Ian Wright has taken two Manchester United players to the cleaners after hitting out at their performances during the Red Devils’ disappointing 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa on Sunday.
The Red Devils had the chance to move into the top four were they able to claim all three points at Villa Park. But the feel-good factor built up by Erik ten Hag’s side in recent weeks was rapidly swept away by a resurgent Villa. Indeed, United found themselves 2-0 down after just 11 minutes – and there was no way back for the visitors.
The defeat – their first in the Premier League since their 6-3 humbling at the Etihad – leaves United in fifth. They are three points behind Tottenham with a game in hand. But such is their inferior goal difference to Spurs that they are unlikely to break into the top four before the break for the World Cup.
Embodying United’s poor performance at Villa Park was summer signing Casemiro.
The Brazilian has been a rock solid performer since signing for United in a near £70m deal. Indeed, the story of how the 4-0 loss at Brentford convinced him to sign for United can be revealed here.
In fact, his introduction to the United side can be attributed to the club’s excellent recent form. However, it all came crashing back down as Casemiro produced his worst display since signing for the club.
The former Real Madrid man won just one tackle and lost seven defensive duels at Villa Park. He also committed four fouls and was guilty of affording Villa far too much space.
And while Christian Eriksen also struggled, Wright felt Victor Lindelof was equally culpable in Villa’s opener.
Casemiro and Victor Lindelof criticised
“Ollie Watkins played very well, he ran himself into the ground today. Once it got to Leon Bailey on his left foot, it was going to be a problem. [Watkins] dragged Lindelof out of his position,” Wright told Premier League Productions.
“I was thinking Casemiro has got to drop in there. It just looks too big, there was a massive space. You can see once the ball went into Leon Bailey on his strong foot, it could have been avoided. They needed to have their wits about them there.
“I’m very surprised Casemiro didn’t see that.”
United boss Ten Hag had described the loss to Villa as ‘unacceptable’ as Unai Emery got his Villa career off to a flying start.
“It’s not acceptable that you concede a goal so quickly in the second half on the counter. Our players are experienced. You have to read the game and get right the organisation. Not concede two goals [early in the game] – that’s totally unnecessary.
“You have to win your battles. At the start of the game we could have been better on ball. It starts with the players following the rules.
“It looked like they [Aston Villa][ were fresher. That’s not acceptable.
“Players have to take responsibility and be ready.”
The 3-1 setback was not the result Cristiano Ronaldo will have wanted on the day he was named Manchester United captain.
Ten Hag claims Man Utd have six leaders
Defending the decision to hand him the armband, the United manager claims the club have six players he feels can lead the club.
“It’s about Harry Maguire is on the bench,” Ten Hag said. “Bruno [Fernandes] is our captain, not available, and then it’s about David de Gea: leader, but goalie is far away from the outfield. Then Casemiro is the leader, Licha [Martinez] can be a leader, Casemiro is not speaking 100% perfect English. And then Cristiano is the leader, especially [he] is the leader of the team so he has the band, clear.”
The game also saw Donny van de Beek making a rare start in the absence of Bruno Fernandes.
However, the Dutchman did not inspire confidence with his display. As such, it was no surprise to see him hooked after 65 minutes.
After the game, Ten Hag did not name Van de Beek specifically, but suggested there were some players in the side who did not do their job.
“Bruno Fernandes is an important player but what you want to express, no, I don’t have that feeling,” Ten Hag replied when the Fernandes factor was raised.
“It’s about also the players on the pitch have to win this game and they can do their work. If they do their job, with 100 per cent, with passion, desire, following the rules and principles of football then we win this game.
“It’s always difficult when you are playing with 10 others. It’s not the day from the team to value an individual. And I think it was collectively that we bring a bad performance.”