Football Expert & Columnist
Manchester United must keep Paul Pogba and David de Gea, says Danny Higginbotham
Last Updated: 22/06/19 6:25pm
Manchester United are under the spotlight this summer after a disastrous end to the season.
After finishing 32 points adrift of rivals Manchester City in the Premier League, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are under pressure to turn the club's fortunes around.
While Sir Alex Ferguson has urged Manchester United to appoint Steve Walsh in a consultancy role to help with the club's structural changes, Woodward is thought to favour the appointment of a former player in an advisory role.
Speaking on the Transfer Talk podcast, former defender Danny Higginbotham offered his thoughts on that topic as well as a number of other issues facing United this summer.
Would appointing Steve Walsh be a wise move by Ed Woodward?
"I think it's a problem United do have. If you look at the top clubs now, they have a director of football, an advisory role, whatever it may be and United don't have that. I think it's something that's missing and I think there's extra pressure put on the manager because of it.
"I think to have to deal with Ed Woodward makes things more difficult as well because a lot of the time he takes care of the business side of things and you want a football person that is on the same sheet as the manager. The manager can speak to him and say look these are the players that I want, these are the players that I would like to bring to the club, go and get them for me."
Can a former player with no experience succeed as technical director at Man United?
"I would like to see both. I would like to see somebody that's been in that position before but then also a former Manchester United player, a former Manchester United great.
"You can have someone like Steve Walsh, someone who knows what it's all about, knows how to get the business done, knows how to identify certain players which was shown in his time at Leicester. Then what you can have is a former player that's been there and done it and won everything for Manchester United that can then sit down with the players and give their opinion and tells them what the club's about.
"What better way to introduce a prospective new signing than getting a player that's seen everything there is at Manchester United and can speak about the club and how they'd love to get it back to its former glory."
Could Edwin van der Sar be the right man for that role?
"I think that would be the one that you look at. Obviously, he's done an incredible job at Ajax but it's whether you can tempt him to leave the football club.
"People talk about Ajax on the up again, they've always produced magnificent players, there's no doubt about that and I think that's a huge part of their history and something I would imagine Van der Sar is keen to maintain.
Are Manchester United right to be targeting younger players this summer?
"100 per cent. I think it's needed. Since Sir Alex Ferguson left it's been a case of quick fixes. If you look at the top two teams in the Premier League, Manchester City and Liverpool, they sign players you can build a team around.
"By bringing younger players in, they pick things up a lot easier, so I'm very much for going for the younger players that may not be world stars. You don't necessarily want to sign players that are the finished article, you want to sign players that may be rough round the edges that you can improve to then be a mainstay in United teams for years to come."
Would Aaron Wan-Bissaka succeed at Manchester United?
"In Wan-Bissaka, he's a player that not many people knew too much about a couple of seasons ago. I'd spoken to Roy Hodgson about him when I was covering Crystal Palace's games and he had a real baptism of fire in the first few games. He's a former winger and it became apparent really when Zaha was playing against him in training and he said he's one of the hardest defenders he'd ever played against. He's not looked out of place in any game he's played in the Premier League for Crystal Palace so I think he'd be a fantastic signing."
How important is it for the club to resolve the futures of Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Romelu Lukaku?
"I think with De Gea, they need to be doing everything to try to keep him at the club. Lukaku, I think from Solskjaer's perspective he'll look at it and think 'where does he fit into the system that I want to play?' Paul Pogba, I know a lot of people have given him a lot of negativity during the season and after what he came out and said last weekend but if you can get him to stay at Manchester United and be happy, he would be the type of player I would build the team around. But you have to have the players around him to allow him to go and express himself."
What are realistic expectations for United next season?
"I think the fans will be patient because they have Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the manager and they'll see he's trying to build a new team. He's a legend of the football club which will give him that extra amount of patience.
"United over the last few years have lost their identity of what they are on the football pitch and that comes because of the chopping and changing. You look at the top clubs around Europe, whether it be domestic teams or international teams, and those clubs have an identity. You know the way they're going to play after five or ten minutes. But because of the changing, the constant turnover of players you're not able to get that at United so patience is key now."