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GRAEME SOUNESS: If Sir Jim Ratcliffe really wants Liverpool and Man City off their perch, here’s how long it will take… and why Marcus Rashford’s actions should worry him

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a stake in Man United this week
  • The British billionaire made several claims about his ambitious plans for the club 
  • David Moyes doesn’t deserve the negativity towards him at West Ham. It’s ridiculous and shameful for the job he’s done – It’s All Kicking Off podcast 

There was some great chest-thumping from Sir Jim Ratcliffe this week about what Manchester United need to do to knock rivals off their perch, and let me say, out of all the challenges he outlined, building a new stadium will be the easiest one.

If you have the money that will be simple, but building a football team is something else.

Ratcliffe said they would need a three year plan. But, you see, when you apply logic to football is when you come unstuck.

My assessment is United are three to five years behind Liverpool and Manchester City, two to three years behind Arsenal and of similar level to Tottenham. Three years means six transfer windows and in that period you have to get into the Champions League.

United’s huge turnover means financial fair play shouldn’t be as big an issue for them as for others so here is where Dan Ashworth, Jason Wilcox and whoever else is on their transfer committee really earn their corn. Recruitment is paramount to success. You have to get that right and I’d even suggest signing a top manager is secondary to signing top players.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe came out with some big claims this week about how he plans to take Manchester United back to the top and knock both Liverpool and Man City off their perch

Out of all the challenges Ratcliffe outlined, building a new stadium will be the easiest one

Out of all the challenges Ratcliffe outlined, building a new stadium will be the easiest one

But building a football team is the tricky part and good recruitment is paramount to success

But building a football team is the tricky part and good recruitment is paramount to success

That is where Dan Ashworth (pictured) - who United have made an approach to Newcastle for - Jason Wilcox and whoever else ends up on their transfer committee will really earn their corn

That is where Dan Ashworth (pictured) – who United have made an approach to Newcastle for – Jason Wilcox and whoever else ends up on their transfer committee will really earn their corn

Manchester United are one of the most glamorous clubs in the world, the public demand success. It’s great to put out soundbites but the hard work starts now that Ratcliffe’s feet are under the table and they have a lot of ground to make up.

I would be the last to ever diminish the roles Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran played in our success from my time at Liverpool. Part of their job was to keep us motivated, to stay hungry, knock us on the head at every opportunity and constantly tell us our best wasn’t good enough.

But when you have good senior players in the squad that should be generally self-regulating. We had some of the best players in their positions in Europe so everyone was demanding of standards before the coaches had to intervene.

I am sure today, Liverpool and Manchester City have it. I’m sure there are confrontations on the training pitch at City and Liverpool most days of the week with the levels they keep but I’m not sure there are at Carrington.

There was footage last week of Marcus Rashford going through the motions of trying to press Luton Town’s Ross Barkley. Ross almost walked past him. Rashford is a senior player, an England international. That action, that standard, would suggest he does that in training and neither his teammates or coaching staff have nailed him for it.

That’s the worry for Ratcliffe. Have United got players who take responsibility, carry the flag into battle and are prepared to fall out with teammates?

Mail Sport's Graeme Souness believes United are three to five years behind Liverpool and City

Mail Sport’s Graeme Souness believes United are three to five years behind Liverpool and City

Marcus Rashford’s attempted pressing of Ross Barkley last week should worry Ratcliffe though

The general problem today is you have players who earn that much money they think they’re all-important and never have a bad game because of the people who surround them. When the pressure starts, they are more than happy for the manager to take all the flak and, in the difficult times, will quickly lay blame at the manager’s door.

Who are the senior players with big character who are going to help Ten Hag in that dressing room? Ones who will point the finger at the lesser lights and drag them to a higher level. I’m not sure they exist there.

So you can talk about plans as much as you like, but paramount to Ratcliffe’s challenge is to find the right characters to bridge this gap.

Carabao Cup win won’t justify £1billion Chelsea spend

Will winning a league cup satisfy Chelsea supporters after spending £1billion on players? Don’t think so.

Todd Boehly may well be in the stands on Saturday and there’s pressure on Mauricio Pochettino to justify his owner’s outlay with qualification for Europe but I’m not so sure the renaissance starts at Wembley anyway.

They have improved in recent weeks and will arrive at Wembley not without good chance against a team carrying key injuries but I still see it as a 60-40 game in Liverpool’s favour.

Winning the Carabao Cup won’t justify Chelsea’s £1billion transfer spend under Todd Boehly

Regardless of who is missing, Liverpool are the ultimate test for Chelsea, one of the best teams in the world with a mindset used to winning.

Chelsea won 21 trophies in 19 years under Roman Abramovich. They were used to winning. They all know this club needs to do better.

Liverpool move makes footballing sense for Alonso 

By all accounts Xabi Alonso will have a choice to make this summer, to become manager at Bayern Munich or Liverpool.

If it was a football decision, then it’s a no brainer, it has to be Liverpool.

Alonso has done a remarkable job with Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, he will know that taking on Bayern Munich means a rebuild job but at Liverpool you’re almost walking into the finished article. 

If Xabi Alonso is making a football decision, joining Liverpool this summer makes more sense

If Xabi Alonso is making a football decision, joining Liverpool this summer makes more sense

Your biggest task is getting Mo Salah to sign a contract extension. Otherwise you’re going through the Anfield dressing room doors saying ‘same again please’.

Having played for both clubs, he will know all about the scrutiny that will come. The Premier League has all eyes upon it while in Germany, they call Bayern ‘FC Hollywood‘, so that says it all. What we don’t know is how much his wife and family enjoy living in Germany and that will play a major part in his decision.

Pepe has still got it at 41 

Porto’s old warhorse’ Pepe turns 41 on Monday and was still able to keep Arsenal at bay in the Champions League.

You can’t generalise about age in football, certain positions allow you to play longer and centre-back is one where you can afford experience.

Porto's old warhorse Pepe showed he has still got it against Arsenal in the Champions League

Porto’s old warhorse Pepe showed he has still got it against Arsenal in the Champions League

At his age, Pepe doesn’t want to be getting into foot races with 20-somethings but he’s well versed in dark arts and his positional play gets him through games of that level. He also defends balls into his box as well as anyone out there today.

He must have great natural athleticism and a fantastic attitude. To still want that aggravation, to still be up for an argument, well fair play to him, he must have an incredible love for the game.

I’m backing Scotland for Calcutta Cup success 

Scotland play England in the Six Nations on Saturday and those old enemy encounters always used to spark banter in the dressing rooms. 

Too often I was left eating humble pie when our nations took each other on in various sporting events. 

I fancy Scotland to beat England in a blockbuster Six Nations clash on Saturday evening

I fancy Scotland to beat England in a blockbuster Six Nations clash on Saturday evening

This week, my fellow Mail Sport columnist and England prop Joe Marler listed his five favourite Scotsmen, well I don’t have any favourite Englishmen. 

I’m also not usually a betting man but I do fancy a flutter this weekend that my teams, Scotland and Liverpool, will come out on top.


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