Wes Brown surprised by Southgate Croatia call, picks his England XI for Scotland game and tips Kane for summer Man Utd move
Wes Brown knows a thing or two about winning. During his time at Manchester United he won five Premier League titles and the Champions League twice.
A whole-hearted defender, Wes also played 23 times for England, and following the Three Lions’ triumphant start to Euro 2020, we spoke to him about Gareth Southgate’s defensive selections and which player he’d like United to sign.
On Kieran Trippier starting at left-back and Croatia aftermath
I saw Kieran Trippier had got the nod to start the game against Croatia as left-back and just thought ‘wow, what is going on?’ I tell you what, if I was Ben Chilwell or Luke Shaw, I’d have been snapping.
If you’re one of those two, you’re only really thinking you’re challenging the other lad for the starting spot, which is good. But to throw Trippier in – who played well, by the way – you must be wondering what you’ve done wrong.
I think Chilwell had a bit of a knock, to be fair. And Trippier did play well, so clearly it worked. I’m guessing Gareth Southgate will have spoke to Luke Shaw, which is the main thing. You’d be upset if you were Shaw, because you’re thinking ‘if I’m the only fit left-back, I’m probably going to be playing’.
Luke’s just come off the back of a fantastic season at Manchester United, he just got better and better as the season went on. Not just defensively, but in attack as well. Knowing him, he won’t stop just because of this knockback; if anything it will drive him on to train even harder and prove himself to the boss.
Croatia let me down a little bit, to be honest. They weren’t as good as I thought they were going to be. I thought they might have produced a bit more but I think we were just too good for them. We pressed well.
That centre-half position is still a bit of a worry for me. We’ve never really had a set two; we’ve always had to chop and change.
It must have been a tough call for Gareth Southgate when it came to Marcus Rashford because leading up to the tournament you’d have thought he was a definite starter. I’m pretty sure Rashford would’ve been a little bit disappointed, but we’ve got such a great group of attacking options.
Euros so far
I’ve said all along I think France are going to win the Euros. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love England to go and do it, and I hope they do. But I’d put France right up there at the top of the list just because of the experience they have. They’ve done it on an even bigger stage in the World Cup and the majority of their players are still in their prime.
I thought Italy looked very comfortable the other night. They defended well and managed to get the job done in the end quite convincingly against Turkey.I’ve always liked the look of Belgium, though, but they’ve never, ever done anything. They’re a bit like us; their team on paper is unbelievable.
Everyone in England will have been watching, knowing Christian Eriksen as a player. I played against him a couple of times and he’s a brilliant player. You’ve just got to say thank you to the medics and everyone that was there, responding to the situation so quickly.
Hopefully he makes a full recovery, but it’s one of those where you don’t really think about football in these moments; the most important thing is his health.
This is the honest truth; if the same thing would’ve happened to one of my teammates and we’d got a call from him telling us to carry on playing the game, it’s probably something I’d have done. I know people say the game should’ve stopped and I completely, completely understand that. But I’d have made that call, and I’m sure a lot of my old teammates would’ve done the same as well.
My England team v Scotland
The way Trippier played, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start against Scotland. Obviously getting the win was the priority because it stands us in good stead in the table and we can make changes. I do think Gareth will make changes for that game. I could see the likes of Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham coming in.
I’m not sure he’ll change anything in the centre-half position, because John Stones and Tyrone Mings are his main two, at the moment. I thought Mings played really well against Croatia. He was sharp, he was strong, he didn’t complicate anything – and sometimes that’s all you need.
I’m not surprised Jack Grealish didn’t play against Croatia. I understand why fans might have been a bit frustrated but if there was one game in the group we needed to be a bit more cautious in, it was that one. We made that good side look pretty ordinary.
When Grealish does come in, it’ll be for certain games. He’s a unique player; there aren’t many out there quite like him. He can produce something on his own, he’s so comfortable on the ball. Foden’s comfortable but he’s different to him. He’s a bit more Gazza-ish than Foden.
But I do think Southgate will play things differently, I honestly do. I think he’ll bring in a few fresh faces. If you want to do a straight swap in midfield, it would be Grealish for Foden. I thought Foden went pretty quiet after 30 minutes or so against Croatia. Marcus Rashford could come in for Raheem Sterling for me as well, if he wanted to give Sterling a break.
