Steve McManaman: Why Baaeed will adjust to Juddmonte step up

Baaeed runs in Wednesday's Juddmonte International Stakes
Baaeed runs in Wednesday's Juddmonte International Stakes

Baaeed is a true superstar in the horse racing world. He’s set to step up in distance at the Juddmonte International and Steve McManaman has returned with his column to discuss why he believes the increased distance shouldn’t impact Baaeed. Steve also discusses his favourite memories from the Juddmonte International, the Ebor meeting at York, the team element in racing and why he is so impressed with Little Big Bear...

I can’t wait to see Baaeed step up in distance at the Juddmonte International.

“As William Haggas has put him in the race, you'd think the extra two furlongs wouldn’t worry him too much. You have to go with the experts and the experts believe that Baaeed will be fine. He travels really well, so I believe it should be a slower race and he should be able to get into the race without any problems. Judging by his previous races, especially the way he cruised at Goodwood, then I don’t believe the extra two furlongs will worry them too much.”

That famous Frankel race has to be my favourite memory of the Juddmonte International.

“The Frankel race is the one that sticks in everybody's mind. He had some exceptional horses behind him and he just cruised past them with one or two furlongs to go. I always remember that race because poor Sir Henry Cecil looked really unwell. That’s one of the races that’s stuck in my mind because you’re talking about super horses aren’t you? There were a couple of question marks beforehand but then he won with such ease.”

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I don’t have a best bet at the moment for the Ebor meeting at York.

“Your best bet would be Baaeed but I presume he’d be a 1/2 favourite. I haven’t studied the form just yet, so at the moment I can’t provide you with my best tip for this prestigious meeting as I like to consider factors, such as the weather, the night before the race takes place. The weather recently across the country has been bonkers, so you don’t know what impact that can have on the race.”

I support any idea that brings horse racing to the masses.

“I don’t mind the team element in racing. Anything that can bring the sport to the masses and make it more popular is something I certainly don’t have a problem with. Every element of the Shergar Cup is really fun. Likewise, the Racing League is something else that I don’t mind, as long as we take it for what it is. Yes, you want to win races but there’s an element of fun in it as well and an element of social interaction and I think that’s what it should be.”

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I’ve been so impressed by what I’ve seen of Little Big Bear.

“He’s definitely the one to beat in the 2023 2000 Guineas. It was really interesting to see what Aidan [O’Brien] was like after the race. He spoke about going to Nunthorpe Stakes initially, then we were all speaking about the Guineas. The fact he’s thinking about Nunthorpe, which is a sprinters race, just shows what he thinks of Little Big Bear. Against the horses that he defeated in the Phoenix Stakes, it was even more impressive that he was able to win by seven or eight lengths. Ryan Moore doesn’t usually say much after races but even he can tell that he was sitting on a really good horse.”

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Onto football, I can’t see Manchester United losing heavily against Liverpool next Monday. 

“I wouldn’t have thought that it would be another pasting. The way Manchester City have played means that Liverpool just have to win. Arsenal have six points, Chelsea and Tottenham have four, so Liverpool just need the victory. I’d be surprised if Liverpool won at Old Trafford in the fashion they did last season because United are going to have to have a plan that can curtail the way that Liverpool play, stop them playing, then see if they can get a result. They can’t play like they have done the last two games. They’ve been so open and if they play like that against Liverpool then they are in trouble. I fully expect them to change it around and become a lot tighter. They may go into the fixture playing like an away team and just hoping they can nick a goal somewhere. They can’t be as expansive as they have been, they just can’t.”

Manchester United fans are reportedly planning to empty Old Trafford for the game, but I certainly believe the team will need their twelfth man.

“If you’re Liverpool, then playing in front of an empty crowd is a lot easier. I don’t think Liverpool will be too bothered as last season was incredibly raucous. In fact, it’s always raucous in these fixtures at Old Trafford as there’s genuine hatred between both clubs. If people start standing up and leaving or don’t even turn up to the game, then it will make it far easier for Liverpool players as the away support will be completely full as it was last year. If United have any chance then they will need the atmosphere to be raucous. That talk of fans being the twelfth man is certainly a thing that exists.” 

