LegalSportsbooks.com have sat down with 1999 treble winner, Dwight Yorke, who said repeating that feat with Manchester United was impossible, especially as they had to go compete for a trophy on the other side of the world while the FA Cup was on.
The ex-Aston Villa striker talked about his chances of nearly playing for Celtic in Scotland before joining his former club’s biggest rivals, Birmingham City.
Yorke also talked about the Villain’s current squad of players and was baffled by the price tag of Douglas Luiz and complained about the drop in quality from Coutinho.
Please read the full interview below.
Q: The Qataris, Jim Ratcliffe and Thomas Zilliacus are locking horns to buy Man Utd. Who do you think would be the best option for the club?
DY: “I don’t know the individuals enough to make such a statement of who I would prefer to own the club. Mr Ratcliffe is a local guy and Manchester United fan, but we’ve heard all of this through the media, we don’t know the ins and outs of who to favour. You hear this and that about Qatari human rights but that’s all from the media so we don’t know. For me, it’s about who buys the club with the interest of the club, make the fans happy and gets them back to competing against the best in the world again. Why would I want to get involved into the politics of it? As a player, all you want is an investment into the team and training facilities, that’s all you should care about. You want to play with the best players and compete for the number one spot in England and Europe.”
Q: You recently said you asked Sir Alex Ferguson for a year off without pay. Are there any other unusual requests have you asked managers before?
DY: “That was just a bit of tongue-in-cheek comment and the media have blown it out. Either way, after the treble year you’re always likely to fail. When you win the treble, don’t tell me someone else can go on and win it again. People tend to forget our treble team were unable to compete in the FA Cup the next year which was an absolute travesty. Whatever we did after the treble was deemed a failure. I remember when Sir Alex Ferguson deemed my second year finishing as Manchester United’s top goalscorer a failure because I did not surpass my goal tally of 29 goals from the previous season, I finished on 26. That’s why Ferguson was different to any other manager. You see players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who improved year by year because they wanted to do better and better. Ferguson made that observation of my goal tally and I did not understand, looking back at it now I should not have accepted to just be the top goalscorer of the club, but improve myself. Ferguson was trying to send that message to me all along but I did not understand it, I thought ‘yeah look at me, I’m still the main man here’. These lessons from a great man like Ferguson are what I can bring to changing rooms as a manager of a football team.
“When I asked for a year off it was just a bit of tongue-in-cheek because after we won the treble, the whole team was so happy and I said, “where do we go from here gaffer?’. Ferguson replied with “let’s do it again’. But it was impossible to repeat it, especially when we had to go to Brazil for the Club World Championship and ignore the FA Cup the following year. We didn’t have the chance to defend our trophy and we won the league by 16 points that year too. We were told as players that the Club World Championship would be worth competing for over the FA Cup, but look where we are now.”
Q: What’s the angriest you’ve ever seen Ferguson, and who was it with?
DY: “Sir Alex Ferguson lost the plot with individuals which led to them leaving the club, it happened a lot, but he’s a winner. You either stay within the rules and stick to protocol to do your job 100% of the time or you’re out. People say Ferguson was hard, but I think he was hard and fair at the same time. It’s a top sport, it’s not easy, people are working for their livelihood and you see managers get sacked all the time because of poor player performances. Ferguson would never have let anything bad happen just because the players were not putting in the effort he asked for, he would want what was best for the team, regardless of what happened.”
Q: You reportedly nearly joined Celtic on loan before going to Birmingham, did you not fancy Scottish football?
DY: “I nearly joined Martin O’Neill’s Celtic permanently, it happened very quickly and in 17 years of my career, I had never played outside of the top English division, never been on loan or anything. I was always around the first team from the time I joined Aston Villa. Celtic was and is a big club, but I was not in a good place at the time because my sister had just passed, I went to Celtic Park and I agreed to the terms and conditions, but then Birmingham City and Steve Bruce came in last minute. I knew Bruce quite well, but I was an Aston Villa man for 10 years so looking back on it, it probably was not a great call but I always wanted to stay and play in the Premier League, that’s why I turned down Celtic. In hindsight, going to Birmingham City was not a great call but it only lasted a short time then I went to Australia where I got my passion back, came back to Sunderland and got them promoted to the Premier League then played in the World Cup. So if I went to Celtic, none of that might have happened.”
Q: Are you happy Villa was able to keep Douglas Luiz from joining Arsenal in the summer? Could you see another saga again?
DY: “Douglas Luiz is a player I have watched closely at Aston Villa and I’m not quite sure what his strengths are. What does he actually do? He’s very steady in midfield but I don’t understand the hype from the summer when Arsenal nearly signed him. Luiz is not creative enough to sit in the midfield. He plays a crucial role at Villa, but you have to do more to warrant a big move. I don’t think he’s a top four player, but he’s acceptable for Villa.”
Q: Should Aston Villa have taken the money for Luiz?
DY: “I don’t understand why Aston Villa didn’t take the money for Luiz in the summer, if I were in that position I would have definitely taken the money Arsenal were offering for him. Luiz does a great job for Villa, but I don’t think it’s a super player to take Arsenal to the next level. To leave a great historical club like Aston Villa, you need to make sure you’re going to make a difference at this even bigger club you’re leaving for.”
Q: Does any player remind you of Coutinho in your playing days? An almost world class player, went for a big fee and then progressively declined in his performances?
DY: “There are a few players in the same category as Philippe Coutinho, it’s mind-boggling how world-class players lose their way totally like he has. Coutinho is not half the player he was, that move to Barcelona was sensational and he was sensational at Liverpool. He then became a journeyman, went to Bayern on loan, and then to Aston Villa before moving permanently. It’s a mystery how it happened. It reminds me of Fernando Torres when he joined Chelsea, or Eden Hazard when he joined Real Madrid, these players declined badly. Of course there were injuries, but they did not look like the same players. Even Alexis Sanchez when he joined Manchester United, what happened there? These players were in the category of great players, not just exciting prospects that did not work out, so it really does not make sense. There are no glimpses of their former selves, their quality is gone, and Coutinho can’t get into the Villa starting XI anymore it’s f*****g madness.”
Q: Have you seen any progression from Sunderland in the last few seasons? Would you like to see them back in the Premier League?
DY: “Sunderland have a great fanbase, the noughties had a great derby between Sunderland and Newcastle, it’s as big as it gets. People in the North live for those moments, they need that passion. Ideally, it would be great for them to get back to the Premier League. One day Sunderland will return and they will get that feeling of being with the big boys again, they deserve it.”