Best Sports Betting Canada has sat down with legendary Premier League striker and ’99 treble winner, Andy Cole.
The 51-year-old gave his predictions on the massive upcoming game between his former clubs, Newcastle United and Manchester United, in the Carabao Cup final.
The Englishman also commented on players today who he enjoys watching, such as Bukayo Saka, Erling Haaland and Marcus Rashford, and reminisced of his time playing at the top level of world football.
Question: How do you see the Carabao Cup Final going? Are United a lot more confident than Newcastle? Score prediction?
Andy Cole (AC): “The Carabao Cup final is a 50/50 game especially if you look at both of the teams’ positions in the Premier League table and their 0-0 result last time they played each other. Manchester United are not the favourites, it’s a cup final. Newcastle have been defensively solid all season too. It depends if Manchester United produce enough to win the game. It could go to penalties because Newcastle hardly give up any goals. If Marcus Rashford doesn’t score, then you have to ask where are the other goals coming from? The result could easily go either way.”
Q: Do you think Man Utd will see off Barcelona at Old Trafford? Is that tie a Champions League-quality game? Prediction?
AC: “Manchester United and Barcelona is a Champions League quality tie and they’re both desperate to be back there. Watching the game last week, it was a quality advertisement for the Europa League, but they are Champions League teams. I’m not saying either team can win the Champions League now, but they should be back there. It will be a tough game at Old Trafford, with the away goal rule out of the window, whoever wins this game now goes through. If the game is as open as it was last week, it could be 6-6! I’m looking forward to a good game.”
Q: Could Marcus Rashford compete for the Ballon d’Or if he carries on his form until the end of the season?
AC: “Marcus Rashford won’t be competing for the Ballon d’Or even if he kept his form until the end of the season. We all know who will be winning the Ballon d’Or. The Ballon d’Or is usually based on Champions Leagues and in this instance, World Cups. If Lionel Messi does not win the Ballon d’Or for finally winning the World Cup for Argentina, I’d be very surprised, but Kylian Mbappe has a chance too.”
Q: Dwight Yorke said Rashford would not get into the Treble team, maybe on the bench, do you agree?
AC: “I agree with Dwight Yorke, Marcus Rashford on current form would not make it into the treble starting XI and maybe the bench. In front of Ryan Giggs or David Beckham? Even in this sparkling form, unfortunately not. If you took out Giggs or Beckham, then Rashford would probably get into the team, but our team had so much quality. Rashford would definitely not make it into the treble team.
Casemiro would not make it in front of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt. Casemiro is a fantastic player, but would I play him in front of Keane or Scholes? No. He would make the bench. He’s made a massive improvement to Manchester United since he’s joined and I really like the player.”
Q: Dwight Yorke also called Jaime Carragher a waffler for saying Erling Haaland is not in the best team for him at Manchester City, do you think Carragher is wrong too?
AC: “It sounded like Dwight Yorke was down a warpath! I’m at the age now where I don’t get involved in that nonsense anymore. People like Jaime Carragher say things just to say things. If Erling Haaland continued his form from the start of the season, there would be no question that he made the wrong choice in joining Manchester City. Don’t forget, these were the same people that were saying ‘what a revelation Erling Haaland is at Manchester City’. Then he goes through a sticky patch, now the question is if he made the wrong decision. How has he made the wrong decision, five or six months into the season, and scored 26 goals in the Premier League? It was not a bad decision for Haaland to join Manchester City three or four months ago. Haaland is totally different to what Manchester City usually have, he does not get involved in the play as much, but because they create so many chances, he scores goals. But sometimes when he does not get his usual service, people start to question whether he fits into the team, how is he not the right fit if he’s scored all these goals? If he had not scored as many goals as he did, then I would understand, but sometimes people just want soundbites. Teams might have realised how to defend against him, or Manchester City sometimes do not play to his strength with a ball in behind, and that might be what Haaland is not used to.”
Q: What are Man Utd lacking to be fighting with Man City and Arsenal for the title?
