As featured on NewsNow: Football news

Paul Parker exclusive: Talking Man Utd problems, England & Des Walker

A central part of the England side that was so close to glory at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Paul Parker has lost none of his passion for football.

The central defender turned full-back made over 100 league appearances for three separate clubs – Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United – during his 16 years as a professional, while he was also capped 19 times by his country.

Since retiring Parker has worked in coaching and the media, and is still very much a keen observer of the game.

Having spent five seasons at Manchester United between 1991 and 1996, Parker lived through the early days of the Premier League and has watched as it has gone from strength to strength.

However, his former club haven't been on such an upward trajectory in recent years, and Parker showed real concern about the direction the club since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.

"It is a very dire situation at Manchester United," he tells Tribal Football.

"They are used to top quality steak but they are having roast beef."

Parker singled out Ed Woodward as a key reason behind United's recent struggles.

Woodward became executive vice-chairman of the club in 2013, the same year Ferguson retired, and has seen the club struggle to replicate its former glories since.

"It will only get better when things change at the top and things cannot carry on as they are," Parker argued.

"To get top players to the club, they need to have something they can believe in and a project, but at this moment and time there is only one person with a project and that is Ed Woodward. His project is to have a say in everything that goes in and goes out, without having any great knowledge of football.

"As far as I am concerned Woodward should leave the decision making to people that know what they are doing. Manchester United need to be managed, not coached, they need someone to manage the club, manage the team."

While Parker concern for his old club was evident, he also erred on the side of caution when assessing the current England squad.

During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Gareth Southgate's side became only the third England team to reach a World Cup semi-final, and the first since Parker's team in 1990.

However, Parker felt it is hard to compare the two sides and argued the 1990 team had to work harder for their success.

"I don't think you can say there are similarities between the two squads," Parker explained.

"In 2018 I think the draw was quite kind to them. In 1990 we had the Dutch and the Irish in our group, so a derby game and match against one of the great sides in Europe, and then Belgium. Then we had the physicality and the unknown quantity of Cameroon. Our path and what we had to deal with was a little bit different and I think our route was tougher. I think anybody from my time would suggest that."

England lost the semi-final in 2018 to an extra time winner from Mario Mandzukic of Croatia, and Parker felt England could have played better.

He said: "England had a good group in 2018 and then a winnable semi-final and they got an early goal, but then it was a poor performance after they scored.

"England had 24 hours more rest than Croatia, but Croatia looked the fitter side and that was because maybe they were on top of their game. They were already in a higher gear as having a rest doesn't always have a positive impact. If we look at the Champions League final, both sides had three weeks off and it was an awful game. The players were flat."

While the current England side are hoping for further success at Euro 2020 next summer, the 1990 side didn't manage to build on their performance in Italy.

Under new manager Graham Taylor, they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA and Parker suggested that some of the personnel selections in that period weren't ideal.

"After 1990 there were some big changes and what you find is that when a new manager comes in they want to do their own thing," he recalled.

"Some mainstays were gone and there were key players out of the squad. Sadly, the standard of players coming in wasn't as high. It wasn't about age it was about opinion and there were some very experienced players, namely Chris Waddle, who were ushered out. There was a big turnover and in that kind of football continuity is important and that is why we missed out on qualification in 1994."

If he was offering advice to current England manager Southgate, Parker said it was important that he sorts out some of the defensive issues the team has faced over the last year or so.

"Gareth needs to know what his best 11 is and generally you find that out when you get to the tournament," Parker said.

"It doesn't always happen before because of injuries and players emerging. I think he needs to work out what his best defence is, whether that is a four or a three. I think there is a chance he will go with a three. The main thing he needs is continuity in that backline."

England have been drawn in a group with Croatia, Czech Republic and play-off winner C for next year's tournament, a group that has been greeted well by much of the media.

However, Parker warned against any complacency from England.

"You always need that bit of luck because there is always one team that comes in and lifts their game," he said.

"There is also going to be a play-off team that could shake things up. I think England are favourites with lots of people but I don't think that is right when you have France, Belgium, who beat England twice in 2018, Croatia, Italy and Holland. Why should England be favourites? They had a group where you would think they should win every game but it didn't materialise that way. Someone always jumps in at the last minute. I think David Platt was like that in 1990, while I had only made two appearances for England before the tournament."

Parker started his career as a centre back and played in that position for much of his club career, but it was at right-back that he made most impact for England, playing in that role on five occasions during the 1990 tournament.

Right-back is a position with a number of options for Southgate and when asked who he thought should occupy the shirt, Parker said he still favoured Kieran Trippier, now with Atletico Madrid.

"At right back now I would still be looking at Trippier," he argued.

"He has changed his game in Madrid and Spurs were too eager to let him go. He had a poor season but before that he was fantastic fullback for club and country. I bet Spurs wish they could have him back now. Trent Alexander-Arnold plays in a team where he is always crossing and getting forward, so his involvement in attacking areas is more than other full backs. But I always judge a fullback on their defensive work. "

England have produced a number of good young players in the position in recent years, and Parker also offered his assessment of some of the talents that could have an impact in years to come.

"As a defender there is no one in England as good as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, he is like Des Walker, but on the other side of it, going forward, he still has a lot to learn," Parker said.

"Reece James is too early and not a regular at Chelsea yet. Reece James has done very well and dug deep in the lower divisions in Wigan."

Despite his call for caution, Parker was genuinely hopeful for the team next summer.

However, when it came to a player from his day that could make a difference to the current side, Parker was emphatic.

"Des Walker would make such a difference to this current England team, just for his change of pace and how he saw danger," he explained.

"He would deal with danger and he wasn't bothered about looking pretty. Des is what we are missing."

Parker also participated on panel organised by BonusCodeBets and prior to the event the firm conducted research which found that 58% of Premier League fans surveyed claim VAR should be scrapped before next season.

Need a VPN? Or seeking to switch? Then support Tribal Football by clicking here to sign up with our official partners NordVPN. Not only will you receive the best VPN experience, but also great discounts by signing up via Tribal Football. Thanks for your support!

Video of the day:

About the author

William Dodds

Have your say

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free