Manchester United are the easiest team to play against in the Premier League, says Gary Neville, as he reiterates his desire to see the Glazer family sell the club after the team were beaten 2-1 by Brighton in Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge.
Any summer optimism soon faded as two first-half goals from Pascal Gross were enough to give Graham Potter’s side victory at Old Trafford. Speaking to Sky Sports afterwards, Neville highlighted problems with the owners, the players, and the recruitment at the club.
“They are the easiest team to play against in the league – that’s a massive worry. The openness of them is unbelievable.
“It will have been a shock to him [Ten Hag] after a promising pre-season.
“But anyone who has watched those Manchester United players he has been handed will recognise that is a familiar performance and the people above him should have known that was an unacceptable situation to hand Erik ten Hag that squad.
“It needed improving more than it has been. There is still time in the window but he needed three or four weeks more to work with them.
“Every coach comes in thinking they can do better than the last coach with the players at his disposal as they believe they are a better coach and that is probably the case with this. But the reality is, he’s seen what those players are capable of today.
“Those players had a good season when the fans weren’t in the stadium during Covid but when the fans came back, the team now can’t come from behind in games.
“I don’t think any Manchester United fan or pundit that has watched this team over the last 12 months, with the same players playing in the same positions, expected anything different that what we saw.
“Ten Hag will be disappointed because he saw positive signs in pre-season but the reality has hit home.
“The coach needs time so I won’t have a go at him. And it comes a time where I won’t even have a go at the players anymore. If you have a business and the people in that business can’t do the job for you then you remove them from the business.
“It’s abuse to keep them in the job for longer as they don’t enjoy it either.
“The reality is those players need replacing or supported more by better players.
“They knew six, eight or even 12 months ago that the squad needed investment this summer.
“Players like (Juan) Mata and (Nemanja) Matic were leaving, they knew the problems with Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo coming to the end. (Edinson) Cavani leaving, the situation with Mason Greenwood not in the club anymore.
“These things have been known for a long time.
“I am concerned about every element of the recruitment. The reliance on buying Dutch players means the recruitment department aren’t being trusted as the manager is going to Holland to get players he knows. A market which isn’t always the most precise market for the Premier League – there have been some good players but it doesn’t have a great hit rate. I’m concerned about that.
“There is a little bit of despair that the coach, an outstanding coach, has not been given the tools he needs so he can start the season with a revitalised squad.
“There is a feeling if they get Frenkie de Jong it will be a successful window. It won’t be. They needed a lot more than De Jong. They might not even get him, although I hope they do as he’s an important player for the coach. There will be a bit of panic at the club as the pressure will be big from the media, the fans.”
As for the owners, Neville is emphatic about what must happen.
“The time has come for the Glazer family to sell the football club. It’s now.”
Keane’s verdict: ‘I saw the same problems’
“You talk about pre-season, I saw a lot of PR nonsense coming out of Manchester United during the games and I still saw the same problems,” Roy Keane told Sky Sports.
“It’s the same characters, same personalities, especially in midfield.
“There is elements of talent in the squad but when they have setback they don’t deal with it. I go back to the DNA of the club and culture at the training ground, it’s not there. I don’t see personalities, I don’t see characters.
“Harry Maguire saying it’s a nightmare start, it’s up to the players to do something about it. He keeps coming out as the captain saying how disappointed they are as a group. ‘We go again’.
“Leopards and spots, they must make some changes.
“It’s not all about throwing money at it but if these players aren’t up to it and good enough for Manchester United.”