Robbie Earle believes Manchester United is slowing getting back to where they belong and Jose Mourinho will be given plenty of time to build a title-winning team.
[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live ]
Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk at Old Trafford ahead of United’s big win against Chelsea last weekend, Earle reflects on his time playing against the Red Devils, plus what lies in store for the current team for the rest of this season and beyond under Mourinho.
[ LISTEN: The 2 Robbies podcast ]
Here are Earle’s answers while we tucked into some lunch in the NBC Winnebago as the rain pounded down in Manchester.
Do you have fond memories of Old Trafford?
I’ve had good experiences where I’ve won and scored. I’ve had bad experiences where we’ve been hammered five one time and [Andy] Cole and [Dwight] Yorke were up front and absolutely on fire. They were pulling out overs and one twos and we were delirious. I was fortunate to know them both as obviously Yorkey was playing for Trinidad and Tobago and I was playing for Jamaica and Cole I got to know each other. I want to wish Cole well as unfortunately he’s having some issues and has had a kidney transplant recently, so I wish him a speedy recovery. One of the things we used to get against United, and I’m going back to the likes of Mark Hughes too, [Ryan] Giggs has been there but you think of Cole and Yorke, [Teddy] Sheringham, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer, [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, some great footballers which could win you games and be a difference maker. That’s what they had here and they’re all good players but the front four have been so good over time, just to win games and paper over the cracks defensively if you let one or two in.
Do they have those kind of players now?
No. And I would probably say it’s one of the things which is the big difference. They don’t have that, or those people. Zlatan has proved to be successful but I think the team has to play a certain way for Zlatan to get a goal and I’m not sure that’s conducive to the rest of the group. When Manchester United were at their best that front four was unbelievable, you had [Roy] Keane, Giggs, [Paul] Scholes who all had their special roles playing into that too. Recently Jose [Mourinho] has made a big deal about the lack of those goals a little too publicly for me and I always think with forwards you have to be careful. Many are cocky and arrogant but underneath there’s a little bit of an insecurity and if you hit that too hard you stifle some creativity, bravery, chance taking, which is what forward play is about. When I look at United in the final third right now and if they can be unpredictable, you kind of know what is coming and where it’s coming from. That helps other teams plug the gaps and is backed up by the 12 draws they’ve had this season.
Can Paul Pogba help provide that extra cutting-edge in the final third?
He can become that player in time. It will take a year or two for him to settle and become a great Manchester United player. No doubt he has got the potential. Looking at the past, David Beckham had good players around him when he came into the team. Ryan Giggs had good teams around him with McClair, Bruce and Schmeichel, good pros around him. Pogba needs those kind of players but the same sort players who are playing in this Manchester United team are struggling themselves, so they can’t really sort out Pogba because they’re thinking ‘I’ve got to keep my place in the team and look after myself.’ That would be something that’s the difference between United of the past and United now. People are still fighting for their own future at the football club and in some respects it feels a little bit like everybody for yourself at this point and that’s the way the dressing room is. You just have to get on with your job and make sure you are okay.
How much would not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League impact recruitment this summer and bringing in those top attacking players?
Hugely. It’s still Manchester United and still Jose Mourinho and there’s still an attraction but you’re talking about four or five teams now who can put in a different argument, maybe a better argument. They could say no only do you get the money and the stadium, there’s an argument now that if you’re a big player and both Man United and Spurs came in for you, and you’re getting similar money, there’s an argument that people may end up going to Spurs. You’re in London, playing for a great club, young manager, forward-thinking and Champions League football. That’s something new when it comes to United and we wouldn’t have experienced that for a long, long time.
If they do get the recruitment right, what can Mourinho achieve here?
He can win a title here. He knows how to win a title but he needs the right tools and the right people around him. Whether or not he will be given the time… I tend to think he’ll be given more time than people think. But he has the capabilities and understands what is required to win the title. I think he will get it right.