United and more: Seven legends have their say | football news

CHENNAI: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven! Manchester United fans counted as young and old lined up for photos with stars Peter Schmeichel, Nemanja Vidic, Mikael Silvestre, Louis Saha, Quinton Fortune, Wes Brown and Ronny Johnsen.
The ‘Legends’, who were welcomed to Chennai as part of the grand finale of United We Play’s second season, a pan-Indian initiative with Apollo Tyres, sat down with select media to offer their views. Needless to say, banter and laughter ensued… and some serious conversation.
Excerpts:
WITH 51 CONTACTTORS:
vidic: These stats apply to teams battling relegation, not the top-4. When we played we had players who ran both ways, offensively and defensively, that’s the key. If you look at City and Liverpool they concede 21, 22 goals but play attacking football. I think you need to sort that department at United if you want to win trophies.
ABOUT DAVID DE GEA:
flatter: You will not find me critical of De Gea. He is the first to win four player of the season awards at United. Me too this year. What is special about him is that he is adaptable. I think the new manager will have a lot of ideas, but before that can happen there are many other issues that need to be resolved – the staff change, working on the culture of the dressing room, playing is next. The good thing is that Erik Ten Hag has preparation time.
ON THE MAGUIRE PROBLEM:
vidic: As a player, you have dips in form. One or two bad games and you lose confidence. But if things go on like this, it won’t be good either personally or for the team. Football players are under constant pressure, especially Harry Maguire, because of the transfer funds involved. Obviously he played well at Leicester. But United haven’t played well this season overall so we can’t blame him for everything. But sometimes taking a break isn’t such a bad thing.
GIVING YOUTH A CHANCE:
Wes Brown: In Holland they bring in a lot of young talent. Ten Hag is likely to put that focus on youth as he comes from Ajax. I think mentally it helps the youngsters in the academy because if you do the hard work and everyone asks for you, you have a chance to play for the first team. I have experienced that. I think you have to earn it, but still respect the system. Hopefully the new coach will bring that into play a bit because we have some good young players.
Saha: There are also new scouts coming in, so I’m hoping that changes the dynamic a bit.
FOR DEFENDER PROBLEMS AFTER VAR:
wealth (laughs): I think a lot more people would have been offside (if there hadn’t been VAR)… I think defenders are putting their hands behind their backs now and that changes everything. It’s unnatural because you worry about the ball hitting your hands. You need your hands for everything, for balance.
Saha: Maybe you have more situations to defend as a central defender. The wingers have this advantage because the full-backs have fewer opportunities to block those crosses. Maybe that’s why defense is such an issue at the moment. At this World Cup, for example, all Latin American teams had problems. Because they had to tone down their defensive style.
TO THE WINTER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP:
Schmeichel: The Premier League is very much about dynamics. The time when the World Cup is played is usually the most important time of a season. The World Cup is a very compressed tournament, but if you play well, you play a lot of games and you risk getting injured. it will play massively in the leagues. Conversely, I even believe that the quality of the World Cup will improve because the players are fresh.
ABOUT THE 1999 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE VICTORY:
Johnsen: A lot of things came together in this triple year. We lost to Dortmund in the semi-finals in 1997, but to go to Europe you need experience of such games, as a player and also as a club. When I came to United it was really difficult to go to the training sessions because of the level of these (older) guys. That’s what made us go all the way. Sometimes games were easier than practice. We’ve also been pushed so hard by Arsenal this year, even in the FA Cup. Often we had to come from behind. When you see the teams in the Champions League, it’s very important to push yourself to the limit. If you’ve won the league by a wide margin and get into the Champions League, they’re not really up there.
Saha: Look at PSG, they win Ligue 1 so easily, they can’t compete in the Champions League.
Ronny: Yes. The final was the biggest game and we made a comeback at the last minute.
ABOUT RONALDO’S APPROACH:
Saha: We had Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and all those guys wanted wingers to defend a certain way, but Cristiano was a different animal. He had that kind of balance of respecting structure, but he knew if he played to his full potential it would benefit the team. That mentality helped him keep improving and that made me realize as a player that I had to look after myself too. That’s the selfishness a striker needs.
wealth: Louis is very humble. He was an incredible player. It took me a couple of years to figure out if he was right or left footed.

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