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Andy Cole: Alex Ferguson always said, no title is won in January

19 Jan | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Andy Cole: Alex Ferguson always said, no title is won in January

The five-time Premier League winner discusses Man Utd’s resurgence, Marcus Rashford’s form, Wout Weghorst, Newcastle, and how he sees the title race.

We speak exclusively to Andy Cole, five-time Premier League champion with Manchester United, who are third-favourites to lift the title this season in the latest football betting.

What have you made of Manchester United so far this season?

Their form has been decent. They’ve been really good recently, playing some good football, creating chances and taking chances.

If you look at it as a whole, then you can’t be disappointed as a Manchester United fan at the moment.

What have you made of Erik Ten Hag? How does he compare to managers United have had since Sir Alex Ferguson?

I wouldn’t be comparing him to other managers. Momentum is very important and they’re going through a really good spell. But football is about peaks and troughs and if they suddenly go two or three without a win then it becomes a different conversation again.

At the moment, he’s getting some really good results, which is what everyone wants, and he has everybody on track and in sync. There’s a clear system, every player knows what he’s doing, and that’s a really good thing.

From the outside looking in, United have been missing discipline. That’s what Alex Ferguson was all about and after he left it became a problem. It comes from the top and Ten Hag has laid down the law.

Some managers might have let Marcus Rashford get away with oversleeping at Wolves the other week, but he decided not to.

What did you think of how he dealt with Cristiano Ronaldo?

Ultimately he showed leadership, which is what United need.

I see a lot of people saying that the position the club is in now is because Ronaldo isn’t there anymore. But what they fail to understand is that United might not have been in a position to improve this season without Ronaldo’s goals last season. They would have been nowhere last season without those goals. You can’t have it both ways.

But Ten Hag knew what he wanted and he certainly dealt with it well.

What has changed for Marcus Rashford this season?

Confidence. The more goals you score, the better you become.

Obviously whatever he did in pre-season is benefitting him now. The manager sat him down, gave him some belief and is getting his rewards.

Football is all about confidence. People can say it’s about anything else but if you’re not sure about yourself and your ability you can’t perform.

Last season, everyone was talking about why he’s not developing into the player we thought he could be. Suddenly now, I’m seeing comparisons to Thierry Henry. The only thing that can change so quickly is how you’re feeling about your game.

I can relate to that as a forward. When you’re short on confidence, you don’t go looking for chances. For me, watching Marcus before this season, he never ran into the box. He was never there to finish a tap-in from a cutback.

Suddenly, against Man City on Saturday, he’s there, six yards out, to score the winner. I think last season he might not have made that run because he was too worried about missing.

I guarantee if he does that in every game, he’ll always score. Those cutbacks are always there.

What do you make of the Wout Weghorst signing? Do United still need a long-term centre-forward?

I think like everybody else, I was a bit surprised. He had a very good World Cup, scoring a couple of goals against Argentina, and he’s done well at Besiktas, but it’s come from nowhere.

I think the interesting thing is what the manager is looking for because Weghorst is 6’6, which is different to the usual profile of United strikers.

If you think back to Ruud van Nistelrooy, myself, we were off-the-shoulder strikers. Martial has been the same more recently. It’s interesting that they’ve brought in somebody like this now because I’d thought he’d want a different profile in the summer. You want to be getting crosses into Weghorst, rather than getting him away in behind.

I think Victor Osimhen at Napoli is very good and could be the long-term natural fit. The question is whether Napoli would be prepared to let him go. He’s rangy, got a good first touch, scores goals and is a decent size as well. I watched him play against Liverpool and he was more than prepared to link the play and then run in behind.

Do you see Man Utd as title contenders?

Sir Alex Ferguson always said to us that the title race doesn’t get decided in January, it gets decided in April. It’s too hard to give a prediction for the title with so many games to go because there are so many peaks and troughs to come.

Over 38 games you will always hit a rough patch, but Arsenal and Man Utd haven’t had one yet and we don’t know how they’ll deal with it when they do because they’re not used to being in this position.

Arsenal are doing extremely well, they’re playing some very good football, but when that rough patch happens it will be a test. Not many of that dressing room have been in that position. If they lose a couple of games, it’s suddenly right back on again. Players like Oleksandr Zinchenko, who I really like, will be so crucial in those moments because he’s at least had those experiences.

