Former captain Gary Neville says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to “dismantle” his misfiring squad after Manchester United’s top-four tilt came to an end at Huddersfield.
The honeymoon period is well and truly over for the Norwegian, with United winning just two of their last 11 matches in all competitions.
That run saw their Champions League qualification hopes ended with a game to spare as United were held to a 1-1 draw at relegated Huddersfield.
Isaac Mbenza cancelled out Scott McTominay’s early goal as the Terriers capitalised on what furious former United defender Neville called an “awful” display.
The ex-skipper said there is “nothing about this United team I like at all” and said “they’re a despondent group of people” similar to the group Mauricio Pochettino inherited at Tottenham.
“This is not a team,” Neville said on Sky Sports. “The more I watch this it’s not a team. Do you know what it reminds me of?
“It reminds me of the Tottenham team that Mauricio Pochettino picked up. When it had (Emmanuel) Adebayor, (Younes) Kaboul, (Vlad) Chiriches and (Etienne) Capoue in midfield.
“A group of players that looked like individuals, nothing there, no real spirit and he dismantled it piece by piece and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to dismantle this piece by piece.”
It was a scathing comment that underlines the task that Solskjaer faces ahead of an unwanted return to the Europa League next term.
“Solskjaer is smiling at them they’re that bad,” Neville added.
“Manchester United’s away support will never stop singing but this group of players have drained the energy out of them.
“(Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward) had several (transfer windows) already so maybe it will be better this time.
“Ordinarily at this point in time you would say this is a real test for these Manchester United players, we will find out about them, but we already know.
“It’s just how they will do in this 25 minutes. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got the job and they’ve just switched off haven’t they?
“They’ve just switched off – simple as that. There can be no other explanation.”
Manchester United travelled to the Premier League’s worst team needing a win – and left with faces as red as their shirts.
The Red Devils started well enough as Scott McTominay’s eighth-minute strike, helped along by poor goalkeeping from Jonas Lossl, gave them a lead against a long-since relegated side that had mustered just four points from their previous 23 games.
United’s bright start quickly faded and there was little to separate the two sides in a game that for long spells resembled a relegation scrap, with Paul Pogba finding the woodwork and an under-fire David de Gea saving from Karlan Grant.
Then, on the hour, Lossl’s side-winder kick caught Luke Shaw out of position and allowed Isaac Mbenza to slot his first-ever Terriers goal through the legs of De Gea.
Another Pogba effort found the post again and substitute Tahith Chong forced a good stop from Lossl, but not even eight minutes of added time – totted up after Mbenza had destroyed the corner flag in jubilation – was enough to rescue the visitors.
As it was, their soporific display sent their top-four hopes into a permanent sleep.
McTominay and mediocrity
“He’s humble, he wants to learn, yet he doesn’t want headlines or flashes.” So said Jose Mourinho of McTominay, a comment that at the time felt more of a swipe at Pogba than praise for a future Manchester United star. A little more than a year later and only the most blinkered of Pogba fans would jot the £89m man’s name down ahead of McTominay in the starting XI.
Since slipping quietly onto the scene, the Scotland international is sturdy. Solid. Safe. Handy for a team whose default setting is disjointed.
He’s not just a steady Eddy, either. McTominay was first into the box and first back to defend numerous times on Sunday, and was the only player in red to sustain a pass success rate of 90 per cent.
Scott McTominay’s first half vs. Huddersfield by numbers:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 5, 2019
100% final third passes completed
100% defensive aerials won
89% pass accuracy
2 shots (1 on target)
Building on an excellent month. 🙌🏴 pic.twitter.com/rs6xj6rMtE
This is, however, Manchester United. And the opposition was Huddersfield, a team that last won a Premier League game on February 26 and are up there – or rather down there – with 2007/08 Derby as the worst side the division has ever seen.
A 22-year-old showing a bit of passion, nous and end product should be the bare minimum for a club of United’s stature. If he was a Manchester City or Liverpool player, he’d merely be a useful rotational piece.
In truth, the Red Devils’ only ‘silver lining’ – a fairly promising academy product – speaks for how grim the clouds gathered over Old Trafford truly are.
HIS ED’S NOT RIGHT
No amount of money in the world is likely to stitch Alexis Sanchez’s ego back together again. Google ‘biggest flops’ and the Chilean will be on the podium for eternity after prioritising cash over trophies with Manchester City. Still, he could turn the amount of pound notes he’s earned with the Reds into an incredibly comfy supersized mattress.
Based on figures supplied by Der Spiegel, Sanchez has earned approximately £29.5m since performing that ditty on the piano 67 weeks ago. That’s about £1m per start, or £6m per goal.
It wasn’t even as if he played particularly poorly against Huddersfield, certainly not compared to his team-mates. There were a couple of neat touches and darting runs before another issue reared its head to sum up how impossibly short-sighted the decision to throw money at him was.
The 30-year-old hobbled off with an ankle injury early in the second half, one more addition to an assortment of leg-related problems over the past 18 months. Who’d have thought that would happen after being run into the ground by both Arsenal and Chile?
Every time the television broadcast cut to the hapless Ed Woodward, the ‘brains’ behind this operational mishap, you could sense the blood boiling back in the red half of Manchester.
What hope is there with that man in charge?
Manchester United’s flimsy hopes of Champions League qualification officially ended with a limp 1-1 draw at relegated Huddersfield Town.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men needed victory to hold any hope of edging into the top four. They got off to a welcome start when Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay’s eight-minute drive comically went through Denmark goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.
But the visitors to John Smith’s Stadium soon lost momentum and Belgium Under-21 forward Isaac Mbenza took advantage of some risible defending from Luke Shaw on the hour mark to slot under Spain No1 David de Gea. This low strike came either side of France centre midfielder Paul Pogba hitting the cross bar, with a header and curled shot.
MAN UNITED (4-3-1-2)
David de Gea 6: Nutmegged for the equaliser, but the troubled Spaniard was blameless – for once.
Ashley Young 6: The veteran right-back was a willing runner on the overlap and did uncharacteristically well with his crosses.
Victor Lindelof 6: Was no lingering impact from 2017/18’s horror show at the ground. Went straight down tunnel when substituted.
Phil Jones 5: Didn’t cover himself in glory with his positioning for leveller. Looked cumbersome throughout.
Luke Shaw 4: Positioning was laughable for the counter-attack that did for United.
Scott McTominay 6: You make your own luck and his pot shot somehow crept in for a second Premier League goal.
Nemanja Matic 5: Nothing good, nothing bad. Statuesque Serbia, however, does nothing to improve United’s laughable running statistics.
Paul Pogba 6: Hit the crossbar with a first-half header and second-half shot. Often looked up to see zero movement in front of him.
Juan Mata 5: Spain playmaker led the way with key passes for United. But never looks like making a telling impact.
Marcus Rashford 5: Mixed bag. Snatched at one second-half shot, then threatened from 25 yards. Inconsistency not surprising given youth and injury concerns.
Alexis Sanchez 4: No shots in his 53 minutes on the pitch, prior to coming off with yet another injury. Watching the descent of a once-great player is excruciating.
2012 - Manchester United haven't won their last away league game of the season since the 2011-12 campaign, when they won 1-0 at Sunderland on the final day. Despondent. #HUDMUN pic.twitter.com/RGxivkqjvF— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 5, 2019
Ander Herrera 6: Added a bit of energy, as expected.
Tahith Chong 6: Raw, but talented. Messed up some touches, yet forced fine low save from Lossl.
Diogo Dalot N/A: Sight of Portuguese right-back jogging back for one counter-attack should alarm Solskjaer.