Rio Ferdinand sums up key difference between Bukayo Saka and Manchester United’s struggling forwards
Rio Ferdinand has heaped praise on Arsenal’s ‘fearless’ Bukayo Saka and believes Manchester United’s wingers could learn from the England international’s style of play.
The 21-year-old has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks and has been the matchwinner in each of his side’s last three games in all competitions.
After a slightly under-par start to the new season, Saka scored twice against Liverpool, including the decisive penalty, before his fortuitous winner against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League.
The Hale End academy graduate capped a stunning week with the only goal in Arsenal’s win over Leeds on Sunday as the Gunners extended their lead at the top of the table to four points.
And Saka, who last night finished eighth in the Kopa Trophy rankings for world’s best Under-21 player, should now be an automatic starter for the Three Lions at next month’s World Cup, according to Ferdinand.
He told Vibe: ‘In this form you can’t look past Saka on that right wing spot. I think in an England shirt he does as well.
‘He’s a winger who when he gets it, I’ve watched him a couple of times live this year as well, his first instinct and intention is to go past you. We spoke to Nani and he told us that was his intention.
‘As soon as he got the ball one vs one, he was looking to beat the full-back. I love that about him, he’s got no fear, he’s playing with a bit more maturity every time I see him.
‘He’s in a good vein of form with a club that’s in a good vein of form. He’s confident and if he’s in that mode getting into the World Cup I don’t see anyone starting in front of him.’
While Saka continues to go from strength to strength at Arsenal, United’s wide players are still struggling to get to grips with the tactical demands of their new manager Erik ten Hag.
Despite scoring in three successive games for his new club, summer signing Antony was urged to show more variation by Ten Hag ahead of Sunday’s game against Newcastle during which he struggled to make a telling impact.
Jadon Sancho, meanwhile, has been unable to recapture anything close to the form he demonstrated at Borussia Dortmund on a consistent basis and youngster Antony Elanga hasn’t started a Premier League game since September 1.
‘We don’t seem to have the imagination in those areas,’ Ferdinand bemoaned. ‘We used to give it to Nani, Giggsy, to Becks even, give it to Antonio Valencia or Cristiano when he’s wide. Get him in a one on one situation, either with a good ball from Scholes or Carrick etc, get them one vs one and do your thing.
‘At the moment we get in those positions and unfortunately for us, our wide players are turning away from that, they’re not killing full-backs, they’re not skinning them.
‘The best teams wait for that moment in a game, you might only get two or three of those moments where they stand the full-back up, Saka does it at the moment as well as anyone in the league, and say right I’m going to ghost you.
‘At the moment our wide players aren’t doing that. Parts of their game are working functionally, other than the City game, they’re getting into a good shape, defensively they are doing well but it’s when we have the ball and want them to do that little bit of cherry on the top stuff. We aren’t getting that now.’