Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ten Hag sack: Man Utd axe talk ramps up as Gary Neville brutally destroys Dutchman for ‘baffling’ tactics

Gary Neville was unimpressed with Manchester United tactics in their 2-2 draw v Liverpool and feels it adds to the sack talk gathering towards Erik ten Hag

Gary Neville was unimpressed with Manchester United tactics in their 2-2 draw v Liverpool

Gary Neville fears Erik ten Hag left himself badly exposed of the Manchester United sack after strongly condemning the Dutchman’s tactics and approach to Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils made major strides under Ten Hag during his first season at helm, reaching two cup finals and, crucially, claiming a third-placed finish in the Premier League to seal their return to the Champions League. However, little has gone their way this season, with Manchester United slumping to 12 defeats already in the Premier League and crashing out of Europe in embarrassing fashion.

They can salvage their season, somewhat, with success in the FA Cup with a semi-final showdown against Coventry City lying in wait, though their slim prospects of qualifying for the Champions League again appear to be over in the wake of three matches without a win.

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As a result, United are now a distant 11 points behind Tottenham in fourth, with a place in UEFA’s secondary competition, the Europa League, now looking far more likely.

Indeed, stormclouds over Ten Hag’s future have been gathering for months, particularly in light of our exclusive that revealed a number of senior players at Manchester United all expect the axe to fall on the Dutchman this summer.

Since our exclusive report, the likes of the Daily Mail and the Manchester Evening News – the latter of whom admittedly do have to step more carefully – have since followed suit with near-identical reports of their own.

And when the local paper suggests the writing could be on the wall, it certainly cannot bode well for the under-fire Dutchman.

Neville questions Ten Hag tactics after Liverpool draw

Woeful performances since the return from the international break have certainly done Ten Hag no favours, with United failing to win any of their last three games.

They were second best in a 1-1 draw at Brentford; conceded two injury time goals to lose 4-3 at Chelsea, and then were somewhat fortunate to claim a 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Those last two games has seen United conceding a record number of shots on their goal, with Chelsea managing 28 against them at Stamford Bridge on Thursday and then Liverpool trying their 15 times in that first half on Sunday.

As a result, Neville feels that, even though two brilliant goals from Bruno Fernandes and Kobbie Mainoo earned Man Utd a draw, their approach to the game at Old Trafford did Ten Hag no favours.

Speaking on the Gary Neville podcast, the pundit labelled United’s performance as ‘mad and chaotic’ and that their tactics were more than a little baffling.

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“Manchester United’s style of play is mad,” he said. “Some of the things you see out there, you wouldn’t see at schoolboy level.

“Their structure defensively goes from being in shape and being okay to all of a sudden emptying the whole midfield. Players press on their own without the rest of their team-mates going with them.

“You have players in front of the ball at throw-ins and the ball gets thrown in behind towards the back four.

“All of the things that you see as, if you like, the easiest things in football to do, Manchester United do really badly.

“They are so easy to play against. Liverpool had 15 shots in that first half.”


‘The type of performance that can get you the sack’

Neville added: “You can’t really coach that type of performance. You are just relying on individual moments, luck, goalkeepers making saves and defenders making blocks. That’s what we’ve seen from them against Liverpool.

“I don’t think it is any lack of endeavour. There is no lack of desire in the team. There’s just no sense to their actual performance levels.”

Neville also thinks that, despite claiming a 2-2 draw, United’s performance left more questions than answers over Ten Hag’s suitability to help United challenge the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for the game’s top honours.

“When [part-owner] Sir Jim Ratcliffe came in, we said it was like an audition until the end of the season for Ten Hag and what he needs is to build a style, a system and a pattern of play,” Neville continued.

“We don’t see a pattern.

“Most United fans, including myself, back Ten Hag and want him to succeed.

“But think about the performances this week. At Brentford, you can never accept that. That is a low in terms of all standards. That is where you are questioning desire, work ethic and the parts of the game where you are thinking has the manager lost the dressing room.

“Jamie Redknapp said it. That is the type of performance that can get a manager sacked.

“I actually don’t think we’ve seen that same type of performance against Chelsea and Liverpool. Brentford was by far the worst performance of the week in terms of energy and spirit.”

Man Utd approach to games is ‘fun, entertaining but mad’

“At Chelsea, you lose in the last minute. It’s embarrassing and bad to lose two goals late on but actually, you can lose a game of football that way.

“Against Liverpool, the same bad habits, the same bad structure, the same defensive errors and the same gaps in midfield. They were all there, but there is still a level of effort and desire.

Erik ten Hag insists his job is safe at Manchester United and he is not in danger of the sack

Erik ten Hag insists his job is safe at Manchester United and he is not in danger of the sack

“It is baffling, some of the things you see.”

Ten Hag continues to insist he is confident his job at Man Utd is not on the line and he will be in charge come next season.

But Neville added: “There are parts of the team where you do wonder what is going on in the coaching aspect during the week and what Ten Hag’s instruction is.

“I can’t believe Casemiro or Bruno Fernandes or Kobbie Mainoo are doing this off their own back. They must be being told to do it.

“But then, to be told to do it and watch it, it’s strange. It’s very, very strange to see.

“No other team in the league plays as badly out of possession as they do. That’s why they concede so many shots, and over 20 against Liverpool. That has got to stop and stop quickly.

“It’s difficult to defend, it really is. It’s been a strange week of football from Manchester United.

“If you try to analyse that week of football doing your coaching badges, or as a coach or a player or as a fan, you can’t even put it together. It’s odd.

“They are such an odd team to watch. I don’t really know what else to say other than that. It’s fun at times, entertaining, but mad.”

Jamie Carragher questions where Man Utd are going under Ten Hag

The condemnation also arrived from Neville’s co-commentator Jamie Carragher, who has also questioned the direction the club are heading in under the Dutchman.

“It’s obviously not gone great for Manchester United this season, but when we talk about a manager, we always say he needs results. That’s the same for every manager,” Carragher told Sky Sports.

“I actually think, with Erik ten Hag, that he needs performances to give Manchester United some belief going forward.

“I think you can accept the results this season in terms of them having injury problems. You can also talk about the ownership and other things. You can give some sort of reason as to why it hasn’t gone as well as people thought.

“But when you are watching your team, you’ve got to feel like you are seeing something and where it might be going, even if you are losing a game.

“That is the thing I would worry about as a Manchester United fan. I don’t quite see where it is going. What is the end result?

“If it is what we saw against Liverpool, I don’t think it can go up against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal over the next couple of years.”

Ten Hag told how he can spare himself from sack talk

Carragher was left bemused by their defensive frailties and suggests that above anything else could see the axe fall on Ten Hag.

“I’ve never been a manager, but it is easy to stop,” he said. “The basic principles of being tough to play against, I don’t think they are hard to coach.

“We’ve both been on the training pitch, keeping the team compact, narrow, back four, where’s our starting position. Are we high? Are we deep? Are we together?

“It’s basic. It’s the basics of football.

“It’s not about a fluid Pep Guardiola football or Jurgen Klopp football, it’s just about being difficult to beat. It’s something you would normally associate with a team coming up into the division.

“That’s the really strange thing for Manchester United going forward. Everyone will be delighted leaving the game today because it was a great game and they help knock Liverpool off the top of the league.

“But the bigger picture, of how the game started and how it finished, still leaves you scratching your head.”

United return to action on Saturday with a trip to face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium and looking to avenge arguably their worst result of the season, a 3-0 home loss to Andoni Iraola’s side back in December.

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