Mikaël Silvestre on EA FC 24, Manchester United ownership & Arsenal's title chances
Mikaël Silvestre is a name known to football fans across the world, with the former player spending almost a decade at Manchester United, racking up 249 appearances for the Red Devils.
With stints at Arsenal, Werder Bremen, Inter Milan, and Portland Timbers, Silvestre is no stranger to how football has changed across the last couple of decades. Read on for the center-half's thoughts on EA FC, Arsenal's title chances, and more.
Are you intrigued to see how the EA Sports FC franchise differs from the previous FIFA series?
“Yes. For me, I’m witnessing the changes via my son because he’s playing online with his friends and he’s telling me about all the differences. It’s interesting to see the direction they’re going in and I’m intrigued to see more.”
Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, and Kylian Mbappé are the joint-top-rated male players on the new EA Sports FC game. Do you believe this is the right decision or do you believe that one is in fact better than the other two?
“It’s a close call. It’s hard to differentiate between these three players because Erling and Kevin were part of the Manchester City squad that won the treble last season, but personally, I believe that all three of those players deserve to be on the same level for different reasons because they all have different attributes. However, in terms of how influential those three players are for their respective teams, I believe it’s a fair decision for them to all have the best rating.”
Do you believe Arsenal will win the Premier League title this season?
“They could do it, but I’m not going to say they will win it as that would be a foolish thing to say when you consider how long the season is. They’re better equipped than they were last season, they’ve strengthened their squad in key areas and they have greater self-belief.
“Last season they competed for the Premier League title with a young squad, but now they’re a year older and I believe the experience they’ve gained from last season will make them stronger as a group and in March and April, when the games become even more crucial, they will be better prepared to deal with the tougher tests that come their way.
“Manchester City have a team that knows how to go on a run of wins when they need them most. I know they lost to Arsenal recently, but they were missing some key players and I’m sure the title race will continue to be close between now and the end of the season.”
Do you believe that Arsenal will win away to Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday evening?
“Chelsea are still trying to discover their best eleven and they’re in need of consistency. I believe that Arsenal are the favourites to win this game and considering that they won this exact fixture last season, I’m sure they’re confident that they can secure the three points again on Saturday.
“We all know that Chelsea have some talented players, but at the moment they struggle to remain at the same level of performance for a full 90 minutes. They’re a bit shaky at times and you’d expect Arsenal to come out on top at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and get three points.”
Do you believe that Gabriel Jesus is a world-class striker?
“Gabriel has tremendous talent and if he wasn’t injured last season, then he would have scored a lot more goals for Arsenal. They need to give him a full season and see if he can score 25 goals because that’s what's required for number nines in the Premier League, especially when you’re playing for one of the top clubs that have ambitions of winning the title.
“Gabriel likes to shift from the central position, so he’s not a typical center-forward that’s going to remain within the 18-yard box. He covers a lot of ground, does a lot for the team, and gives them options in the channels as well. I believe he can be a prolific goalscorer for Arsenal if he can remain fit for the entire season.”
Two strikers currently linked with a move to Arsenal are Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins and Brentford’s Ivan Toney. Do you believe your former club is in need of another striker?
“Right now you have Eddie Nketiah at the club alongside Gabriel Jesus, but signing a third striker could present them with a luxury that could be useful at this level, especially when you consider the amount of games that Arsenal could potentially play this season. The team always needs healthy competition and it needs quality, so if Arsenal were to sign another striker in the near future, then it would be [Ollie] Watkins over [Ivan] Toney if the decision was up to me.”
If the decision was yours, who would you start in net for Arsenal, Aaron Ramsdale or David Raya?
“I would be an old-fashioned manager and have just one number-one goalkeeper. The players are being nice and cooperating with this rotation but mentally, the goalkeeping position is the one area that you need the most certainty about because during games you don’t have the opportunity to touch the ball often, so you need to be sharp.
“I don’t believe one player is better than the other because they’re both similar in their level of performance and style, so I can’t choose who I’d start out of Aaron Ramsdale and David Rayar.”
Do you believe William Saliba is the best center-back in the Premier League?
“It’s a close call between him and [Rúben] Dias at Manchester City. William’s always improving and Arsenal dropped a lot of points towards the end of last season when he wasn’t available, so that’s a credit to his performances and what he’s bringing to the team.
“This is a big season for him and he needs to continue to prove to everybody just how good he is and become even more of a leader in Arsenal’s defence. I’m really pleased to see how well he’s developing at the moment.”
Reports this weekend suggest that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to take control of 25% of Manchester United. Despite it not being a full or majority ownership, do you believe this is a positive step for your former club considering that it’s suggested that Ratcliffe will be given control of the club’s football operations?
“It’s one step, but I don’t know in which direction. Time will tell if it’s a positive step for the club. It’s impossible to judge at the moment because we don’t know what the terms are and whether it’s even going to happen or not, so it’s too premature to comment on.
“What we do know about Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS is that they’re not new in sport. They’ve got a certain level of experience, and expertise and have had a few years in control of OGC Nice. Football’s a difficult environment and you can’t just come along with your science and data because that’s not going to be enough to make you successful at running a football club. We need to be patient at the moment and see how things pan out.”
