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Paul Ince: Liverpool must win title to overtake United

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Old Trafford legend Paul Ince was in Dublin yesterday on a promotional trip with Carlsberg

Old Trafford legend Paul Ince was in Dublin yesterday on a promotional trip with Carlsberg

?INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Old Trafford legend Paul Ince was in Dublin yesterday on a promotional trip with Carlsberg

It may be one of English football's most intense rivalries, but Paul Ince thinks that Liverpool and Manchester United need to be competing against each other for league titles to restore the game to its old status.

Sunday's meeting at Anfield will have a big say in terms of qualification for the Champions League but Ince, who lined out for both clubs, is not particularly enthused by that battle.

He thinks Liverpool might just be the better side at the moment, yet adds the caveat that they have to end the league drought dating back to 1990 before they can truly consider themselves ahead of United in the pecking order, regardless of final placing in the table.

"The only way Liverpool will overtake Man United is to start winning titles again. That's the bottom line," asserts Ince.

LIMBO

"Finishing third or fourth is important for the Champions League places, and it's financially rewarding for the clubs but Man United were built on winning titles, Liverpool were built on titles in the '70s and '80s and then Man U took over in the '90s.

"At the moment, they're both in limbo. We're sitting here about Man United playing Liverpool but if Chelsea were playing Man City the same day, then which is the bigger game? It's probably Chelsea v Man City. And that's a sad indictment on these two clubs (Liverpool and United) that they aren't the big giants anymore.

"In my time everyone wanted to play for Manchester United or Liverpool. Now they don't. Now they want to play for Manchester City or Chelsea."

Ince, speaking in Dublin on a promotional trip for Carlsberg, admits that his enthusiasm for the weekend showdown did increase slightly when he watched Louis van Gaal's charges tear through Spurs. He could relate with that display.

"It was back to 'We are Man United' style of playing which I've not seen for a while," he explains, "The week before against Arsenal they were atrocious, absolutely atrocious, and if you'd asked me then I'd have said a comfortable win for Liverpool. Now, I think there's a bit more to it."

Ince was in the thick of things in an era where the top level of the English game was packed with powerful midfield operators. Roy Keane came along to join him at Old Trafford just as the great Bryan Robson was stepping aside and, when he returned to Liverpool, a young Steven Gerrard was ready to make a breakthrough. Arsenal had Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit.

With Gerrard at the end of the line and no like-for-like replacement - despite his respect for Jordan Henderson - Ince is concerned by the absence of these warriors.

"Liverpool v Manchester United games through history have been massive games because there's been individual battles all over the pitch whether it's left-back, or Keane or Gerrard, it's always been personal battles.

"I can't wait to watch because he's going to do this or he's going to do that. But these days, I'm thinking, 'Is it going to be a tactical affair? What system are they going to play, X, Y or Z?' It's doesn't get me excited. After watching United against Tottenham, maybe I'm getting a bit more excited. But if you're going to push me for a result, I think Liverpool will win."

The 47-year-old would include the departing Gerrard in his starting XI if he were Brendan Rodgers, comparing his presence with that of a 'comfort blanket' for others around him. On the flip side, he is adamant that Wayne Rooney should only figure for United as a front man.

"He is not a midfield player," continued Ince, who was animated throughout a lengthy interview where he made it clear that he is keen to return to management soon. "You saw him at his best against Tottenham, in the role he loved. They lack something when he's playing in midfield."

This was just one part of his detailed discussion on the general state of affairs in English football. In addition to a shortage of players in a key position, he is concerned by the mentality of the talented individuals who have good profiles without necessarily having the medals to show for it.

Raheem Sterling's contract dispute with Liverpool is one example.

"His contract runs until 2017. And you think what's he waiting for? Does he know something that we don't know?" Ince sighs.

"Brendan believed in him and put him in. He's not the finished article, he's got a long, long way to go. You see the figures that are brandished about. What happened to, 'I'm playing for Liverpool, I'm 20 years of age, I don't care if it's £60k or £70k or £80k, I still want to play for Liverpool'.

IGNOMINIOUS

"It seems to be about money these days and it's a money machine, the Premier League."

Everton's ignominious exit from the Europa League, following on from the collective Champions League failure, has certainly proved that the machine has serious limitations.

"We can put our hands up and say, 'Oh the Premier League is the best league in the world' - well it ain't," he shrugs, before proffering his theory on the issue.

"The FIFA XI or the UEFA XI didn't have one player from the Premier League in that team.

"We have a culture of football that doesn't change. When I played in Italy I had to adjust to that culture and to that different style of football because that was the country I was in. We try to change but the mindset of the fans doesn't allow us.

"If there is two minutes to go and we're playing it from the back, they're like, 'f**k that and get it forward'. You saw what PSG did to Chelsea with 10 men. Different culture, different mindset. We can't change it."

Paul Ince on...

RYAN GIGGS TAKING OVER FROM VAN GAAL?

“Absolutely no chance. I don’t see it. Giggsy’s my best mate and I can sit here and tell you. Giggsy enjoyed last year; he enjoyed the experience; he loved it. And now, under Van Gaal, he’s learning.  You can’t just throw him into Man United, one of the biggest clubs in the world ‘there ya go Giggsy.’ 

“But I said to Giggsy,’you gotta go to a club that you can learn from and get experience.’ Then come back and say I’ve done five, six, seven years. That’s how I see the road for Giggsy.”

SHOULD MANUEL PELLEGRINI GO?

“Why should he? Because of the money that he spent, they say you have to win a trophy. But you have to have stability, and (Alex) Ferguson proved it.  Managing annoys me, it winds me up – ‘he hasn’t won anything, he’s not doing well’. At the end of the day, why should he be sacked? You can’t build if you keep changing managers every six months.”

PLAYING WITH ROY KEANE

​“What a player, a great, great player. Gazza was probably the best I played with, but he was a different type of player. Roy. . . when you talk about someone with high standards; everything has got to be right. If it ain’t right, listen, he’s a moaner. And sometimes he moans too much. But I’ll have him. Those types of players you just don’t get any more, with the standards that he wants.”

RELATIONSHIP WITH FERGUSON

“People have this perception that we didn’t get on, but we got on really well, more so when I started managing. He used to ring me up, we used to meet for coffee. People thought that, because I left to go to Inter Milan that we didn’t get on well, but we got on really, really well. On the day I left, he actually rang me from Colorado Springs and said: ‘I want you to stay’. I had (former Inter president) Massimo Moratti in my kitchen and was about to sign a five-year deal. It was all done and dusted.”

Irish Independent