Former Manchester United midfielder Marcel Sabitzer feels the team’s current issues are partly down to the absence of a key trio of players.
The Austria international spent the second half of last season on loan at Old Trafford but his move was not made permanent and he ended up completing a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund instead.
United have already suffered five defeats in the Premier League this season and also lost their opening two Champions League group-stage outings before getting a huge three points last time out against FC Copenhagen.
Erik ten Hag continues to be a serious sack candidate, despite watching his side grab a last-gasp 1-0 win at Fulham on Saturday.
But Sabitzer feels things could have been different for his old side if three players had been regulars in the team this season.
Indeed, the Austrian thinks performances ‘will change quickly’ once Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro are back in the side.
“‘I feel very positive about my time there and still talk to a couple of people,” Sabitzer told The Athletic.
“You ask yourself, ‘what’s going on?’ There’s a lot of noise, results are not good, they’ve had defeats at home, which almost felt unthinkable last season. And there’s still the unresolved situation of the ownership. You can see what that does to a team.
“I feel sorry for them because they’re all good guys, and extremely hungry for success.
“Casemiro, Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez – they are leaders that provide structure and stability to the team.
“Erik ten Hag comes with up very specific match plans and patterns of play. But if you have too many important players missing and too many changes as a result, things get lost between the tactics board and the pitch. The rhythm of players coming isn’t right, processes aren’t right.
“In the Premier League and Champions League, you need your best players available. Everything feels a little laboured and uncertain now. They need their big guys to show up and change the course of the season, but I believe things can change quickly once they get important players back.”
Ten Hag backed by former United star
Sabitzer also praised Ten Hag’s man-management skills and insists the players know exactly where they stand with the Dutchman.
He added: “You can wake him up at 3am, he’d tell you his whole match plan by heart.
“He’s very knowledgeable about football and tactics, a very hard worker, a perfectionist.
“And he’s very straight with you. When I had a bad game, he showed me some situations and told me how to do it better next time. I liked that. You knew where you stood with him. He never threw you under the bus. Instead, he told players to go out and do better in the next game.
“I learned a lot about football working under him. He’s a very good coach.”
United will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins in Europe when they head to Denmark to face Copenhagen again on Wednesday evening.