Belfast Telegraph

England legend Geoff Hurst backs Manchester United to win treble

Football is a game of opinions. Some though are more valued than others. When Sir Geoff Hurst MBE and Pat Jennings have their say on some of the game’s big talking points then it’s time for fans to sit up and take notice.

Both men showcased their talent at the highest level of the game and former West Ham favourite Hurst is the only player to smash in a hat-trick in a World Cup final, when England defeated West Germany 4-2 in 1966 at the old Wembley.

Jennings OBE is Northern Ireland’s most capped player (119). He featured in two World Cups and also enjoyed successful spells at Tottenham, where he is still involved in corporate hospitality and Arsenal.

We put the football greats on the spot, starting with Manchester United’s dreams of treble glory.

Can Manchester United win the treble?

GH: Yes they certainly can. Who would bet against them? It’s a tall order and it may not be the best Manchester United team we have ever seen, but this side has a certain resilience and attitude which they have shown throughout the year without playing brilliantly.

To be 10 points clear in the league and going for the treble is down to a tremendous resilience and team spirit and that’s down to the way the club is run with a great manager. They have fought back half a dozen times from deficits in the league.

PJ: “It’s nice from their point of view and every team in the country would like to be in their position, but it will be tough. They have done it before, but it’s a big call to do it again.”

How does Ryan Giggs keep going?

GH: As an ex pro, I’m astounded by Ryan’s form. Seeing his enthusiasm, skill and technique is fantastic and he’s a tremendous role model.

I think we should highlight more role models and players that are a credit to their town and club, but the media tend to highlight the bad sides of the profession and the guys who let the game down. There are many other players like Ryan Giggs at other clubs who are great role models.

PJ: He’s retained his fitness and the good thing is that he’s playing in a successful team. In a lesser team at the bottom he wouldn’t show out like he is now. That’s the way football is. He’s a fit lad who still has the enthusiasm and hunger for success.

How good is Wayne Rooney?

GH: Wayne is a top player, world class. He’s a tremendous professional, a gifted individual and these players come along once in a generation.

In the 1990s you had Gazza (Paul Gascoigne), in our time you had the genius George Best and in the England team you had Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Charlton. Naturally gifted players from when they left nappies and Steven Gerrard is another modern day one.

PJ: He’s absolutely brilliant. If you were picking a team he would be the first name on your teamsheet. A fantastic player who has everything. He’s come through a sticky period and proved his class. Every striker goes through lean spells, but even when he’s not scoring he’s contributing so much to the team.

Was the FA right to ban Wayne Rooney for swearing into a television camera?

GH: It was a complicated issue. He could argue that lots of players swear and it’s part and parcel of the game. What is slightly different is swearing at the camera. He’s apologised and hopefully it’s a one-off.

What Wayne did was highlight a wider issue that discipline generally in the game has deteriorated slightly. That has to be addressed and it can be done, like when handball incidents have been punished with a booking. They could set a ban for swearing into a camera and that’s it dealt with.

PJ: It didn’t look good and hopefully he’s learned his lesson. It’s not easy when you’re taking stick from fans and he’s not the sort of lad to just ignore it, but he’ll learn.

Is Jose Mourinho the man to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager?

GH: Jose has a fantastic record, but he has only stayed at clubs for a few years. I’m sure United aren’t looking for someone to come in, win the European Cup and then disappear.

United have a solidarity from top to bottom and it’s a gigantic job to follow Sir Alex.

PJ: Alex has no retirement thoughts so why would you want to change? If he wants to carry on, it will be business as usual.

Is the current Barcelona side the best club team ever?

GH: Every so often a group of players come along that are special. Manchester United had it with the Nevilles, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs. Harry Redknapp said to me once that as much as a club tries to have a regular programme developing young players, sometimes purely by luck you will get a group of the same age who are really talented, that’s happening at Barcelona. Now they are the best club side we have seen and it’s helped their national side as well.

PJ: Without a doubt. They play a different game to most people. In a one-off contest you would fancy them to beat anyone, but anything can happen and referees have such a massive influence and I feel sorry for them with the authorities watching their every move.

Do you think Carlo Ancelotti will be sacked?

GH: The quick answer is Ancelotti will be on his way. After a disappointing season it won’t surprise me if they make a change. Roman Abramovich has changed things before when they were better than now.

If he can get the man he wants, maybe (Guus) Hiddink, he’ll make a change, but they also need to change the personnel as well.

The club was run by senior players when Avram Grant was there, but now those players are losing form and getting on a bit.

PJ: We read different headlines in different papers, but the record at Chelsea isn’t good when it comes to holding onto managers who haven’t delivered.

What has happened to Fernando Torres?

GH: Torres’ form is amazing. I cannot recall ever seeing a player suffer such a deterioration in his form. It’s almost impossible to put your finger on that deterioration in every aspect of his game from when he was at Liverpool to now. I’ve never seen a player in any sport go down the pan as much as he has so quickly.

PJ: He looked a world beater, but had a disappointing World Cup like several others and he just needs a spark again, perhaps a goal to get up and running again. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence but you don’t lose that talent overnight.

Who will win the race for a top four place — Spurs or Manchester City?

GH: I’d like to see Spurs do it, but I feel Manchester City will get it. I would prefer to see Spurs in there but Man City just.

PJ: I’m hoping we (Spurs) can do it, but we have massive games like Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea away as well as Arsenal at home.

You can’t take anything for granted in the Premier League as we dropped points to clubs like Blackpool, Wolves and West Ham.

What do you think about the return of Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool?

GH: It is fantastic for the club. Some managers are just a good fit for their clubs. Roy Hodgson and Fulham is a good example. He’s a good coach and manager and he’s shown that again at West Brom, but it just didn’t work out at Liverpool. He just didn’t quite fit Liverpool and that’s not a criticism.

Kenny is an ideal fit for Liverpool, he’s a God and king there. He’s shown he’s the right man for them.

PJ: I thought he should have had the job in the first place. He knows the game inside out. He has proved that by going back in and changing the place round.

Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

GH: The quick answer would be the bottom two (Wigan and Wolves) and the third spot will be between West Ham and Blackpool. Who knows in this crazy season, but the key is in winning the home games.

PJ: You can stick a pin in it at the minute. I think Blackpool have done enough to survive but Villa have a problem. I wouldn’t like to name names.

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