Is Jürgen Klopp wary of playing his youngsters? No. You need to have that mix of experience and youth.

“Jürgen Klopp will field them. I think he’s got the utmost confidence in them. It’s just that he sees them on the same ground and feels as if it’s ‘I should play him, or should I play him’. He saw that Fabio Carvalho is a really good talent; he’s got Harvey Elliot; he’s got Curtis Jones and he’s brought in Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen. Klopp’s got a lot of youngsters there. So I think once he sees them all on the training ground, they’ll play. He hasn't got any qualms about putting them in there. He put Carvalho and Elliot on against Fulham. I just think it’s all about who’s fit. Naby Keïta is fit and well now, so he should come in, I would presume, rather than Thiago, depending on what’s happened at the training ground. But absolutely, you have older players and you need to refresh the group all the time. You need to have youngsters coming through.

“The European champions Real Madrid have the three oldest midfielders around (Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić and Casemiro), yet behind them they’ve got Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurélien Tchouaméni. That’s what you need. You need to have that mix of experience and youth, to start replacing each other when the time is right. You have to have them there. And you have to have them training with you all the time and have them up to speed.”

The Jude Bellingham rumours persist but I believe Jürgen is happy with what he’s got.

"Jürgen likes the look of the German market but you look at the Italian teams like AC Milan and Inter Milan - both teams that Liverpool faced in the Champions League - and there were players there, but did they really take the eye? It’s actually really hard. 

“You know everyone goes on about Jude because he’s young and he’s English but he needs a good season as well this year and then his stock will be high next year if he wants to leave. I wouldn’t necessarily have a name for Liverpool down the line as, unless there’s more injuries, Jürgen is more than happy to stick with what he’s got.

“Would Youri Tielemans be a viable option for Liverpool? I don’t know. The only thing is, if you had wanted him, you would have got him now. Can they get him for free in twelve months time? I have no idea but for £20m-£25m he’d be available now if that was the case. I presume if Liverpool had wanted him they would have taken him.”

When the same faces are back in the treatment room, you start to get concerned.

“Thiago’s been very unfortunate with injuries - so has Naby Keïta. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is injured as well. They’ve brought in Fabio Carvalho who’s a midfielder/ attacking midfielder who plays a different role to Thiago. They’ve got Jordan Henderson, they’ve got James Milner, they’ve got Fabinho. Once everyone starts to come back, they’ve got eight midfielders. And then it becomes, ‘we panicked during the transfer window, and now we’ve got nine’. So you have to run the risk and you have to weigh up how many midfielders you already have, and how bad the injuries to some of your players are. I have no idea how bad Oxlade-Chamberlain is. We’ve got the World Cup around the corner. You have to weigh it up.

“But it is a concern that Thiago keeps getting injured. And it is a concern that Naby Keïta can’t stay fit for the whole year. That would definitely weigh on your mind. The same people seem to get injured. When you’ve got four players injured, that’s when it starts to become a problem.”

The transfer window is not about improving the squad, it is first and foremost about improving the first XI.

“With all respect to the footballers playing in Portugal, we go crazy for them when their team wins the Primeira Liga. When Porto win the league, we go crazy for Porto players. When Sporting CP win the league, everyone goes and raids them again. Liverpool could benefit from them but is Matheus Nunes better than what they’ve got? He may well be but again, I’d give it another year or two before Liverpool come in as Sporting have already lost a player or two. It’s not a surprise that Nunes is linked with Wolves, with his connection to Jorge Mendes. He probably wouldn’t get in Manchester City’s starting XI, and you need a player who can make your starting XI better. You don’t just need more squad players.”

I just don’t understand Bernardo Silva moving from Manchester City to Barcelona.

