It being the season of goodwill to all men, acerbic analyst Eamon Dunphy was uncharacteristically generous in his praise of a number of Liverpool and Manchester United stars after their sides recorded Premier League wins on St Stephen’s Day.
However, Paul Pogba has a long way to go to win over the former Republic of Ireland international.
The Red Devils recorded a fourth consecutive league win when they inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Sunderland on Monday, with a resurgent Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring an audacious volley in the process.
Dunphy believes the Armenian midfielder is the real deal and while he doesn’t regard the club as title contenders, he did concede that the Old Trafford outfit have upped their game in recent weeks.
“Mkhitaryan is a very, very good player,” Dunphy told listeners on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On.
“They’ve improved and they’re controlling games now with a dodgy back four. I mean (Marcos) Rojo as a centre-half?
“But Phil Jones has made a difference. He’s fit now. He’s a very good centre-half. That’s made a difference.
“I thought they’d be buried this year with Ibrahimovic. But he’s actually done well for them. He’s led the line well. He’s scored very important goals.
“Carrick coming back into the side has made a difference. He’s solid, he’s experienced. He doesn’t give the ball away, he screens in front of the back four, reads situations. At 35, he’s doing a job.
“But United are not really Championship contenders and aren’t going to be in the foreseeable future.”
The Dubliner continues to question Pogba and those who value the attributes of the France international.
“He’s kind of the elephant in the room,” Dunphy said. “All of the guys are bumming him up every chance they get, the so-called experts.
“But he’s pretty ordinary for £100m. He is playing OK now. He has made some goals, but he’s not really a footballer.”
“I think he’s wonderful, I think he’s the best English striker. He’s just class."
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, who scored the final goal in his side’s 4-1 win over Stoke City, came in for the highest of praise from Dunphy.
“I think Sturridge is a marvellous player,” he eulogised. “I think he’s wonderful, I think he’s the best English striker. He’s just class.
“Apparently, he doesn’t have a lot of confidence. He’s’ a very nice guy, but a very gentle guy, and I don’t think he’s had a lot of confidence throughout his career.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men trail Chelsea by six points in the title race and their perceived defensive frailties continue to concern Dunphy.
“The defence doesn’t look great,” he said. “That’s the difference between Chelsea and Liverpool, because they score more goals than anybody else and around the field they have it pretty much right.
“But they’re going to have to invest in good defenders - at least two.
“They have a fella called Gomez to come back who has been out, sadly, for 18 months, who I think is a very, very good player. He’s a left-back.
“He may make a big difference and that would release James Milner, who has been outstanding and is an outstanding player.
“They’ve got a bit of work to do, but on the plus side Klopp has improved players he inherited from Brendan Rodgers.”