City seem to be having their rough patch now, but with them you know it won’t be long until they’re back at it. They have so much experience in that dressing room now. They’ll soon be creating chances and scoring goals again.

How impressed have you been by Arsenal, particularly in the big game at Tottenham on Sunday?

I don’t like to focus too much on whether one team played poorly, or whatever. I think we should focus on how brilliant Arsenal were.

From minute one, they played some fantastic football and they cruised it.

Yes, Ramsdale made a couple of good saves, but that’s what goalkeepers are there to do. Otherwise, they were extremely comfortable.

Mikel Arteta was given a couple of years to work things out and Arsenal are benefitting from it now.

Bukayo Saka has been so impressive, Martin Odegaard in midfield, even Granit Xhaka. In previous seasons he was the player who was always getting sent off and letting them down but he’s a totally different individual now.

The two centre-backs have done extremely well. And so has Zinchenko because I really rate Kieran Tierney, but he can’t get a look-in at the moment.

What do you remember of that intense Manchester United-Arsenal rivalry you were part of?

It was one of the best in Premier League history. We always knew in pre-season that Arsenal were the team to beat if we were going to win the league.

It was two teams who played brilliant football and had a lot of quality players. You knew what you were going to get from the games. It was maybe a rivalry that you don’t see so much of these days. There was such an intensity, almost a dislike, between the sets of players during the match.

We knew we had to win or at the least take a point every time. We looked around the dressing room before the games and said that we have to go to war together.

How proud are you when you think back to your time at Manchester United?

I can’t grumble, really. I won the Premier League five times – I feel like it should have been seven times, but I won it five times – and a lot of people dream of winning it once, so I’m very proud of what I achieved.

If there’s one thing, I think we should have won the Champions League once or twice more than we managed.

We shouldn’t have been beaten by Borussia Dortmund, we shouldn’t have been beaten by Monaco. If anything, that’s the regret, but it was an amazing time really.

Another of your former clubs, Newcastle, are flying. What have you made of them this season?

Very good. Fair play to the players, management staff and the recruitment staff.

Considering where they were this time last year, it’s a great turnaround. They’ve brought in four or five quality players and it’s changed everything.

You probably wouldn’t even say that the new signings are big names, but they’ve been absolutely frightening. Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and Bruno Guimaraes, they’ve all been brilliant.

But the players who were already there are totally different, too. Joelinton is like a new player.

It just shows you that when you work on a certain way of playing and everybody buys into it, you can succeed.

What’s it like to be a Newcastle player when the club is bouncing? It sounds like an amazing atmosphere?

It’s absolutely frightening. Games at the weekend, sold out and it’s raucous. Absolute bedlam.

All that Newcastle fans want is for their team to give 100 per cent. Naturally, they want to win matches, but if the players give 100 per cent, they’ll support you until they can’t give anymore. And that’s what they’re getting now.

They’re in the semi-finals of the League Cup, they’re third in the league, and from now until the end of the season you can guarantee they will be 100 per cent behind the team.

If they were to qualify for Europe, regardless of which competition it is, the atmosphere would be unbelievable. I’m sure some serious money would be spent on new players, too.

The owners will be wondering if they can get Champions League. And if they get Champions League, they will be thinking, “right, we can bring in X, Y, Z.”

If their model is like Manchester City’s and they bring in the right players, the only way it can end up is that they compete for the biggest titles in England and in Europe. It’s inevitable, even if it takes a few years.

And another of your old clubs, Nottingham Forest, seem to be turning their season around. What do you make of them?

From the outside looking in, Steve Cooper looks like a really good manager. It’s always going to be tough when you bring in so many new signings but they’ve found their feet now.

If you look at the position Forest are in, a lot of that is down to him. He’s got the players to buy into it and if he can keep them up it would be a massive achievement.

It’s really exciting that they have a homegrown player in Brennan Johnson doing so well.

I played with his dad, David Johnson, and he will be absolutely delighted.

Any club is happy to have homegrown players because they save you money. If you sell them on, you can get millions of pounds for them or you can keep them and they prevent you from ever needing to sign a replacement. It’s fantastic to have homegrown players in your team.