“If Bernardo Silva was to leave it would definitely weaken their squad. He’s one of their better players. City’s squad is excellent but Bernardo Silva has been a mainstay over the past few years. His form last year was excellent and he’s started this season really well. He would definitely improve Barcelona’s starting XI. But I just don’t think it will happen. I don’t know what Barcelona are doing with their finances- they couldn’t register Jules Koundé the other day - and they can’t get rid of any players that they want to get rid of, so to bring in Bernardo Silva for €50million and try and register him, is just madness. It’s surreal at the moment.”

Despite Barcelona’s various moves in the transfer market, I still believe Real Madrid are the favourites for the La Liga title. 

“I back Real Madrid regardless because they’re a more settled team with a structure. Watching Barcelona the other day, they’ve brought in five or six players but I don’t know whether it will make the team better. Watching Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen come on, I’m not sure they make Barcelona better. 

“Of course, Robert Lewandowski will make the team better, but I’m not sure the other three do, Kounde maybe, but he’s not registered so we can’t really talk about him. When you look at the bench they’ve got - Gerard Piqué, Miralem Pjanić, Frenkie de Jong, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - the names are endless. They’re trying to sell some of them to bring the books and the debt down but they can’t. I don’t know about the finances over there, I don’t know if they’ve deferred wages for Frenkie de Jong, I have no idea. But if it’s true, it’s just madness. And they’re spending £160m on bringing more players in - it’s just weird! 

“They’re selling all their image rights and television rights to pay for players. It’s just a weird gamble. When I was watching them against Rayo Vallecano, I wondered if the gamble is going to pay off. Yes, they’re going to be better than they were last year, but they need to win games and to win the trophies to get them back to a status where they can bring in more income. I don’t know whether it’s going to work after watching them the other day.” 

 

The ongoing financial issues at Barcelona is very strange.

“Ethically it doesn’t sit right. But Manchester United are in debt to a certain extent - they’ve got a mortgage out on their club, it’s half a £billion and the club is worth £4billion. So ethically it’s just how it sits with people; with Manchester United people know they will pay off their debt and be left with a massive asset. Barcelona is different because nobody owns the club - the members own the club - so they have a different way of dealing with these problems, as long as it sits fine with La Liga who are actually quite vocal about financial fair play. I presume, as long as it ticks all the boxes, it must be fine, but it doesn’t necessarily sit well with people when they hear stories like the situation with Frenkie de Jong. If Barcelona wants to get rid of him and the likes of Aubameyang but they owe them money, it doesn’t sit well, but we don’t know the full story about it all. And one thing you would say is Frenkie de Jong was the best player when he came on for Barcelona on the opening day of the season. He was the best player they had, so it is very strange.”

I don’t believe Manchester City’s sales of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko will come back to bite them.

“I wouldn't have thought so, the way City have played you’ll definitely say no, but only time will tell. But with Gabriel Jesus, you can see why he’s gone with Erling Haaland coming in. That makes perfect sense.  Pep Guardiola has always been honest enough to say, “if you want to leave, tell me and I’m more than happy to let you go if you don’t want to stay”, which is quite refreshing really. A lot of times a player will stay and not play. With Gabriel Jesus, I understand why he’s gone and I hope he’s successful at Arsenal. I still don’t think Arsenal will finish above Manchester City. Oleksandr Zinchenko going is a really good move for the player as he’ll play every game and it’s up to City if they want to find a left-back to play. Pep must think that, with João Cancelo and Nathan Aké, he’s got enough strength there. 

“Rather than stockpiling your players, you might as well be honest and do what Pep’s doing and I applaud him for that, and if that makes City a tiny bit weaker; so what?! I think Pep likes to think that if you don’t want to play he’s more than happy to let you go, and if they have an honest conversation with him and they want to play more games and Pep lets them leave, that’s brilliant.”

If Álvaro Morata moves to Manchester United then I believe it’ll be a panic move.

