“Pogba should be running games. Everybody has seen that he has the ability to do that but he is too inconsistent, because he tries too many little tricks instead of the easy ball. Sometimes the easy ball is the best ball, and if you look at Scholesy and how many times it was one touch; it was incredible. As soon as the opposing midfield dropped off, that’s when he would start doing things. He was one of the greatest midfielders England has ever created, and you’d hope Paul would watch a few videos of Scholesy to see how he did it.”
In a week where the £89m French star has received public criticism for his recent mixed performances, May instead puts forward a suggestion as to how United’s number six might best establish himself as the side’s influential heartbeat. The solution is simplicity itself.
If Pogba’s form has frustrated the 46 year old (a Champions League winner with the club and now a regular MUTV presenter), then that frustration is only multiplied by Mourinho’s men’s inability to break a worrying habit of spurning chances, gaining just a single point from games they were expected to comfortably win.
“It’s partly down to a lack of ruthlessness because the amount of chances we create against teams is incredible really. But from four out of those five home draws, the keeper has been voted Man Of The Match. So it’s a combination of poor finishing and the goalkeepers having worldies.”
Thankfully for United, another route to Champions League qualification lies in possible Europa League glory. With a favourable pairing of FC Rostov in the last 16, the Reds have every reason to feel optimistic. May, however, is not so sure.
“It is a tough, tough draw going to Rostov, even if they’re one of the lowest ranked teams left in the tournament. Nobody ever likes going over there and they have a very good record at home. They’ve had a break too which might help them. But this is a chance to get into the Champions League, so Jose will be going all-out for it.”
If United are to get anything from the game in Russia this Thursday, it will be necessary to quieten the partisan crowd and, most importantly, remain disciplined at the back. Given that they boast the third best defensive record in the Premier League, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for United, especially considering Jose Mourinho’s hard-earned reputation for overseeing shut-outs when required. May though picks out another individual who he thinks gets too little credit for United’s stinginess at conceding goals.
“The last eighteen games Phil Jones played for United before he got injured were the best he’d played since he’s been at the club. He was reading the game ever so well, his passing was improved and he didn’t go in for rash challenges anymore. I often think he and Bailly could be United’s first choice centre backs. Others say Smalling but they would be my pairing. He just needs to get back to that consistency because the place is there for the taking. But it’s always injuries isn’t it, with all four centre-backs, whether it’s Smalling, Jones, Rojo or Bailly.”
On the latter May is even more effusive.
“Bailly has only played around 75 games competitively so to get to where he is, it’s quite incredible really. He is very athletic, quick and reads the game well. But he needs a partner. Bruce and Pally played for years and years together and understood each other so well. Same with Rio and Vidic or myself and Ronny (Johnsen). You get an understanding of where your mate will be and bounce off each other.”
At the other end of the pitch, there is continuing uncertainty over the short-term future of the club’s captain and legend, Wayne Rooney. A long-time admirer of the striker, May weighs up the options and comes down stateside.
“Everything is up in the air with Wayne. Will it be China or America or Everton? It’s up to Wayne because he won’t play every week now for Manchester United and he knows that. He’s 32 and he has to make a decision.”
“Personally I think it’s either America or the Premier League. I don’t think it will be China because does he really need that money? He’s a wealthy lad and to uproot his family and move to a country with language and cultural barriers, I just can’t see it. I think America could be a good move for him and his family, and he’s still got a lot to give as a great player.”
It is extremely unlikely that Rooney will be the only big name departure from Manchester United this summer, as Mourinho further moulds the team into his own ideal. Is May expecting an exodus?
“I think we need another centre-forward if Mourinho is not going to play Rashford or Martial up front. At times we lack pace up front and through the middle. Also, Michael Carrick is not going to go on forever, so we need someone to replace him. Left-back is a problem too because Mourinho is obviously not sure if Luke Shaw is his number one.”
Uncertainties dominate then, at least in the months ahead. For the present it’s all about grinding out a result in remote Russia, cutting out the stalemates and, for United’s megastar-to-be, keeping it nice and simple.
DAVID MAY’S QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS
- Rostov v Manchester United score-line?
1-0 to United
- Who will finish top four
Chelsea, Spurs, City and United - Bet on premier league top four
- Who will win the Premier League golden boot?
Harry Kane - Bet on Premier League golden boot Winner
- Who will win the Europa League?
Manchester United - Bet on Europa League Winner