Mark Hughes can understand why Manchester United’s supporters have expressed their unhappiness about performances this season – but the Stoke City boss expects his former club to arrest their slump before long.
United dropped out of the top four of the Premier League over the weekend after losing 2-1 to Norwich City at Old Trafford, extending their winless run to six games and heaping the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.
The club’s supporters have made their feelings clear on several occasions this season, something which has not surprised Hughes.
“There will be times when that happens but, as always, it’s about performance,” the Stoke City boss said. “People go to United in numbers and if the level of performance isn’t correct then they will let their feelings be known.
“That’s what happens here (at Stoke) as well. Nobody backs away from that.
“You understand as a manager that if your team is not functioning as well as your fans think they should then questions will be asked and people will vent their frustration towards you. It’s nothing new, and it will never change.”
Despite their problems this season, Hughes does not expect United’s poor form to continue for too long.
“More often than not if you’ve got a strong group of players and leaders within that group they can get themselves together, shake themselves out of it and do something about it,” he said. “That’s what all Man United teams in the past have done, and I would fully expect them to do it again this year.”
Responsibility on players
Hughes, who made 473 appearances as a player for United in two separate spells, is well aware of the demands at the club but points out that, despite the criticism, his former club have continued to dominate games under Van Gaal.
“There’s a responsibility to entertain,” Hughes said. “You’re on a huge stage playing for a world renowned club. That’s always been the Manchester United way. It’s always been woven into fabric of the club and the teams that have put the shirt on.
“It’s a huge demand to play for Manchester United and a lot of players can’t deal with it. Over the years there have been some outstanding players which have gone to Manchester United and haven’t been able to deal with the expectation that comes with being a United player. That can have an effect.
“I think there is a little bit of noise surrounding the club and debate about how they are playing – which way the club is going. I think with all United teams there is a responsibility and an onus on the players to go out and perform like Man United players, and understand what the demands of being part of a big club like Man United entails.
“From the games I have seen, they are dominating games for the most part. Their game seems a lot more possession-based than it has been in the past but, notwithstanding last week’s performance (against Norwich), they had a lot of possession and created a lot of chances.
“They have got good players, they have got a good squad. They have got good individual talent. You would expect at some point they would start to click again. Hopefully we won’t allow that at the weekend.”