“Álvaro Morata has played for everyone unfortunately. Has he been a huge success anywhere?

“Is he better than Rashford? Is he better than Martial? I just think it’s a bit of a panic move and unfortunately United do seem to be panicking now. So every player they go in for, suddenly there’s an extra £10m on the price tag, and it’s something they’re going to have to pay because they’ve messed around with other players that they were hoping to get, so now they’re in a really awkward situation. But Álvaro Morata is not as good as Robert Lewandowski. He’s not as good as Erling Haaland. He’s not as good as Darwin Núñez. If anything, they’ve missed the boat with all these centre-forwards, so that’s why they’re looking at Adrien Rabiot, Morata, just to fill voids. They’re not Manchester United class with all respect to the players, when you look at Manchester United’s history and their number 9s and goalscorers. He might come in and do a job, and, if he does, I hope for his sake he does great and finds his home there. The fact that he’s been wandering around Europe shows that he hasn’t hit the ground wherever he’s been.”

The fact that Manchester United have prolonged their chase for Frenkie de Jong means he must have initially said yes to the move.

“Manchester United should look elsewhere but the fact that they’ve prolonged this chase with Frenkie de Jong means they must have had a yes from him. They must have, otherwise, they’d have said ‘forget about it’ a long time ago. I don’t know what’s gone on. You speak to de Jong’s representatives and he should say ‘yes, I want to go there’ or ‘no, I don’t want to go there’ and the conversation stops there, regardless if you deal with Barcelona or not. If Frenkie doesn’t want to go, he won’t go. So I presume somewhere down the line he said he was interested but it’s just getting a little bit late now.

“Suddenly Chelsea have become interested but they’re flush with midfielders. You wonder what’s going to happen there and if Chelsea will step up their interest in him. I only presume Frenkie de Jong has said at some stage that he is interested in coming to Old Trafford, but if that was the case, I would have thought the deal would be done months ago. Maybe he’s just changed his mind and he doesn’t want to play in Manchester and wants to play in the Champions League. 

“The form of Man Utd now is not going to encourage anyone in. They’ve lost two out of two and they’re not in the Champions League. You’d think Frenkie de Jong would rather stay at Barcelona, or rather go to a club in the Champions League. It’s worrying times for United now because it’s getting late in the transfer window and everybody can see their position and how they’re playing.” 

Manchester City and Nottingham Forest have had stand out transfer windows.

“I don’t know what ‘best’ means. Man City have had a good window because they’ve made money and they’ve brought in Erling Haaland, they’ve brought in Kalvin Phillips and they’ve won two from two. On the flip side, Nottingham Forest have had a good window because they needed it. They had that many loan deals and people were running down their contract. They’ve brought in 13 or 14 players and had their first Premier League victory yesterday. Steve Cooper has got a really difficult job and I think we need to remember that if the results do go wrong. 

“Coming up into the Premier League and having to get 14 or so new players and merge them into this team where they have to go out and win is very difficult. So Steve Cooper deserves all the credit he gets.” 

There’s been many exciting signings in the Premier League this summer, but one stands out in particular…

“Certainly Erling Haaland, who we all believe is a great centre-forward. Darwin Núñez will be exciting as will Gabriel Jesus if he stays fit and plays the games we expect for Arsenal. He could be a revelation. The fact that he could score a bundle of goals because he is the main man, I think that’s exciting. But I think Erling Haaland is the one because I think he’s more of a finished article at this moment in time than Darwin Núñez. I'm looking for Darwin Núñez to really improve as a Liverpool player over the years, but Haaland has hit the ground running, and now he’s taking penalties. He’ll score lots of goals.” 

I also believe that Erling Haaland will win the Premier League Golden Boot this season.

“If Erling plays he’ll score the goals, especially if he takes the penalties. Liverpool will share their goals about a bit more than Man City will. I think Haaland if he plays 50 games he’ll get 30 goals no problem.”

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