AC: “Arsenal and Manchester City have been lacking this season and that’s why they’re in the position they find themselves in, a title race and three or five points ahead of Manchester United. Eric Ten Hag has come in and done a fantastic job, but I would not get carried away because you look at Liverpool and Tottenham who have been terrible this season, Manchester City have not been themselves, Arsenal have been okay, if these teams really turned up, what would the league table really look like? Arsenal finished fifth last season, then made some summer acquisitions and now look like they can win the Premier League, and Manchester City and Liverpool have not been the same teams last season. With Manchester United, they need to keep this consistency and add more quality in the summer, everyone will be going for similar players in the market. Will Manchester United win the league next season? It will be very tough. Within time, the improvement in quality at Manchester United will come.”
Q: Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk cost a combined 200 million EUROS, how much would you and Yorke cost in this current market?
AC: “These numbers that Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk went for are crazy. I cost £6 million and Dwight Yorke cost £12.6 million. These numbers… if I spoke to Yorke about these numbers he would just laugh. I know it’s supply and demand, I understand it, but the figures are mind-boggling, how do you get to numbers like £70m, £80m, £90m or £100m? As a striker in my time, you had to get 20/25 league goals and be in double figures by Christmas, otherwise, you would be classed as ‘not the best’ and replaced. Now if a player gets 25 goals in total, he’s had an unbelievable season. Not even 25 league goals, 25 goals in all competitions, it shows how the game has changed. If I had to guess, I and Yorke each would cost around £50m or £60m probably, but it’s very tough to put an estimate on yourself. £6m was a record that I went for at the time, but now people will laugh at that price, players in League One go for £6m nowadays.”
Q: Your former teammate, Gary Neville, said Arsenal will crumble when there are a few games left and that Man City can win the league by 10 points, do you agree?
AC: “I still have Manchester City as the favourites to win the Premier League but they have been terrible this season by their standards. They have loads of world-class players but it just seems like they’re a bit stuck. They absolutely destroyed Nottingham Forest but still drew 1-1 after comfortably winning against Arsenal in the week. I know Mikel Arteta said Arsenal made mistakes, but in football when you concede a goal, it’s because nine times out of ten, someone has made a mistake, so it’s normal. I still have Manchester City as favourites but they need be more clinical and bring better ideas into each game.”
Q: Are you a big fan of Bukayo Saka? Henry said he needs to be ‘meaner’ to be one of the best players, do you agree? He had a little scrap with the Aston Villa players on Saturday
AC: “I agree with Thierry Henry, Bukayo Saka does need to give his opponents a bit more stick and toughen up. But I’ve met Saka, and I just thought ‘wow, what a lovely kid he is’. This is why I love football, everyone is raving about him and got into the Arsenal team by default through the academy. Remember when people were looking at him when he was playing full back and saying he won’t be good enough? Look at him now, Saka is Arsenal’s best player. He’s so level-headed and innocent, goes out there and plays the game with a smile on his face after going through all the abuse from the Euros. As an ex-professional and someone who played at the highest level, I love to see what he’s doing, he is a really special talent.
Saka is up there with the best wingers in the league, him and Marcus Rashford are special talents and have bounced back so well after the Euros abuse. They’ve risen above it and are playing at a really high level. Even the people who were slating them at the Euros were supporting them in the World Cup. They were all complaining that Rashford did not play against France, I love it. Rashford or Saka has been the best winger in the Premier League this season.”
Q: Do you think there’s been a fall off in quality in general strikers in the Premier League? Arsenal are in a title race with Eddie Nketiah up front.
AC: “Eddie Nketiah has done very well with the opportunity he’s had. There aren’t many strikers in the league now because lots of players want to be that number ten. Manchester City did so well to get Erling Haaland for cheap because there’s a real lack of strikers on the market. Manchester United are needing a number nine, they can win you games. I’m not saying they’ll win the league, but if you have someone who can score 20/25 league goals a season, it makes it a lot easier.”
Q: Did Newcastle’s home loss against Liverpool show they’re not quite there yet in terms of finishing in the top four?
AC: “Sometimes teams can slip up and you always expect Newcastle to win at St James’ Park so that’s why it was a surprise. But Liverpool played very well, even though they’re going through a nightmare season, but looking at the last couple of games their form seems to be improving. I’m not going to say that Newcastle won’t make the top four because of one loss, they’ve been fantastic without any superstar signings yet. There’s no one in the team that you’d think would have made it into the Liverpool or Manchester United team before they were signed for Newcastle. Their acquisitions have been very cute.”