You’d probably still leave Harry Maguire out for this one; it’s going to be high-tempo, I don’t think it’s going to be slow at all. Scotland will be more than up for this and the England players will understand that, so it’s not the right game to bring Maguire back in for. Mings did a really good job as well so it would be harsh to see him dropped. The best thing Gareth can do is keep Mings in for this game and rest him for the last game of the groups, and that’s how you get Maguire back in the starting line-up.
I really like Mason Mount, I think he’s such a talent. But you could easily swap him out and bring in Jude Bellingham if you wanted to. He’s exceptional for his age, he doesn’t hold anything back.
This game against Scotland is going to be quick, there’ll be tackles flying in. I don’t think it’ll settle for a good 25 minutes, but once it does, with the players that we have, I think we’ll get on top.
It’s going to be difficult, though; it’ll be tougher than Croatia. Scotland might try and upset our defence a little bit with some long balls over the top, and that’s not something we had to deal with against Croatia. Scotland will understand that England have better players, but at the same time, they know they’ve got a chance if they turn up. We’re going to have to be up for it.
My team in full: Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Tyrone Mings, Kieran Trippier, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane.
I’d love to see Harry Kane at Man United
I think it’s fairly obvious someone will sign Harry Kane this summer. He’s going to cost a lot of money, and I’d love to see him at Manchester United. You never know what’s going to happen with him; there are probably three or four clubs that could afford him, and United are definitely one of them.
I think Harry’s got to the stage in his career now where he really does want to start winning things. He knows how good he is and he just wants to be playing in a top-class team.
Man City have just got rid of Sergio Aguero and they’ll always be looking to bring in the best players, so if they are interested, I don’t see why he wouldn’t go there. He’s played so well over the last seven years or so.
I’ve played against Harry Kane a few times and I’ve always said the same thing: he’s different to other strikers. Other strikers make long runs all over the pitch, but Harry waits. He’s very clever. If you give him any space or time in the box, he’ll punish you. It’s something you can’t really teach.
Fergie used to tell me when clubs would make bids for me, but he’d never say who
It’s going to be a complete change for Harry Kane when he leaves Tottenham. He’s been there since he was a kid, and I can only go off my own experience of leaving somewhere after such a long period of time. I joined Manchester United when I was 13 and left when I was 30 – so it’s a long time being in the same place.
When that’s the only thing you know, you don’t really think about how hard it’s going to be in a new environment. It’s very difficult, but I really loved the challenge.
When I left Man United that season, I just knew I wasn’t as good as I used to be; a couple of old injuries were starting to niggle away and I really felt like I’d dropped down a little bit – being at a club like United where you’re surrounded with top players, you just know.
Sir Alex Ferguson came up to me a few times throughout my career and told me there had been bids for me. I always used to ask him who the clubs were but he never used to tell me. He’d never tell me, I was always like ‘oh, cheers boss’. I know it’s all different now but that was my experience. He knew it didn’t really bother me because I never wanted to be anywhere else, so we probably had a different sort of relationship in that respect. I later found out one of the clubs early on in my career was Lazio, but he never told me about any of the English clubs.
Man United need to strengthen these key three areas this summer
I’ve definitely seen an improvement at Manchester United in the past 12 months or so. On their day they can beat any team in the world, I just think they struggle to perform in the games where you’d expect them to win. Sometimes I think we were guilty of being a little bit short in midfield and the back-line has changed quite a lot throughout the season. Normally you have your two centre-halves set in stone and you build from there.
Ole should be looking at three key areas where he can strengthen the first-team, and that’s with a new centre-back, a midfielder and a striker. The club needs to lose a few players as well, and I know that’s sometimes easier said than done, but they’ve got to make some room for new arrivals.
They definitely need a strong midfielder to come in and play week-in and week-out. I thought the club managed alright last season up-front but I’d still say they need a big name up there – especially for when someone like Anthony Martial isn’t fit. Whenever one of our attackers got the slightest knock, we really struggled. You’re looking around at the bench and thinking ‘where’s our Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?’ That player who can make a difference. There just needs to be a bit of strength in depth in that area.
I probably went to every home game last season, and I have to say it was really disappointing at times. Away from home the team were fantastic, like they were playing with no fear, but at home they seemed to really struggle. We never really got our rhythm going; but if that changes, then it’s a completely different story. You’d hope the return of fans has a positive impact in those results at Old Trafford next season.