Speaking exclusively to 888sport Gary Pallister has offered his thoughts on all things United this week; a club he still loves dearly after enjoying nine extremely successful years under the charge of Sir Alex Ferguson in an era that saw the Reds win silverware by the bucket-load.
And while the towering ex-centre back & four-time Premier League winner may not be presently too enamoured with the club’s Belgian forward the opposite applies to a fellow defender who has dug deep and turned his circumstances around.
“Luke Shaw has had his knockers about his fitness levels and how he looks after himself and taken a bit of stick off Jose along the way as well so a weaker man might have buckled and thought ‘I need to get away’ But he has taken it on the chin, worked hard and got himself a fitness coach during the close season. Now he is reaping the benefits from that.”
“He has been one of our most consistent players so far this season and that’s been rewarded with a new contract. Long may this continue because he was touted as being one of the best left-backs in the world three years ago.”
While Shaw’s transformation is impressive the laws of physics sadly dictates that players can also go the other way, regressing after initially shining so bright. Such is the case of Marcus Rashford whose downturn in form of late concerns the 53 year old.
“He scored in the friendlies during the last international break but at United he has struggled. He’s been in and out of the side. There is a debate whether he prefers to play on the left or down the middle. He gives it everything he’s got whenever he plays but he’s finding the expectation put on him at Old Trafford a little bit too much. He hasn’t looked like the Rashford that burst onto the scene.”
If the youngster’s lessening impact remains a worry that goes double for Alexis Sanchez who has yet to make his mark in Manchester following his January move from the capital. The man known to Reds worldwide as ‘Pally’ admits to being perplexed by the Chilean’s drop-off in performances since leaving the Emirates.
“I was absolutely buzzing when United signed him because his performances at Arsenal showed he was a world class talent. But for whatever reason it has not been working out and I’m sure Alexis will be one of the first to say he has not been producing the form we expected of him.”
“Maybe he doesn’t suit the manager’s style of play. Maybe he hasn’t been hitting it off with the forwards he’s playing alongside. But I think he will turn it around and he will score goals and excite the crowd. It’s about getting the balance right and then we’ll see the best of him.”
Which naturally leads our conversation to the biggest conundrum of them all: the sometimes brilliant, sometimes underwhelming, but always talked about Paul Labile Pogba.
“At times he can look a little bit lackadaisical with the ball but at other times he can light up the whole stadium. The latter is what people at Old Trafford want to see: I mean that ball he played for Fred against Wolves was a moment of absolute genius. He saw the pass, he executed it, and it was right out of the top drawer and he has the ability to do that god knows how many times in a game.”
“When we’re out of possession people look at Paul and think he could give a little bit more for the team. And that comes from being a £95m player and being talked about as one of the best players in the world.”
The French midfielder’s mixed displays have been mirrored by his team this term and with United languishing outside of the top six eight games in that has inevitably led to loud murmurings of crisis with manager Jose Mourinho’s job very much on the line. Indeed at the half-time interval against Newcastle United a fortnight ago it was impossible to imagine United’s situation getting any worse trailing as they were by two cheaply conceded goals.
A stunning second half comeback however not only spared the club further apocalyptic headlines but also acted as a reminder – not that one was needed – to Pallister and others that attack was often the best policy for a side with adventure running through its history and veins.
“I’m not saying you should go for the jugular when you’re playing Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City because they’re teams who are performing at a higher level at the moment. But against sides like Newcastle and especially at Old Trafford teams should be intimidated about going there and for a long time now that hasn’t been the case. That’s something that the players have to deal with and make it a difficult place to come to again.”
“They need to put teams on the back foot and take the game to them from the first five minutes: let them know they’re in for a really tough afternoon. It’s a collective thing and the manager and players are all in it together so they have to find a way between themselves to turn this very average start to the season around.”
Beginning perhaps with Stamford Bridge this Saturday and the unenviable task of besting a Chelsea eleven that is full of confidence right now and unbeaten heading into autumn. Pallister however remains defiant.
Gary Pallister’s quickfire questions
Score prediction for Chelsea v Manchester United?
1-1. More Chelsea v United odds
Who will win the Premier League?
Manchester City. More Premier League odds
Who will win the Golden Boot?
Sergio Aguero. More top goal scorrer odds
Who will win the Champions League?
Barcelona. More Champions League odds