Gary Neville says Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen have turned Manchester United around, while also praising Marcus Rashford.
United manager Erik ten Hag noticed his defence was a major issue following last season’s dismal sixth-placed finish. He therefore brought in left-back Malacia and centre-back Martinez.
Malacia was in fact Ten Hag’s first signing, while Argentina star Martinez arrived after a failed chase for his fellow former Ajax team-mate Jurrien Timber.
In midfield, former Brentford and Tottenham man Eriksen arrived and has settled well.
Speaking to Sky Sports before kick-off in Sunday’s Manchester derby, Neville lauded the trio. He added that England forward Rashford looks a “completely different player” under Ten Hag.
“Marcus Rashford looks a completely different player,” the pundit said. “Malacia, Martinez and Eriksen have changed this team. Their attitude, quality, the fact that they’re not blighted by what happened last season.
“Marcus Rashford is benefitting from that he’s been playing in his best position.
“I think he actually went to see Erik ten Hag and said basically, ‘I want to be in that position where I’m at my best’. He’s had good days here at City.
“Marcus Rashford can only do this and that’s run through on goal where there’s space to run into. He’s not someone who plays in pockets, he’s not someone who’s great with tight areas, he loves that space to run in behind. He’s one of the best at.”
Rashford had scored three goals and assisted two others in the Premier League this term before Sunday’s clash with Manchester City.
Neville calls for Man Utd change
However, Neville did admit that Ten Hag needs to make his team better with more possession if Man Utd are to progress.
While United play effectively on the counter-attack, he does not think they can do much over a long period playing that way.
“I think in the short term, he’s just had to do that to get results on the board, with the opponents they’ve had in Arsenal and Liverpool,” Neville added.
“In the longer term, if you’re going to try and win the league, he’s going to have to try and get possession in the big games and get that [to] 60, 70 per cent.
“Because that’s what I think title-winning teams do, it’s very rare you see counter-attacking title teams.”
New signings have settled well
Malacia has arguably been the most surprising signing at United this season.
He was initially billed as an understudy and a deputy to Luke Shaw.
However, the England international has lost his place to the Dutchman, who looks like he will take some budging from that left-back role.
In midfield, Eriksen was a smart acquisition on a free transfer given his experience in the Premier League with Spurs and Brentford.
And Martinez has silenced some of his doubters over his 5ft 7in frame, bringing a passion and fire back to the United defence which was sorely lacking last season.