Tim Sherwood
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Tim Sherwood: “I can see Ronaldo as Man Utd manager within 18 months” 

| 21.09.2021

It is the north London derby this weekend so we caught up with Tim Sherwood to get his thoughts on Sunday’s big match between Arsenal and Tottenham.

In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes, the former Spurs head coach also gives us his view on Harry Kane’s failed move to Manchester City this summer, the early days of Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign and predicts Cristiano Ronaldo could soon be Manchester United manager!

He starts off by looking back at Tottenham’s 3-0 defeat at home to Chelsea in another London derby last weekend…

Tottenham just couldn’t handle it, Chelsea opened them up and they got away with it at 0-3

In regard to Spurs vs Chelsea, it’s really important if you’re going to play a different way to how you want to play, and I think Nuno likes to play in a very pragmatic way, as he’s always played that way and was very successful at Wolves, so when he comes to Tottenham you shouldn’t expect him to be any different, but when you’ve got that amount of fans in that wonderful stadium and they demand a certain style of play, and a certain philosophy of how Tottenham should play, he did try to deliver that in the first half.

He was almost forced to deliver that style; it was a high press, high tempo and it was encouraging. You had the likes of Lo Celso playing, Ndombele’s come back into it and I think they complement Højbjerg well in that nice defensive midfield role, but then he goes and plays Harry Kane on the left-hand side which I couldn’t really understand and Son down the middle.

In the first half you couldn’t complain but they blew a gasket. Spurs are not conditioned to play that way, now they are capable of doing that, though, as under Pochettino a large number of those players have played that way for a very long time but you could see in the second half they just ran out of energy.

Tuchel, on the other hand, wasn’t happy with the intensity and has come out publicly and said so, but he takes off Mount and brings on Kante which looks like a defensive move really, yet it’s far from it. It just kicked them on. The intensity rose from their side and Tottenham just couldn’t handle it. The quality of their players in defensive areas just opened Tottenham up, and really I think they got away with it at 0-3.

I’m 100% sure Kane’s attitude is spot on, but he needs service from his midfielders because he’s not trusting them at the moment

I don’t think Kane has downed tools, but for a start you’ve got to get him near the goal first and foremost. He’s a goalscorer and he’s won games for Tottenham for a number of years when Tottenham haven’t even been in the game, scoring goals from nowhere. He gives them a lead to hold on to and I still think he’s capable of doing that.

I’m 100% sure his attitude is spot on but you need to give him some sweets; you need to give him some service and give him the ball in and around the penalty area so he can do his damage. At the moment he’s not trusting the midfield players to be able to find him, so he’s having to come so deep to come and find the ball, which is OK when you’ve got Son who’s going to come in and run behind, but when Nuno’s starting him on the left-hand side it’s baffling.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

I think a lot of the Tottenham fans would understand why Kane wanted to leave and I’m not sure the blame is firmly on Harry’s shoulders there. I believe he will still give 100 per cent and is at the moment, he’s possibly lacking a bit of fitness with the late start but I think it’s that his support act isn’t very good with regard to supply for him to score goals.

Ings would’ve been my pick to replace Kane if he joined Man City

I wanted to keep Kane over the summer for sure. It’s a difficult one for Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy who knew it was very late in the day and probably impossible to go and find a replacement, even though Danny Ings, who on the face of it is not a replacement for Harry Kane, but he’s certainly a player who can score on a regular basis in the Premier League and would have hit the ground running.

Ings probably would’ve been my option to do a deal there knowing that Kane was going to go in the end, but it is difficult as it’s not a like-for-like replacement. You’re rolling the dice really. This time next year he’s 28/29 and he’s not going to be worth the money they turned down from Man City, so it was a difficult financial decision for Daniel Levy.

It will be very interesting to see, in hindsight now, even in this short period of time which has passed, would they have sold Harry and moved on? I think Harry did the right thing and I can understand why he wanted to leave. He’s given good service to the football club and also the service the club has given to him has been great. There was obviously a verbal agreement with Levy but there was no amount put on that verbal agreement and it was about ‘if someone comes in for you and they match our valuation then you can go’. Obviously City didn’t come in and match that valuation they put on his head so he remains at the club.

