Manchester United title-winner Paul Parker has stoked up Saturday’s late trip for Ralph Rangnick’s side to Brighton– by insisting that it is the Seagulls who have the better midfield.
The chances of a Champions League place look to have gone for the Red Devils ahead of the visit to the Amex Stadium - after a haphazard and inconsistent season.
Initially under former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then interim manager Ralph Rangnick the Old Trafford giants have chopped and changed personnel to no great effect.
They may have the huge big-money superstars like Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes on the books – but frustration, irritation and below-par displays have been the hallmarks of a disappointing campaign.
And in Parker’s eyes there has been no continuity or plan behind the way United have played on many occasions this term.
But by contrast the two-time Premier League winner in both 1993 and 1994 has been hugely impressed with the Seagulls under Graham Potter.
And the fluidity and ball retention of a midfield including Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard, Alexis MacAllister, Pascal Gross, Enock Mwepu and Adam Lallana often sees Brighton dominate games.
There is also plenty of back-up to cope with injury or suspension – or simply to allow Potter to rotate to sustain an all-for-one philosophy and spirit.
The starting strikers are one or both of Neil Maupay and former United forward Danny Welbeck, though the coach has been known to play a false nine this season.
And behind them the above players in addition to Solly March, Jakub Moder, Stephen Alzate and a new star in Ecuador’s World-Cup bound Moises Caicedo all know their roles and how to slot in.
The Sportsman caught up with the ex-United right-back at the recent Betfred World Championship snooker tournament – where he had plenty to get off his chest ahead of the Brighton game.
Parker said: “The performance level at Manchester United is nowhere near what it is at Manchester City or Liverpool. There is no cohesion in the team.
“And with the ball retention, there are far better teams than United. The midfield at Man Utd is poor.
“And if you are talking about good midfields and where United are below, you would say Brighton have a better and more consistent midfield, with continuity.
“Over the season, you would have to say that. They play better football, their ball retention is better than United’s and they can dominate a game and regularly do that.
“The Brighton manager Graham Potter is a coach with a system and pattern of play, and something in his mind. He has watched, listened and learned over his career to get to this point.
“I don't think Potter gets enough credit and I can’t understand why he doesn’t get mentioned more linked with bigger jobs.
“The recruitment and development there with the likes of Trossard, Bissouma and others too have been hits.
“It’s hard to think of many if any games United have dominated this season. I can’t tell you one, and I do a lot of their games on the radio. It gets repetitive, because I know what I am going to be saying.
“Continuity makes a difference. United have swapped midfields all over the place, and defenders all over the place. How will you win anything if you haven’t got a backbone and a spine?
“That has been United’s biggest problem, so many changes every time – it always changes with the players that are picked and chosen.
“We don’t really know what a Manchester United player is any more – or how the team are playing.”
The criticisms of United’s midfield have been many and varied this season – from the lack of a clear plan that all are buying into, to an absence of fight, togetherness and team spirit.
To single out Pogba alone may be unfair, but his second spell in English football has not been an altogether happy one – with the huge £89million fee when signed back from Juventus only bringing more attention to his erratic performance levels – such a contrast with his World Cup winning form for France.
His contract is up at the end of the season with the player expected to leave, and Sky pundit Graeme Souness said in his recent column in The Times: “If United offer Paul Pogba a new contract, it is surely only to recoup some of the £89million they paid for him.
“All United’s rivals will want him to stay this summer, which is an indictment in itself. He has been a divisive character.”
And Fernandes has spent large parts of the season berating his team-mates and the officials, rather than lighting up the Premier League as he did for so long at the start of his United career.
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