Gary Neville: Man Utd are a train off the track,
A dismal first-half performance consigned Manchester United to a 2-0 defeat by Manchester City at Old Trafford, their fourth defeat in six Premier League games.
After a relatively stabilising week leading up to the derby, the heat is back on United and Solskjaer as they sit nine points off leaders Chelsea with just over a quarter of the season gone.
In his latest podcast, Gary Neville gives his views on the managerial situation, and where Manchester United go from here.
Neville doesn’t doubt that the players are putting in effort, but he fears for the three upcoming games after the international break, and describes Manchester United as a “train off the track”.
“I think these players care. I want to make that point; there were times a few years ago where I left Old Trafford thinking: ‘Are these players really with us?’ But with these players,
I don’t think it’s a lack of effort or willingness or want. I think those players want to do well, and want to be at Manchester United, every single one of them. But they look like they are suffering badly at this moment in time.
“I think the club will put Saturday down to Pep Guardiola, Manchester City, and believe that this could happen to any team in any season.
“They’ve got Watford away, Villarreal away and then Chelsea away. That’s a horrid, horrid week. This is not going to get any easier in the short term.
“The social media noise is different to the noise in the stadium. They were shouting against Nuno in the Spurs stadium last week; that won’t happen here with Ole at Old Trafford. We didn’t hear that with Jose, with Van Gaal, with Moyes, or even with Ron Atkinson 35 years ago. The fans here don’t do that, they are respectful of the situation, but this is a train off the track at the moment.
“Last season, people said second in the league is progression, it’s now not progression. That has to change very quickly. Against big teams, they look desperately short, and they shouldn’t. That’s where the manager comes under enormous pressure, and questions are asked, and on social media the pressure will be hot, but the contingent on social media are very different to the fans in the stadium itself.
“The contingent on social media don’t have the sympathy, the empathy, the compassion that the fans in the stadium have. But the fans walked out towards the end of Saturday’s game, because they knew it wasn’t right.
“The club have not prepared for this, not prepared for a new manager, they didn’t expect it, they thought everything was sort of plain sailing along.
“They’ve planned around a structure of way of working in the last two or three years that they’re not going to veer away from, but in this moment in time they’re going to have to put their helmets on if they’re going to defend it.
“Because the reality of it is it’s nowhere near good enough and you can’t defend it. They’ve only played a couple decent sides in Tottenham, Liverpool and City. They should have already had plenty of points in the bank to deal with that. It’s unacceptable with this squad.”
Neville still believes the club won’t act by sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and said new Spurs manager Antonio Conte was never an option, but admits the fans will be confused as to where the club are going.
“The club aren’t going to do anything here. Getting Antonio Conte was never, ever going to happen. The hierarchy were never going to appoint him, as great a manager as he is.
“The plan all season has been to stick with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until the end of the season, and that’s where I’m at, even after Saturday.
“But it’s tough going. Being that far behind the top with 11 games gone, that can’t happen. He’s progressed from sixth to third to second, and should have won the Europa League final against Villarreal. I hark back to that because when you lose finals, it has a real impact on players.
“If you win it, the medal around your neck, you get used to winning. Going out of the Carabao Cup to West Ham – it’s a big problem. That can’t happen, it’s a trophy you can win. The league has almost gone, the Champions League is a long shot because of the quality of teams. The FA Cup and Carabao Cup cannot be dismissed, and going out to West Ham was a really bad situation for the club to be in.
“I think the fans left this stadium on Saturday tired and drained from what they’ve seen. Thinking: ‘Where are we on our journey as a club?'”