Paul Ince believes Liverpool‘s imminent coronation as Premier League champions has been assisted by sub-standard opposition – and says the Manchester United Double winners of 1994 would give them a game.
Liverpool moved a massive 30 points clear of United with their 2-0 win at Anfield on Sunday, with their lead over nearest rivals Manchester City now an imposing 16 points.
But while Ince is not about to downplay the achievements of his former club, he believes the overall quality of the Premier League leaves something to be desired.
“While the Premier League is the most successful football brand in the world, I honestly feel the quality of the league is overrated. It is not as great as people think,” Ince told Planet Football at a Paddy Power event in London.
“What Liverpool have done over the last two or three years has been fantastic, but the fact that they are 30 points ahead of Manchester United halfway through the season highlights my point that Liverpool’s opposition are weak right now.
“I look at Liverpool and they are a proper team, the same with Manchester City, but the rest are so inconsistent and we are all getting sucked in by the idea that this is a great league that has loads of top teams in it.
“I did the Wolves v Man United FA Cup game a few weeks back and at the end of it, the stats come out and United didn’t have a shot on target. This is Man United. What’s going on?
“So while I don’t want to take anything away from Liverpool or Man City, they have had it too easy this year. They have an end product and that is why they are so far ahead of the rest, but I honestly feel the United team I was a part of in 1994 would have given both of them a game.
“The depth of quality of the Premier League in the mid-90s was probably better than it is now, despite all the money coming into English football over the last few years. How many great players do we see in English football outside of Liverpool and Man City? Not too many, in my view.”
Ince may talk up the Manchester United team he was a part of, but he is rather less complimentary about the current crop of players and believes several of them lack the right kind of motivation.
“United fans look back at the great players and they are all from a decade ago and when I look at this current team, I don’t think too many people will look back in a year from now and think they were great players,” Ince says.
“Marcus Rashford may go on to have a great United career, but the rest of them? I’m not so sure.
“The reason I went to Manchester United is I wanted to win things. It was my life, it was my passion. The money was secondary to me, but you wonder now with the money being so amazing for so many players whether it has become a job and some of that passion to succeed is lacking.
“When you get all that money at the age of 20 and you think you have made it, you don’t have the people around you to keep your feet on the floor. That’s when you need experienced people around you to give you advice.
“I was fortunate to have Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce around me when I went to United and they ran that dressing room. The manager didn’t run it, the players were running that club and he gave them a licence to do that.
“Now it is completely different and I wonder whether some players see this as a way to make a lot of money quickly and success is secondary. You see some of them happy to sit there and not bother going out on loan because they are on big money at their club and they are happy to sit in the stands and I just don’t understand that mentality.
“I wanted to play football, whether it was for a pound a week or a thousand pound a week. I wanted to play and win trophies and that passion never left me.
“Now I look at United and a lot of teams in the Premier League and that drive and passion is lacking for me. It’s a problem all managers are having to try and deal with.”
Paul Ince is a Paddy Power ambassador and you can read his views at news.paddypower.com
By Kevin Palmer