Paul Scholes believes Erik ten Hag can only afford to play one – or neither – of Fred and Scott McTominay for Manchester United going forward.
The often maligned midfield duo were under the microscope again for their performances in a 2-1 defeat to Brighton on the opening day of the season. For example, Fred failed to track a run that led to one of Pascal Gross’ two goals.
McTominay, meanwhile, was fortunate to stay on the pitch after only receiving a yellow card for a high, studded challenge on Moises Caicedo.
Manchester United have failed to bring in competition for the deep midfield pair so far this summer. Their main target has been Barcelona playmaker Frenkie de Jong, but there has been little progress recently.
Clearly, the club would benefit from further options to compete with Fred and McTominay over the course of the season. After all, they are down numerically following the exits of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba in the summer.
In fact, former midfielder Scholes believes Ten Hag cannot rely on his initial starting duo in midfield and that one or both must be dropped throughout the season.
“It was a shocking start for Man Utd and the first half was shambolic really,” Scholes told Premier League Productions.
“The signs were there right from the first few minutes that this was going to be bad.
Scholes calls McTominay ‘ridiculous’
“McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, ridiculous. The quality in the middle of the pitch was really poor.
“I was happy he didn’t get sent off but I think he was slightly lucky. Again, he’s running with the ball rather than passing it, absolutely ridiculous.
“It could easily have been a red card. The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough but we’ve seen that for the last few years with these two players.
“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] is going to have to play just one of them but even one of them is probably too many.
“Fred gives the ball away all the time and McTominay’s trying to run with the ball constantly and then gives it away. Pass it to your best players! It’s not that difficult. It’s criminal on a day like today.”
Neither Fred nor McTominay lasted the 90 minutes. They were replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo (whose introduction up front prompted Christian Eriksen to drop deeper) and Donny van de Beek respectively.
Ten Hag does not have many other options to rely on, so might be hoping for some transfer business before the window closes.
That said, he conceded in his post-match interviews that he thinks the existing players could have done better anyway.