Gary Neville says Manchester United’s midfield was “outnumbered, out-played and out-fought” as they were demolished at Arsenal.
Louis van Gaal’s side found themselves 3-0 down before the match at the Emirates was 20 minutes old, with Alexis Sanchez’s superb brace sandwiching Mesut Ozil’s fine first-time finish.
The victory takes Arsenal into second places in the Premier League table, above United on goal difference.
Analysing the game in the Sky Sports Gary Neville Podcast, the pundit argued that Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney didn’t offer enough protection from the impressive midfield play of their opponents.
He said: “Manchester United looked shell-shocked and it didn’t look like they’d prepared for Arsenal’s strengths – which were Cazorla in midfield and stopping him playing and Ozil getting in space.
“I have to say the tactic around the use of Schweinsteiger in the first half was odd. Not maybe to start with. If you look at the very start of the game, Manchester United’s back four were pushed really far up the pitch. It looked like they were on the front foot and were going to go for them.
“After four or five minutes and you’re 2-0 down you think it must stop. You have to retreat. You have to do something different and there was no change at all in the first half from United; no adaptation from what was happening.
“Schweinsteiger, Carrick and Rooney got completely outnumbered, out-played and out-fought. Everything you wouldn’t want in a central midfield.
“It exposed them. Mata and Depay don’t get back and double up with Darmian and Young and it exposed Manchester United’s full-backs in particular.
“Darmian probably had the most difficult game he’s had. He’s done very well since coming over from Italy, but he really struggled and was subbed at half time.
“That midfield that protected Manchester United’s back four in the past few weeks has been a very compact unit all the way through the team, but it wasn’t there today. They got dismantled in that first half and the two full-backs got exposed against very, very good Arsenal play.”
In contrast, Neville was full of praise for the Gunners.
“From Arsenal’s side there’s still a job to do,” he added.
“The quality and the precision of the passing still has to be there; the speed, the weight of pass and the decision making.
“Everything was absolutely spot on from Arsenal’s point of view. It was as good as it possibly could be from Arsenal.
“I thought United were poor defensively, but Arsenal punished them so, so well.”