Gary Neville has conceded that he fears for Manchester United this season and reckons Erik ten Hag’s struggling side are “way off” finishing in the top five following a bleak start to the 2023/24 campaign.
The Red Devils have backed Ten Hag heavily once again, with seven new names arriving as part of a £175m transfer spree. And having spent around £216m the previous summer, Manchester United have parted with some £290m since the Dutchman’s arrival.
Evidentally, the club were able to make significant strides in Ten Hag’s first season at the helm, winning the Carabao Cup and finishing in third spot to clinch a place back in the Champions League.
However, they have not been able to find any sort of rhythm or consistency so far this season, with four wins and four defeats in their eight Premier League games to date. That leaves United stuck down in 10th place – and their situation would have looked far bleaker had Scott McTominay not produced a late rescue act to salvage a last-gasp recovery to beat Brentford on Saturday.
But with two defeats from two Champions League games to their name, all is not well in Ten Hag’s camp. As a result, speculation has arisen that the Dutchman could soon come under pressure for his job, even seeing the Man Utd boss linked with a shock return to his former club.
But while United officials remain behind his reign at present, he will know a rapid improvement is needed once the season resumes from its latest international break.
However, their form has a concerned Neville fearing the worst already – and he believes they already face a huge battle to finish in the top five, let alone any higher.
Gary Neville reveals where he thinks Man Utd will finish in Premier League
This season marks United’s worst start to a season since 1986 and Neville admits the situation is looking bleak.
“I don’t think Manchester United will finish in the top five this season,” Neville said on the Gary Neville Podcast.
“I think they are way off it. And I’m surprised because seven or eight weeks ago, I had them third, But honestly from what I see at the moment, I don’t think the goalkeeper is settled in, I think he should have saved the one [on Saturday, from Brentford’s Mathias Jensen] so that is a problem.
“If your goalkeeper is not settled in and there is a bit of instability around that, it does create a big problem. I’ve had that at United. So United, not for me.
“Chelsea, I think are probably nearer to it if they can go on a run because they have got some really good young talented players. Their age is a lot better than United’s squad.”
The form of Onana is also a concern too for BBC pundit Garth Crooks, who has also gone in hard on the £47.2 signing from Inter Milan.
“It’s hard enough trying to win matches when your goalkeeper is in good form,” wrote Crooks. “But when he’s making errors almost on a weekly basis it makes life very difficult for all concerned.
“Especially when you’ve had Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar and David de Gea keeping goal for you during the past 20 years, it becomes very conspicuous when you have a goalkeeper who is not in their class.”
Harry Maguire looks for Man Utd positives
Crooks continued: “In fact, Andre Onana is not even on their planet. Since the arrival of the Manchester United keeper, he’s been either smashing into centre-forwards, letting the ball slip through his fingers or, as was the case against Brentford, beaten by a shot a schoolboy would have been expected to save.”
With United also bottom of their Champions League group, recalled defender Harry Maguire – whom TEAMtalk has learned has been granted a stay of execution by Ten Hag beyond the January window – has urged the Red Devils to use the win over the Bees as motivation and fuel for the rest of the season.
“That was a really important win. Obviously it has been a difficult time for us at the start of this season. This must be a turning point for us all, as individuals and as a club. We must kick on from this,” he said.
United return to action on Saturday 21 October with a trip to face winless Sheffield United before a must-win home date with FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.
They then face Manchester City in a crucial Premier League match on October 29.