Andrei Kanchelskis watches events at Old Trafford from afar these days but weighed into the debate over Manchester United’s woes this week, saying several high-profile players are not good enough to wear the red shirt.
The former United and Rangers winger, now living in Nizhny Novgorod, more than 1,500 miles from Manchester, also said he was surprised by the timing of David Moyes’s sacking, just 10 months after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Not all the players are ready to play for Manchester United, especially in defence and midfield,” the 45-year-old former right-winger, who scored 36 goals in 161 appearances for United, said.
“I do not understand why Rio Ferdinand and Rafael are still in the side. They are not up to the standard of Manchester United. They need to get rid of a few players across the pitch.
“The number of injuries throughout the season also shows that not all is well with the club’s training regime.”
United curtailed Moyes’s short reign even before the end of a humbling season for the 20-times English champions. With four matches to go, they are seventh and have no chance of finishing in the top four, meaning they will be absent from next season’s Champions League.
United have lost 11 times this season in the league and were knocked out of the domestic cups by Swansea City and Sunderland respectively, as well as being outclassed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
“The team is going through a difficult period and unfortunately David Moyes did not have the same influence that Alex Ferguson had,” Kanchelskis added. “Sir Alex had such an impact on the players – they were afraid of him. Players need to revere their head coach, but evidently this was not the case under Moyes.
“He knew what he was getting himself into. He tried himself at a great club, where there are different criteria, relationships, demands and pressure. He did not get it right.
“But I think it was necessary to keep Moyes until next season. If they gave him that chance then, with time, I think he would have done all right. I didn’t think that they would sack him.”
Kanchelskis, a former teammate of caretaker manager Ryan Giggs in the 1990s and a Russian international, said United should turn to Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, even though the German has ruled himself out of the job.
“I really like this coach. I think his style would really suit Manchester United,” Kanchelskis added.
Kanchelskis, one of the fastest players to play in the Premier League, says he still keeps in contact with Giggs and several other of his former team-mates and has fond memories of the club he joined in 1991 from Shakhtar Donetsk.
In his first full season, United finished runners-up to Leeds United in the old First Division before winning the Premier League’s opening edition the following year – ending United’s 26-year wait to be crowned English champions.
“I remember the first trophy I won the most,” Kanchelskis said. “It was the UEFA Super Cup in 1991 when we beat Red Star Belgrade. After that there were two championship titles, a League Cup and an FA Cup.
“My biggest disappointment was the 1991-92 season. We were leading and should have won the title but, towards the end of the season, our form dipped and Leeds finished in first place.
“Ferguson told us ‘we need to work even harder’. We learnt from our mistakes and were champions the following season.”
Kanchelskis, who also played for Everton in England, said he remembers having to phone Ferguson to get tickets for the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea in Moscow.
“I tried to get a few tickets for the game through our football federation. However, they didn’t give me any,” Kanchelskis recalled.
“I rang Ferguson who told me: ‘Andrei, I’m always happy to help – take as many as you need!’ It was thanks to him that I got to watch the game.”
While Kanchelskis played in many Manchester and Merseyside derbies, he said the most passionate environment he ever experienced was in Scotland during his spell with Rangers from 1998-2002.
“Scotland is a wonderful country and they are deeply passionate about their football,” he said. “We had some real battles with Celtic. I did not see such emotion in a derby anywhere during my career. Words can’t describe it. It’s a passionate showdown between the supporters.”
Kanchelskis, who hung up his boots in Russia in 2006 before working as a sporting director with Nosta and also a spell as manager of FC Torpedo-ZIL Moscow, says he would love the chance to get back into the game.
“In December, I extended my Pro-License, which lets me coach at any European club,” he said. “Manchester United? Of course I would agree in a flash if they were to ask me. I would be happy to return to my ‘home’ club.”
Kanchelskis, who played for the Soviet Union, the CIS and Russia during his international career, said Russia had a tough group at the World Cup this year, being paired with Belgium, South Korea and Algeria.
“The whole country expects them to do well, but there are no easy matches at the World Cup,” he added.
“We don’t have an easy group. Everyone has started to take notice of Belgium over the last few years. We played South Korea recently in a friendly match, however they had a number of players missing in that game. For me, Algeria are a mystery.
“Our team in the 1990s was a lot stronger than our present team and the ability of the players was a lot higher.”