I can’t see him going in January, you don’t see too many £150-200million signings then, and I think clubs would rather wait until the summer and see how the land lies. Clearly Kane’s not leaving for the money, and he’s not going to be poor wherever he goes, but he wants to go and win at a football club and he targeted Man City as proven winners, with a manager who wins wherever he goes.

There’s only a certain amount of places at each of these football clubs, though, and we’ve seen with so many stocked up squads now in the Premier League full of players with a lot of experience, on a lot of money, who cannot go anywhere because no one is taking them now. There’s no places to go really even in Europe any more.

Nuno wouldn’t have been my choice for manager, but then again who is out there?

Daniel Levy obviously said Spurs need to get back to playing free flowing football on the front foot, but Nuno doesn’t do that and that’s not Nuno’s fault that he doesn’t do that either.

He has a certain way of playing and it’s a very pragmatic way of playing by getting everyone behind the ball and on the counterattack, which worked brilliantly against Man City in the first game when they had Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Son playing because they’re ball carriers and they take you forward and they’re very dynamic, but Tottenham fans won’t accept that.

They will only accept that style of football if they win; Mourinho did that and he won for a large period. In mid-December last year let’s not forget Tottenham were top of the league, they go to Anfield and get beaten and then it’s a slippery slope after that. That wasn’t after three games like Nuno, it was mid-December. Nuno wouldn’t have been my choice but then again who is out there? If Pochettino was available to come back this summer I would’ve loved to have seen him back for a second stint.

Nuno Espirito Santo

Tottenham fans demand a certain style of play. If they’re not winning they have to play a certain way and entertain. Nuno could still win big this year, they’ve got a capable squad who could win the UEFA Europa Conference League, and as much as it’s not a huge competition it will get you into the Europa League next year. I would suggest they’ve got a better chance of winning the Conference League and qualify for Europa next year than they have for the Premier League because it’s going to be very, very difficult to finish in the top six.

It’s definitely their best chance of silverware this season. The Carabao Cup is the easiest one to win but Man City are serial winners of it and with only a certain amount of trophies to win everyone these days out of the big guns are going for these trophies. With the size of the squads now you’ve got to go for it because yes, OK, they’ll drop a few players and give some of the kids a look in but you’ve got to give it a go.

Spurs are going to be in a dog fight with West Ham, Everton, Arsenal and Leicester

Spurs don’t win the league and they don’t make the top four – their realistic chance is to fight along with West Ham, Everton and possibly Arsenal for the Europa League. And that’s going to be a dog fight as we know how difficult it is to finish in the top four.

Leicester haven’t had a great start but you’d expect them to be in that group as well. I do believe having looked at the teams in that Conference League there’s only Roma who can challenge them really if they play this competition properly. So, it’s going to be easier to win that, even though it’s the extra game they don’t want. If I’m Nuno I’m going to target a domestic cup, which would be a success, because they haven’t had it for a very long time, as well as the Conference League.

It’s difficult to pick a winner, but Arsenal should head into the north London derby as favourites

I would say at the moment Arsenal are favourites because of the momentum of winning the last two games, albeit against Norwich and Burnley, you’ve still got to win in the Premier League and it’s very difficult. Tottenham are on the back of two defeats so you’d have to say the confidence will be with Arsenal going into it. When I look at the two sides it’s very difficult picking a winner.

Kane is always massive in these games because he knows what it means but on the other hand Aubameyang doesn’t mind a goal either in these fixtures. It’s a really difficult one to call and I imagine the odds are very, very tight – I can’t split it. If Tottenham win it’ll wipe those two 3-0 defeats away and they’ll become a distant memory for those fans if they can win the north London derby.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal

This game is huge, it’s huge to people who know about it. I was born in north London and it was either red or white and that was what you had to be. If there is a difference between the two sides it is Harry Kane, his goalscoring record in this game is ridiculous.

