Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ten Hag sack: Gary Neville reveals Man Utd ‘fear’ over axing Dutchman as he warns ‘it’s happening again’

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has warned that sacking Erik ten Hag will achieve nothing at Manchester United

Gary Neville has warned that sacking Erik ten Hag will achieve nothing at Manchester United

Gary Neville has offered some strong thoughts to claims that Manchester United could sack Erik ten Hag following a crunch week at Old Trafford that sees them take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League and a Premier League trip to face league leaders Liverpool.

The Dutchman oversaw a brilliant first season in charge at Manchester United after guiding them to a third-place finish in the Premier League, the FA Cup final and success in the Carabao Cup. However, there has been a major downturn in form for the club during his second campaign at the helm, with United appearing to lurch from one crisis to another.

After beating Chelsea last Wednesday, all seemed rosy in the United garden again and there was a genuine belief the 2-1 win over Mauricio Pochettino’s side would prove a turning point in their season.

And with the gap to neighbours Manchester City being reduced at that time to just three points, several observers were quick to play down the apparent ‘crisis’ the club finds itself in.

However, their season sunk to a new nadir on Saturday when Bournemouth won 3-0 at Old Trafford for their first-ever Premier League win at the famous old ground.

In truth, Andoni Iraola’s side were unlucky not to win by a greater margin with a fourth goal harshly chalked off for a perceived handball in the build-up.

Nonetheless, the impact of that defeat has been felt and a report on Sunday explained why time ‘was up’ for the Dutchman with three major failngs of his Man Utd regime pointed out.

Nothing of course will happen ahead of a defining week for United, which begins on Tuesday against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

READ MORE: Seven contenders to replace Ten Hag if Man Utd decide to axe Dutchman

Gary Neville offers Man Utd advice on Ten Hag sack

Even victory over the German giants will not guarantee United’s passage through to the knockout rounds, with a win for either FC Copenhagen or Galatasaray in the other Group B match sending United tumbling out the competition at the first hurdle.

And with a trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool following after – and Ten Hag will have painful memories of their 7-0 battering there in March – it could prove a decisive week in not just United’s season, but also for the Dutchman’s future.

Indeed, history could be repeating itself with Jose Mourinho axed as Man Utd boss himself following a 3-1 defeat at Anfield on 16 December 2018.

Now five years and a day after the Mourinho took his final bow for United, speculation is growing the axe could also fall on Ten Hag. To set the tone, one Sky Sports pundit has hit out at United’s lack of identity under the Dutchman.

However, Neville has used his weekly Sky Sports column to warn United that sacking Ten Hag would achieve nothing.

Nonetheless, he admits he “fears” for the Dutchman ahead of a difficult week but argues the club would be making the same mistakes all over again, with United regularly going through the same cycle over the last eight seasons.

“I fear for Erik ten Hag generally – not just because of this week. [Facing] Bayern Munich and Liverpool should take care of itself. What will happen, will happen,” he wrote for Sky Sports.

“A cycle is repeating itself again: manager has a half-decent season, he gets a lot of power. There’s no control above him to say ‘no’ when he wants players, there’s no strength of leadership, a manager then takes over and signs his own players that he favours.”

Man Utd troubles blamed on lack of leadership

Neville continued: “We’ve seen it with Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But coaches and managers aren’t the heads of recruitment.

“They lean towards certain players they may have worked with before, and they try to merge them into a team with players that another manager has signed.

“The players then don’t look like they fit together, the atmosphere becomes a bit toxic, there’s a fall-out or two, then the manager starts to come under a bit of pressure. And then usually, they get sacked.

“I’ve been here so many times over the past six, seven, eight years – and it’s happening again before our eyes.”

As a result, Neville is adamant that axing Ten Hag will achieve nothing at Old Trafford.

“I hope that somehow Erik ten Hag can turn it around this season and he can improve what’s happening at the moment, or else he will be in trouble as it’s inevitable,” he stated.

“We’ve seen it with Ole, Jose and Louis van Gaal. But there’s no way they should change Ten Hag this season. This idea of sacking him is an absolute nonsense. I wouldn’t be in favour of that anyway.

“There’s a lack of leadership and structure above him. I know people say, ‘you can’t blame the Glazers’ – yes, you can! Because it’s 10 years of failure and miserable recruitment.

“It comes down to the fact that they’ve not got a sporting director, a proper head of recruitment in place. That’s why this happens.

“It’s because ultimately managers and coaches look above them and see they haven’t got anyone to help them so they might as well try to do it themselves.”

Neville wants Sir Jim Ratcliffe to appoint sporting director

With incoming new investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe soon set to have his £1.4bn investment into 25 per cent of United ratified, the British businessman will be given a hands-on role in the running of Manchester United.

And Neville insists his first and most important appointment will be to find the club’s first-ever sporting director.

“It all comes down to leadership. If it happened once, you might think ‘fair enough’ but this has happened five times in 10 years.

“Sir Jim Ratcliffe is going to have to sort this out. You wonder how he is going to be able to pull them out of it. That’s the concern I have. What we need is a new change of structure at the top which will happen in the next few weeks.

“Hopefully that will change the way the sporting project is looked at because you can’t come in and leave everything as it is.

“Maybe, with some sort of leadership and structure at the club, United will then have the ability to cope with the other clubs who recruit and do business a lot better.

“At the moment we’re biding our time until the new ownership starts.

“I’ve said it before, people say you can’t blame the Glazers for this or that, you can. You absolutely put the lack of success in a sporting sense down to the owners. They haven’t got a sporting director, someone strong enough to say no to a manager.

“It’s the hardest job in football getting recruitment precise. But if you get it wrong £300m-£400m at a time, three or four times in 10 years, that is complete, ultimate failure and that’s down to the owners for not dealing with that.”

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