more as Cristiano is a big unit that can also play as a striker. It’s a completely different prospect. Garnacho can be an amazing talent for many, many years but he shouldn’t have any comparisons to Cristiano as that brings massive pressure. It’s like comparing any French midfielder to Zinedine Zidane. People shouldn’t do that.”
Where for you does Lisandro Martínez rank amongst the best centre-backs in the Premier League? How impressed have you been with him in his first season in England?
“He’s a brilliant centre-back. People had their doubts about him when he first came to Manchester United regarding whether he had the physical capacity to defend efficiently in the air, but he’s shown how capable he is and he’s very clever defensively and very charismatic. I really like how calm he is and how good he is in a 50-50 and that makes the rest of his team calmer as a result of that. He plays a bit like how Nemanja Vidić did back in the day. To do what he’s been doing in his first season in England has been amazing to see.”
Scott McTominay is said to be unhappy at his level of gametime at Manchester United and according to the Telegraph, Newcastle United are ready to make a move for the midfielder this summer. Do you believe this would be the perfect next step for Scott, or do you believe that Manchester United should look to keep him?
“I’m a big fan of Scotty. I feel a bit sorry for him because when Casemiro arrived, you knew that Scott would need the time to learn from him. Who knows, he could potentially be a partner for Casemiro in the future.
“Newcastle United are a club that certainly want to go places and from Scott’s personal perspective, I can understand that he wants to focus on his own career and reach the highest level possible, but I would be sad to see him go. I would advise him to wait and see what Erik ten Hag has planned for him going into next season first.”
It’s been made common knowledge that Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé has a €50 million release clause in his contract. If a player of his quality is available at that price, do you believe it’s something that Manchester United should pursue?
“They should explore it as it would be a bargain. I would want players that would be a guaranteed success for Manchester United and with Dembélé, you’re going to get goals, you’re going to get assists but for me, he hasn’t reached his full potential and that’s frustrating to see. I see him as a potential wasted talent because the guy is so good and there’s no other player like him. When you look at the likes of Jadon Sancho and Ousmane competing with each other, then that’s magic competition there, oh my god. It would be a sensational frontline.”