Paddy Power

Exclusive column: Joey Barton on Manchester United and Chelsea

by Joey Barton | October 26, 2012

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Marseille footballer Joey Barton previews Chelsea vs Manchester United at Stamford Bridge for the Paddy Power Blog

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Is age catching up with Rio Ferdinand?

JB: I think of the Gareth Bale incident in the Tottenham game but Gareth Bale would make anyone in their prime look not as quick as they once were. He is like a speedboat and Rio’s suffered a bit from that comparison. When you slow down you have to read the game a bit better and Rio’s always been a great reader of the game. No doubt he’ll find a way of compensating.

Is Manchester United’s midfield a bit crap?

JB: I wouldn’t say it’s up with the best. Paul Scholes had six months retired, came back and vastly improved the midfield. They have some decent young players in Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones, but Jones will probably will play predominantly at centre half. It’s not the greatest midfield when you think of Scholes in his pomp with Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham — not many midfields would get near that but this Man U midfield is not of that level.

Eden Hazard — Player of the Year so far?

JB: Player of the year? It’s a bit early to be talking about that but certainly he’s caught the eye. He’s got a great centre of gravity and is really quick over five yards. He’s been one of the best acquisitions of the Premier League over the last year. It’s not even Christmas yet and people are talking about him for Player of the Year. After the Christmas period we’ll know a lot more about him.

Wayne Rooney — discuss his move to a deeper role

JB: It’s long overdue. From playing against Wayne and watching him, I’ve always thought he’d be better as a number 10. I never ever felt he was an out and out striker. I didn’t ever feel he had the Michael Owen, Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler nose for a goal — the goal poacher. He was always someone who wanted to be involved in the build-up play; has a great eye for a pass, and a goal from distance. I always felt Wayne would be a better ’10’. And with Man U signing Robin Van Persie now there is a goal poacher, and having Chicharito in there. Now Rooney will drop a bit deeper and start to affect the game from there. As Paul Scholes gets a bit older the onus is on to find someone to replace him. That creative onus is going to fall on Shinji Kagawa, Cleverley and Rooney.

On Alex Ferguson changing his keepers…

JB: That’s the one criticism people can have of Fergie. It’s hard to find any fault with him but aside from Peter Schmeichel, who was a phenomenal goalkeeper, and Edwin van der Sar, he’s not had a great record in terms of the keepers he’s signed — Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, these keepers haven’t done great. David de Gea has not had the best of times but he is a top quality young keeper.

Fergie wishes he’d signed Edwin earlier. He was magnificent and they’ve lacked that bit of command and leadership between the sticks which they’ve had in all their great championship sides with Schmeichel and Van der Sar. The keeper sets the tone for a back four. Playing in front of a young keeper can make you a bit nervous. Maybe the communication isn’t great and has led to Man U conceding a lot more goals.

Robin Van Persie - Barton verdict

What’s your verdict on Fernando Torres?

JB: He’s improved. Torres had a real struggle when he left Liverpool. This year really is the first sign of improvement. He’s turned a corner. He’s not the Fernando Torres who terrorised Premier League defences for Liverpool. He’s some way short of that. But he’s now looking like a threat again, capable of scoring which for a period of time he didn’t. He was devoid of confidence. Now he’s playing with a confident side creating opportunities and it’s only a matter of time before he starts to score again.

…and RVP

JB: Phenomenal. The last two years his goal record is incredible. You see goals going in left, right and centre. Left foot, right foot, off his shoulder. Back heels. You name it, he’s scoring it. With this Man United side you’re going to have a lot of chances. He’s turned himself from a player who was sort of a number 10 all over the place, similar to Rooney — he’s adapted his game to an out-and-out goalscorer. He’s a name on the team sheet you’d be petrified of facing.

Toughest Man U opponent?

JB: Paul Scholes, in his pomp, was tough to get to.

…and Chelsea?

JB: Ashley Cole. I played down the right a couple of times. He’d bomb forward. I’d play on the right and try to shackle him. We had some ding-dong battles. He’s a good competitor.

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