Rio Ferdinand sums up key FIVE differences between Bukayo Saka and Manchester United’s struggling forwards
Rio Ferdinand has heaped praise on Arsenal's 'fearless' Bukayo Saka and feels Manchester United's wingers should learn from his style of play.
The 21-year-old has been in excellent form in recent weeks, scoring in each of his team’s past three games across all competitions.
Saka scored twice against Liverpool, including the deciding penalty, before his fortuitous winner against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League after a rather underwhelming start to the season.
The Hale End academy graduate polished off a fantastic week by scoring the only goal in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Leeds on Sunday, extending the Gunners’ advantage at the top of the table to four points.
And, according to Ferdinand, Saka, who placed ninth in the Kopa Trophy rankings for the world’s greatest Under-21 player last night, should now be an automatic starter for the Three Lions at next month’s World Cup.
‘In this form, you can’t look past Saka on that right-wing spot,’ he told Vibe. I believe he does in an England shirt as well.
‘He’s a winger who, when he gets it, and I’ve seen him play a couple of times this year, his first instinct and aim is to go past you.’ We spoke with Nani, who stated that this was his goal.
‘As soon as he had the ball one on one, he tried to beat the full-back.’ I like it about him; he has no fear and plays with more maturity every time I see him.
‘He’s in good shape, and he’s playing for a big team.’ He’s confident, and if he’s in that frame of mind going into the World Cup, I don’t see anyone starting ahead of him.’
While Saka continues to flourish at Arsenal, United’s wide players are still grappling with the tactical demands of their new boss, Erik ten Hag.
Despite scoring in three consecutive games for his new club, summer signing Antony was challenged by Ten Hag to show more variety ahead of Sunday’s encounter against Newcastle, in which he struggled to make an impact.
Meanwhile, Jadon Sancho has struggled to replicate the form he showed at Borussia Dortmund on a consistent basis, and youngster Antony Elanga hasn’t played a Premier League game since September 1.
Ferdinand grumbled, ‘We don’t appear to have the inventiveness in such areas.’ ‘We used to give it to Nani, Giggsy, even Becks, and when he’s wide, we’d give it to Antonio Valencia or Cristiano. Put him in a one-on-one position, either with a good ball from Scholes or Carrick and do your thing.
‘At the moment, we’re getting into those positions, and unfortunately for us, our wide players are turning away from it; they’re not killing full-backs or skinning them.
‘The top teams wait for that moment in a game where they stand the full-back up, and Saka does that at the moment as well as anyone in the league, and say right I’m going to ghost you.’
‘Right now, our wide players aren’t doing that.’ Parts of their game are functioning effectively, and aside from the City game, they’re coming into good form. Defensively, they’re doing well, but it’s when we have the ball and want them to do that extra bit of magic. We’re not getting that right now.’