Andrei Kanchelskis

Andrei Kanchelskis exclusive: Mourinho’s lack of faith in wingers is ‘destructive’

2016-11-17
Former Manchester United flyer Andrei Kanchelskis has criticised Jose Mourinho’s lack of faith in wing-play and believes it has made the Red Devils too negative and easy to exploit down the flanks.
“Mourinho doesn’t like to play wingers. They play a different system now and it’s not like before when United played 442. Now it’s more defensive, looking for results and no longer playing open football, it’s destructive.”
“If I was managing a team against Manchester United I would go with 4-4-2 because if you play with wingers there is more chance of scoring goals against them. United are struggling to score goals too because there is no service.”

It seems the absence of players with touchline paint on their boots is not a drawback solely reserved for Old Trafford.

“There are no wingers in any team now, club or international. It is not just a problem for Manchester United; it is a problem for English football. Having wingers is good for the team and good for the fans. They excite and United have always had good wingers – Giggs, Beckham, myself, Ronaldo and Nani.”

The 47 year old Russian is entirely right to place himself in such company as for four years he epitomised United’s gung-ho attacking intent all achieved with lightning pace. It made him a firm fan’s favourite while Sir Alex Ferguson evidently loved his direct dribbling. Today Kanchelskis remembers his ex-boss in using him as a counter-balance to Mourinho’s recent barbed comments aimed at his players.

“It shouldn’t happen. Ferguson was only critical in the dressing room and now too many coaches are critical of their players in public. Ferguson didn’t do that and it should not be done.”

Even so, it is not inconceivable that the self-proclaimed Special One will once again turn on his own this weekend should United fail to get maximum points against their old adversaries Arsenal and his traditional sparring partner Arsene Wenger. It is a fixture that Kanchelskis is relishing.

“Manchester United v Arsenal are always great games with great atmospheres. United need to win it because it’s starting to look very difficult to get top four. They need to play very tight because Arsenal are full of good technical players; they need to play aggressive because Arsenal don’t like that. If this game was near the end of the season then United would 100% win because Arsenal are always very poor then.”

Except of course it’s not and the Gunners are presently looking formidable which means United’s cause would be helped significantly by the continued improvement of Paul Pogba, whose huge fee has brought microscopic attention to his form and influence. Kanchelskis however, remains confident that the Frenchman’s disappointingly ordinary start is simply part of a settling in period.

“Pogba is a very good player who needs time to adapt to the Premier League. He has only played four months. Look at De Gea – when he arrived everybody was saying he wasn’t such a good keeper but now he’s the best goalkeeper in Europe.”

Speaking of being the best at another of his former clubs, Romelu Lukaku is well on his way to establishing himself as a truly elite striker with even Ronald Koeman saying this week his prized asset should leave Goodison Park to fulfil his immense potential. The one-time record signing for the Blues agrees.

“In my opinion he is already at a good club in Everton and surrounded by good players. But if he wants to be the best he needs to move to an established Champions League club at the end of the season. Maybe London. He is improving every season and is such a strong, big player.”

That is not to suggest that Kanchelskis doesn’t still think extremely highly of the Toffees, stating more than once his love for the people of Merseyside and insisting they deserve Champions League football over and above their rivals.

Yet history could have painted a very different picture and had their archest of rivals Liverpool been successful in luring the winger over from Ukraine in 1991 instead of Ferguson’s United our discussion might well have centred on Klopp and their bid for the title. According to a chuckling Kanchelskis it was initially a coin-flip.

“Souness said if I went to Manchester United I would regret it and should go to Liverpool. He said United were not playing very well and told me about the Anfield crowds. But I was very happy to join United and I think it was good for the fans as well.”

The last sentence is uttered with admirable understatement yet the accompanying laughter gives him away. Two league titles and a place in the heart of every man, woman and child of the Old Trafford faithful – his decision was good for Andrei too.