Q: Is the slip up against Nottingham Forest Man City’s season in a nutshell? They can’t keep the consistency and haven’t won more than three games in a row this season
AC: “Manchester City have had a very strange season. I’m not saying the should have won 6-0 against Nottingham Forest, but they had lots of chances and lots of ball possession, but none of that means anything if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net. They have not been clinical enough, and that’s not down to Erling Haaland at all, he’s scored 26 league goals in February, that’s a joke. There’s no way he could have kept that form until the end of the season, otherwise, he would have scored 60 Premier League goals! I think this title race will go right down to the wire.”
Q: Would you have liked to have been a strike partner with Haaland if you had a chance?
AC: “I don’t think I’d work in a partnership with Erling Haaland because he’s very good a playing by himself, if you look at him when he was at Borussia Dortmund, he’s an individual who knows what he wants. Haaland is very direct, if you look at his goals from Dortmund, most goals were from running in behind and he was the main man, but Manchester City open up teams differently. To play with Haaland in a strike partnership, I think it would be difficult because he’s used to playing by himself.”
Q: Is Pep’s Man City era the 2nd best team in Premier League history behind the treble side?
AC: “Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side is the second-best team in Premier League history, behind us of course. We were saying how the Liverpool team last season ere as good as the treble side, but only won the League Cup and FA Cup. Every team seems to be as good as the treble team, but no one is able to win what we won. No team is as good as the treble side if you can’t achieve what we achieved. Do people really think the treble is that easy to win? If it was, we would have won it more than once.
The Invincibles were a really good team. They were physically strong, mentally strong, they had pace and played unbelievable football. But everyone will have their own opinion on who is the best team, I’ll be biased towards my team. When a team has won the treble and no other team has been able to replicate that, my opinion can’t be budged.”
Q: Man City host Newcastle at the Etihad next weekend, is that a must win for the title race? Score prediction?
AC: “Newcastle is a must-win game for Manchester City in the title race. To be honest, I’d say Manchester City have to win all virtually all their games if they want to win the Premier League title. I remember when Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to us that the league had not really started until Easter because that’s the period where points get dropped in the quick turnaround of games. Different teams act differently under pressure, that’s where I understand what Gary Neville means about Arsenal potentially collapsing, the pressure is on and it’s sometimes to be the hunter because when you’re top, you have to win. When the hunting team in second position wins on the Saturday and league leaders play on Sunday, you know there’s lots of pressure to win. You can get used to it, but you don’t want to be in that position. The game in hand means nothing because you need to win for it to have any effect.”
Q: Who was the hardest defender or defence you played against?
AC: “All the defenders were tough when I played at the elite level. Everyone wanted to beat Manchester United because we were the team to beat. I would not be scared of any defender playing currently because you have to go in with the mentality that you won’t lose. We can talk about Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias being great defenders but if you look at my generation, we also had world-class defenders.”
Q: Would you have relished playing against Lisandro Martinez, given his height?
AC: “Lisandro Martinez reminds me of Paolo Montero who played for Juventus. Same kind of height, Uruguayan international, left-footed, very aggressive and would leave his tackles on you. Montero was physical and wants to wind you up. No top striker would turn around and say ‘I don’t fancy that’, these are the challenges we love. We don’t want to be playing any mickey mouse games. I enjoyed all my battles with the top centre-halves, and I would admit if they got the better of me.”
Q: Do you think Harry Kane will reach Alan Shearer’s record? Is he the final piece of the puzzle for Man Utd?
AC: “Harry Kane has a very good chance to break Alan Shearer’s record if he keeps playing the way he is. Tottenham are channeling all the goals through him, it was like when I played at Newcastle, the team was made for me. It’s a testament to him if he thinks he can break the record. Manchester United play in a different way to Tottenham. When I was there, I had to change the way I played for Manchester United, not the other way around. If Kane goes to Manchester United, it will be different for him because there are goals that come from the wide areas, you have to think of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho getting their goals too.”
Q: Will Manchester United win the league if they bring in Harry Kane?
AC: “Not necessarily because not one player can win you the league. Also, Manchester United will be competing with Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool next season, so it won’t be easy.”