Are you certain that Erik ten Hag is the man to get Manchester United back to winning trophies on a regular basis?
“When results aren’t going your way, you’re always going to have players that complain, especially those who’re not being selected in the starting eleven. That’s how it is and as long as everything is under control in the dressing room, and the team is working towards the same objective, then at some point good fortune will return.
“I think there have been a lot of unfortunate moments for Manchester United so far this season. So many players are injured, including a number of those who would usually start, so it’s a very difficult situation to manage.
“It’s been a tough start, but I don’t think the manager is in danger of losing his job. He’s not got a grip on his squad at the moment, so there is still a lot of work to do. He hasn’t been at the club for a long time, but obviously, in football, you want immediate results and that’s not always a simple thing to achieve.”
What are your thoughts on Mason Mount’s start to life as a Manchester United player? Were you surprised that Manchester United signed him in the first place or were you excited by his addition?
“When I first heard that Manchester United were signing Mason Mount, I was very pleased with this move because he’s been playing in the Premier League for quite some time with Chelsea and he did a very good job for them.
“Unfortunately for him, his final few months at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t have gone the way he would have liked them to, but he’s still young and he’s an international player for England, so ultimately I believe he will be a good fit for Manchester United in the long run.
“In his first few months at Old Trafford, he’s not hit the ground running and he’s had to miss a couple of games through injury too. In football, you always have the opportunity to bounce back and he will be given the time he needs to settle in, improve, and get back to his very best.”
Are you convinced that André Onana can overcome his poor spell of form in the coming weeks? Do you believe Manchester United should have kept hold of David de Gea rather than signing Onana in the summer?
“Manchester United got rid of David de Gea because he was making mistakes and now André Onana is doing that too. There are question marks surrounding the goalkeeping situation at the club at the moment and it needs to be resolved as soon as possible because this is the one position that can bring confidence to the entire team.
“The margin for error in the Premier League and the Champions League is so small that you can’t go around making these kinds of mistakes. Manchester United aren’t as dominant as they once were and you can no longer expect them to easily recover from going a goal down in a game, so this is why it’s even more important for them to keep clean sheets and be stronger defensively.
“Onana isn’t responsible for all of the goals that Manchester United have conceded so far this season and the fact that they have rarely been given the opportunity to play the same back four in consecutive games makes it more difficult for them to progress as a unit. It’s been very difficult for the team as a whole, but Onana’s got some work to do and he knows that.”
Do you believe that Marcus Rashford should be dropped from Manchester United’s starting eleven?
“I think Marcus needs to be supported and kept in the starting eleven. He’s been creating chances, but his teammates haven’t been able to take them and he’s also struggling to score himself. He needs to stay in the team, try and play himself back into form and hopefully, he can return to the same levels of performances that he was at last season soon.”
Are you greatly concerned by the form of Casemiro? Do you believe he’s suffering from second-season syndrome?
“I expect him to return to his very best soon. His last few games haven’t exactly been awful, but we all know that players can’t always be at 100% across a 50-game-long season.
“It’s been a rocky start for the entire squad, not just Casemiro, and it’s difficult to name one player who has been outstanding. This season has been very up and down for Manchester United, but Casemiro is still a world-class player and hopefully, he will show everybody his worth soon.”
Do you believe it’s in Manchester United’s best interests to allow Jadon Sancho to leave in January?
“We need to think about both the club and the player in this situation. The club is an institution and they pay big transfer fees, and large wages, and ultimately they have to make sensible business decisions.
“For Jadon, it’s a disappointing situation for him at the moment because it doesn’t seem as if he’s getting along with Erik ten Hag and that’s a pity because when you sign for a club like Manchester United you want to do well and you expect great things. It just hasn’t clicked for him.
“A move in January is probably the best solution for both parties at the moment. Jadon can look ahead and find himself a new challenge because it’s currently a complicated situation for him at Manchester United.”
Do you back your former teammate Wayne Rooney to be a success at Birmingham City? Do you believe he can get them promoted to the Premier League this season?
“I don’t follow Birmingham City, so I can only speak about Wayne as a professional. Ever since he first kicked a football, Wayne’s been passionate about the sport. He’s not new to management and he’s already managed in the Championship, which is a very difficult league in general, with Derby County, where he had to deal with points deductions, so at least he’s in a better position now with Birmingham City.
“The Championship is a very tough league and if you have to go through the play-offs, then it can be a very long season, but this job gives Wayne the platform to grow and improve as a manager.
“I’m sure he will embrace working in England again and work hard to achieve success with Birmingham City. His coaching staff, which includes Ashley Cole and my former teammate John O’Shea, will play a big part too and they will need to help Wayne as he’s still a young manager. They need to work hard as a team if they’re to achieve their objectives at the club.”
Did you ever expect Wayne to go into management?
“I didn’t expect him to go straight into management, especially in a league like the Championship because he didn’t manage at youth team or reserve level before that. He went straight in at the deep end and for Birmingham City to pick him as their new manager, then they’ve obviously been impressed with the work he’s done at his previous clubs.
“Football is a small world and when a club hires a new manager, decision-makers do their due diligence and Birmingham City must have been left impressed by Wayne’s methods, philosophy, and results.
“I’m pleased for him because this is what he wants and he is fully embracing the job and opportunity.”