It’s win at all costs in this game. Yes, it’s win at all costs in every game, no matter how you play, because if you win it doesn’t matter, but for Tottenham fans beating Wolves and beating Watford it’s a means to an end to win silverware, and if it means you can keep winning and keep playing like that they won’t care, but if you’re not winning then they want to be entertained. There is a way to do that, Pochettino got very close but he still never won. There is a way of delivering both and you can deliver both but you’ve got to have the right manager and players to deliver it and I don’t think they have either at the moment.

North London derby prediction: 1-1

I’m on the fence for the result because it’s a game that’s on the fence. I think it will be a draw, a low-scoring one at that; 1-1 with Kane and Aubameyang scoring.

North London derby bragging rights could be as good as it gets for both sets of fans this season

Ultimately both of these teams are picking the low fruit this year and it might even be who wins both games is the bragging rights for the entire season. They might not win a trophy or qualify for the Europa League so it might be a case of who’s won the north London derby is as good as it gets, as sad as that sounds.

You wouldn’t mind losing both games if you’re winning the FA Cup but if it’s the only thing that’s out there then you’ve got to win the north London derby. It will also take a lot of pressure off going into the next few games because you’ll know the fans are with you.

Ronaldo could be top scorer in the Premier League this season, but Kane’s basically ruled out

I could see Ronaldo being top scorer, why not? He’s in good company for a start. Kane’s a late starter and the way Tottenham are playing not creating many chances you can almost rule him out. He’s a multiple winner so should you ever rule him out? But you’d have to say at the moment they’re not creating too many chances and Kane’s let the other players get a head start on him. Mo Salah will always be up there for top goalscorer and I think Lukaku will be in and around it but Ronaldo’s in with a chance.

Ronaldo will always score in the big games, the head-to-head games and the games where it really matters because I think that’s when he steps up. It’s not necessarily about his numbers, even though they are incredible numbers what he scores, but he’s tailoring his game as well and we’re not seeing him out on the left, or the right, or coming too deep, he’s staying by the post anticipating, waiting for the goalkeeper so he can tap in.

That’s not luck, he’s been there in the arena and he smells the opportunity and you can’t rule him out. It probably depends how many games he plays and he will decide how many games he plays though, it won’t be up to Solskjaer. He’ll say ‘I’m playing in this one, take me off at 60 minutes in that one’ and he will have it all planned out for Ole.

I can see Ronaldo as Manchester United manager within 18 months 

I think it’s OK that Ronaldo’s on the touchline and Ole’s going to have to accept it. If he brings him to his football club you’ve got to know what you’re bringing in. It’s a completely different Ronaldo to the one who was at Old Trafford the first time around. He knows how he’s needed and if he feels like he needs to stand next to the manager and give instructions then you’ve got to let him do that. I’m not sure he’d be doing that with Jose Mourinho mind you, it would be very different with him still in charge, but you’d also have to ask Ronaldo why he feels it’s necessary to stand up and give some instruction in the first place.

We’ve seen him do it on the international stage, most recently at the Euros, barking out orders. That boy will be a manager 100 per cent. I would have a bet on him being Manchester United manager in 18 months. Whenever Ronaldo finishes playing I think he will become a manager, it will be an automatic choice. If they win the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, any of those trophies, then Solskjaer keeps his job, but if they don’t win anything I think they’ve got a manager there in the making.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United

He could bring an experienced coach in there with him – someone like Carlos Queiroz – as he’ll know plenty of them, and I can see him being a manager at Man United in the future. He’s almost coaching now; you saw it at the weekend during the warm-up whispering in Varane’s and Maguire’s ears, but I don’t think it’s that he needs the captain’s armband to be a leader, he leads by example anyway. He did when he was at United the first time, it’s just now he’s being more vocal with it.

I’m not sure Tottenham’s scattergun approach to recruitment is right at the moment

The Tottenham squad is big enough to cope, but the problem is their recruitment which has been very poor. When you keep chopping and changing managers and you keep buying players, sometimes they don’t suit the manager, so I’m not sure their scattergun approach to recruitment is right at the moment. They just need to get their heads together.

