Manchester United’s abject performance in the derby defeat to Manchester City left former players Roy Keane and Gary Neville offering a damning assessment of the current state of the club, with players and hierarchy alike coming in for criticism.
However, manager Erik ten Hag largely appears in favour with the ex-Old Trafford stars, despite overseeing a start to the Premier League campaign which has tallied five defeats in ten matches, leaving the Red Devils eighth in the table and and 11 points behind leaders Tottenham Hotspur, past the quarter mark of the campaign.
Keane offered the most immediate and radical propsed solution to the latest crisis at the club, suggesting that Bruno Fernandes should have the captaincy removed from him - despite only being officially appointed to the position in July after Harry Maguire was demoted from it.
“The first thing I’d do, I would definitely take the captaincy off him, one hundred per cent. I know it’s a big decision but Fernandes is not captain material,” he said. “A talented player no doubt, but after watching him again today, we’ve discussed this before.
“His whinging, moaning, throwing his arms up constantly - it’s really not acceptable.
“When you make change you talk about boardroom level, but the manager can do this. The manager can hold his hands up and say I got it wrong - he’s the opposite to what I would want in a captain.
“Man United have been built on great players and great characters. We haven’t seen that.”
Keane also alluded to overspending and poor decisions in the transfer market. “We’re well aware United have to pay over the odds but it feels too much for some of them. They lack physicality, they’re like children out there. Too many who have come in for the fees involved haven’t done the business.”
Neville, meanwhile, labelled it “unbelievable” that United still don’t have a sporting director - David Harrison is director of football operations and John Murtough is football director at the club. However, he also pointed to the impending propsed takeover or partial purchase of ownership shares by Jim Ratcliffe as a reason behind coaching staff not being able to perform as well as they otherwise might do and get the team playing to their maximium level.
“It’s toxic, they all think they’re going to lose their jobs. That’s what’s happening and I believe the toxicity at this club eats alive every player and has done for years,” Neville said.
Jamie Carragher, however, countered that “What [Ten Hag] is doing on the training pitch has got nothing to do with the club takeover,” but Neville reiterated that it wasn’t time to place the Dutch head coach under pressure by calling for change.
“Of course there’s pressure, we’ve seen it before with [David] Moyes, [Jose] Mourinho, [Louis] Van Gaal. I think Ten Hag should continue, 100 per cent. Today wasn’t one of his best days in midfield [tactics] but the reality is the performances have been so poor for the last few months: battered by Brighton, lucky against Brentford and Copenhagen.
“I can’t quite see a way out of it in performance levels but changing manager? That’s not where I am at. He’s hitting the same issues [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer did: doing well in a cup, signing players to go to the next level and [falling off].”
United are next in action in the Carabao Cup against Newcastle United, before a trip to Fulham and a vital Champions League away game to FC Copenhagen.