Nobody expected Manchester United to sink to such a low level so fast this season, and nobody at the club would have planned for this, says Gary Neville.
United suffered their fourth defeat in six in the Premier League as they lost 2-0 a home to Manchester City, going down to an early Eric Bailly own goal and Bernardo Silva’s wholly avoidable goal just before half-time.
After a relatively stabilising week – United beat Spurs 3-0 and grabbed a last-minute 2-2 draw with Atalanta – they were back in the doldrums with just one shot on target and four touches in City’s box.
Pressure has been dumped back on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and though Neville feels there is little chance of United making a change during the season, he believes nobody at the club would have planned for such a downfall.
“Ole is under massive, massive pressure but the first thing that has to happen is that he needs a team with courage,” said Neville.
“Up to the end of last season, the feeling here was that there was progression because they finished second in the league. Everyone then thought that they got their recruitment right in the summer.
“So the club has not planned for this. I know there are some United fans who think the club should have acted two weeks ago because Antonio Conte was available but this club was never going to appoint Conte and they are not prepared for this moment because they have the plan behind Ole.
“I don’t think there is any chance there will a decision [on the manager] during this season unless it gets so bad and it is getting to the point where it is so bad. They are 11 points off the top of the league if Chelsea win today and this United squad should not be 11 points off the top. Nobody has expected this. Nobody would have expected United would sink so low at this point in the season.
“I think he has a few weeks to sort it out.”
Keane slams players: ‘If your job depends on them, you’re in trouble!’
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane pulled no punches after the performance, singling out Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for criticism.
And despite stemming the flow in the second half and keeping the score down, Keane feels Solskjaer may be under more pressure after this game than the 5-0 humiliation against Liverpool.
“I think Solskjaer will be under more pressure tonight than even the Liverpool game,” he said.
“When you are the manager, and he’s come into this game this morning, speaking about the players being in a good mood, but I’ve been a manager and if you are going to a match and you are looking over your shoulder on the bus and you see Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Fred, and your job depends on these guys, then you are in trouble.
“They are international players. Shaw, Maguire, Bailly, the midfield and Fred. Fred is playing for Manchester United. Anyone who tells me Fred is good enough for United is living in cuckoo land, and that is an important part of the football pitch.
“You are looking at these players and you don’t know what you are going to get. You don’t know what you are going to get with Manchester United.”
Fred is playing for Manchester United. Anyone who tells me Fred is good enough for United is living in cuckoo land
Keane adds that United are in a bad place, with their biggest rivals tasting more success in recent years, and suggests that Solskjaer may be better off out of the job and not having to rely on the current crop of players.
“Now, Man City are going to enjoy their day and Liverpool have won one title in 30-odd years, but Man Utd are in a bad place, but there is a way out of it.
“Is Ole the man to do it? Huge question mark. I hope he is but it is more hope than belief because every time there is a bad performance like that Ole gets the blame.
“Every time United produce a result, Ole’s the luckiest man on the planet. He’s got Ronaldo. Ole can’t seem to win but he has to look at himself in the mirror and he needs to do better here.
“He came into United at a difficult time, he’s managing one of the biggest clubs in the world, but if you’ve got bluffers on the bus with you, and you are depending on Shaw and Wan-Bissaka. Imagine, you are depending on these guys.
“Ole, you might be better off out of it.”
Ole: Not how I want Man Utd to play
Speaking after the game, Solskjaer told Sky Sports this is not the way he wants his side to play.
“We need to get back to what we started to look like for a while, and we’ve got the players to do that,” he said.
“We’ve been in this situation a few times of course, since the last game we played here it has been a very difficult period. We need to be on the front foot more, I can’t look at myself and say this is the way I want Manchester United to play.”
Asked if he is starting to think he is on borrowed time: “No, I don’t start to do that. I have good communications all the time with the club, we’re very upfront and honest about the situation. I work for Man Utd and want the best for Man Utd and while I’m here I’ll do what I can to improve this, and that’s going back to what we started to look like.”
Asked if the defeat was a brutal reminder of the chasm between themselves and the top teams in the Premier League, Solskjaer said: “At the moment, yep we are, but we’ve got to get back to what we started to look like, and we started to look like a proper team at the end of last season, start of this season. We’ve got to get back to that.
“I’m sure when we come back, the players will be fresh in their mind after internationals. The demands on me and the players are going to be high, the expectations.”