First and foremost, if you’ve got a playing philosophy then it’s easy to recruit players, and to buy into that philosophy, but when you’re bringing in managers like Pochettino who want to play on the front foot and control football matches with the football and then you go for a Mourinho who just wants to sit back and counter attack – similar to what Nuno is doing – but Jose wouldn’t be pushed into trying to do anything because he’s a charismatic figure and he’s got the personality to do whatever he wants.

With Nuno, I think, and especially when they play at home, it’s OK in the first game of the season against Manchester City because everyone accepts that they are champions and they’re coming at us so we can sit back and counterattack – and they did that very, very well. You cannot do that all the time, though, when you’re playing against Wolves and Watford, you have to dominate the game and create chances.

In the Crystal Palace game, away from home, Harry Kane has not had one touch in the opposition penalty area and that is not good enough. It’s certainly not going to endear him either to stay at that football club. He’s obviously gone public already and said he wants to leave and I believe he’ll give everything but he can’t be happy with the situation at the moment because he’s hardly getting a shot on goal.

Arsenal bring in average players, but it’s their academy which produces the best players

I think Arsenal have a lot of trust in Mikel Arteta, he had a great start winning the FA Cup because straight away he can tick that box and say ‘I’ve won a trophy’ but have they progressed as far as I thought they would have? No. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence but I think Arteta would know that they haven’t progressed and they’ve spent a lot of money as well.

Their recruitment also needs looking at, for a couple of seasons now the best ones have come through their academy, the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe and Willock. How on earth did they let Willock go? A goal-scoring midfield player and selling him for such less money to Newcastle, it’s incredible, I just didn’t understand it.

They’re bringing in average players at Arsenal which are blocking up pathways for their academy kids which is hard for me to understand. I think the Arsenal board really want to give Arteta the time. Arsenal aren’t a club that makes knee-jerk reactions, they give the manager time.

Mikel Arteta, Arsenal

We saw at the end with the great man, Arsene Wenger, he was coming under immense pressure from that crowd but the owners just resisted it. They go ‘no, he’s our man’ and they stick with it. Of course, in the end it became untenable, like it did for Unai Emery but sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you wish for because if Emery wins that game – and I know it’s ifs, buts, and maybes – in the Europa League final against Chelsea, they win that game then they automatically qualify for the Champions League and pick up the Europa League, then he would still be manager now. It’s fine margins.

The Arsenal board really believe in Arteta, but he has to start delivering. I think there will be a minimum requirement and that will possibly be the Europa League, as much as fans don’t want to hear that, or at Tottenham, but realistically that’s where we are. Can you get to the Europa League and can you win a domestic trophy? I think for both clubs that’s realistic but tough.

It’s a poor bunch of Arsenal players to pick from for a combined north London derby XI

Out of a combined XI Tierney certainly gets in, Aubameyang I’m not sure because he’s not been great, I still think Son and Kane are the two strikers up there. You’d have to have Saka in there but really it’s a poor bunch to be honest. No one is standing out for me as the rest are still developing at Arsenal. Odegaard will be a good player; he scored a fantastic free-kick at the weekend but it’s not easy to pick a combined XI.

Who would I pick out of the two managers? Well I don’t particularly like both styles of play so it’s difficult to choose. I know Mikel is trying hard to play his style with the slow build-up from the back and Nuno likes the opposition to have the ball, so you’re talking about a real contrast of styles.

If Arsenal are not in this game and if I’m Nuno I’m going back to what he knows best, and I’m not criticising Nuno as there’s no right or wrong way to play the game, but it’s what people prefer, and he’s always played that way. It was the same with Jose Mourinho, you’re not going to change him, why should he change his way after 20 years winning all those trophies to this expansive style of football?

Nuno should sit deep and go back to that – Tottenham fans might not like it – and wait for Arsenal to play around the back and then put the press on and nick the ball in the final third and hopefully get your players like Kane and Son nearer to the goal and they can be clinical and take their chances. I’d set traps as you know exactly what Arsenal are going to do, they’re not going to go very long or over the top of the press they’re going to try and play through it and I think if you’re really aggressive with your pressing then you can nick the ball off them and exploit them.

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Andrew McDermott