In his Exclusive Column for caughtoffside, super-agent Rob Segal lifts the lid on what’s really going on in British football
No matter which direction you look at in football at the moment, particularly in the Premier League, there is always something going on.
As things stand, we still don’t know what is going to happen with Chelsea, or who may eventually end up taking over the club but it would be nice if the new owners were British because I think, although you can have success, you can also lose your identity. But, unfortunately, for British owners, the agenda seems to be ‘buy a British club in the Championship, hope you can get them up to the Premier League and sell the club to a foreign owner’.
As for John Terry supposedly trying to buy shares worth 10%, although we don’t know if that is true, what would be the point? – What is 10% going to do? What would be the purpose of it? – I wouldn’t understand that but that could just be Terry trying to boost his own profile.
When it comes to one of the Blues’ biggest rivals, Manchester United, well they’ve just crashed out of the Champions League and I wonder if this second half of the season is just a classic case of the players knowing they’re going to be around longer than the manager. I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where the player will look at a situation and see whether or not it’s worth taking notice of these people. When Manchester United put Ralf Rangnick in there, the players all knew that whatever happened – win, lose or draw, he was going to leave. The players know that whatever happens, they are going to be there longer than him and so if he says or does one thing that they don’t like, that’s it and that’s what has been proven. The mentality of the players is always going to be ‘this is only temporary, so it doesn’t really matter what he says or does’.
Michael Carrick came in after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left last year, they should have stuck with him on an interim basis – Manchester United did not need to go out and find someone to hang. But in terms of who could come in and be the next permanent boss at the end of the season, they’re going to need someone who knows the Premier League, someone who is able to be tactically superb in Europe and someone who can manage high-profile players. If I was a betting man, I would say Mauricio Pochettino will be their preferred candidate – he has a good reputation, he knows English football, he knows Manchester United, as well as the other teams in the league. But they would have to allow him time to oversee a complete rebuild and although the Glazers aren’t going to want to give him £300m, he would prefer to start with a clean slate and when it comes to Ronaldo especially, if Pochettino did come in, he would probably want to keep hold of him, at least for another season. Look at what Ronaldo did against Tottenham Hotspur when he scored a match-winning hat-trick last weekend – he did it all on his own. As for the other players, they can say whatever they want, but it’s simple – they’re underperforming. Right through the spine of that team, they’re underperforming – for whatever reason, they’re not happy with the manager, they’re not happy with the system of play. They’re all good players but they’re not playing well and Marcus Rashford epitomises that.
I wonder if Rashford got too wrapped up, too quickly in all the OBEs and the off-field ambassador roles. In my opinion, he should have mainly concentrated on the football side of things. As for the recent links to Liverpool… Never in a million years.
The reality is that Rashford has not played well for the last two years and when it comes to the prospect of potentially being handed a new deal at United, given the financial state of football at the moment, clubs are not looking to hand players four or five-year deals when they still have 18-months or two years left on their existing terms. The days of never letting a player’s contract run down are gone. But I think one thing is for sure, they will say ‘no new contracts until a manager is in place’ and then when the permanent boss comes in, in the summer, he’ll be part of the process deciding who is signed and who is sold. I do think in a perfect world Manchester United would prefer to retain Rashford because when he is fit and firing, we all know the qualities he brings. But I think Manchester United are so embroiled in drama all the time – even just the other day, Rashford was seen arguing with a supporter and you have to look at the security at Manchester United and ask how that is even allowed to happen. What on earth is going on there?
I can speak about Manchester United’s failings or Chelsea’s failings, or any other club’s for that matter but who really controls football? Who controls the perception of football? – I think it is the head of media departments at these football clubs. They’re the ones who have alienated the truth from their fans. The first club that tried to control every breath their players took was Arsenal. These are the people who are responsible for taking football away from the fans.
But regardless of the inner workings of the industry, fans still adore the sport and will come out in force to support their team, so looking ahead to this weekend’s fixtures, the pick of the bunch, on paper, looks to be Tottenham Hotspur against West Ham United, which is a massive game in the race for top four. The Hammers’ confidence will be sky-high after beating Sevilla in the Europa League earlier in the week. Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, are so erratic – so erratic. But they can both score goals – so this one could be a high score draw, something like 3-3.
At the other end of the table, I think Newcastle United are out of the relegation battle now. I think the key ones are Burnley, who you would not bet against getting a few results to get out of trouble, but it is almost certainly Norwich City and Watford who are going to go down, so is it going to be Brentford, Leeds United or Everton who joins them? I do think Everton’s two games-in-hand is going to be like a lump of concrete around their neck – just so much pressure. Time will tell but if after the international break they start poorly, that could be the final nail in their coffin.