Erik ten Hag: Gary Neville says Man Utd manager will be ‘vulnerable’ if playing style fails to develop within months | Football News

Erik ten Hag: Gary Neville says Man Utd manager will be ‘vulnerable’ if playing style fails to develop within months | Football News

Gary Neville believes Erik ten Hag’s position as Manchester United manager will be “vulnerable” if his side does not develop a playing style in the next few months.

United drew 2-2 with Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday in front of the watching Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Old Trafford, a result that leaves them seventh in the table and eight points off the top four.

Ten Hag’s team have struggled for consistency this season, losing 14 games in all competitions, and Neville thinks the Dutchman will be in trouble if performances do not improve soon with Ratcliffe’s partial takeover expected to go through in February.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Man Utd and Tottenham

Speaking to Sky Sports for The Gary Neville Podcast, the former United captain said: “We need to see a style of play develop in the next few months or else I think the coach will be vulnerable because ultimately the new owner will come in and want to see how we’re going to play, want electricity, want razzmatazz.

“Manchester United have historically been box office. Spurs are box office. I love watching Spurs play football. Manchester United are a hard watch. They’ve got some exciting, talented players, it just needs to somehow gel in the next few months, and I hope it can for Erik ten Hag.

“I’m talking about patterns and combinations that players can rely upon when they go through difficult moments in a match. You rely upon the memory of what you’ve been working on in practice to come out on the pitch at the weekend.

“The last time that I saw combinations of play and a series of passes that looked like they belonged to one another was under Louis van Gaal. What I see here is a collection of single passes where a player receives it and seem to have to work out where the next player is, rather than knowing where the next player is.

“That’s really surprising me because Dutch coaching has been masterful over the last 30, 40, 50 years. Ten Hag’s coaching, being at Bayern Munich and then going to Ajax, he’s produced fantastic teams that have had really good combinations and patterns of play that I would see in a really well-functioning team. And I don’t see anything of it.

“They really struggle to be able to know where each other are and put combinations and patterns together. That’s the bit in the next few months that I think needs to come. Results, yes. Of course, it is nice to win. There’s no real electricity in this stadium at the moment watching the team so what we need to see is something develop, that the team are improving, progressing and on the right track.

“Forget who the players are for now because Spurs have proven today without their best players that you can go out there and still play in the same way.

“That is one thing I noticed today. Where is the default style of play in this team? I don’t see it and that is a real concern. We know United under Ole and Jose Mourinho were more counter-attacking, but that’s not what we expected from Erik ten Hag.

“We expected that high pressing, front foot, high tempo possession-play. He said something a few weeks ago that he can’t deliver that at Manchester United which I thought was a really interesting thing for him to say because other managers have proven at Brighton and at Tottenham that you can deliver with players that maybe aren’t even as valuable in the transfer market as the ones that United have.

“That is what we need to see from United. How are they going to play? How are they going to win matches? What is the strategy? It hampers those attacking stats a lot because if you don’t have a style of play, it really is a struggle.

“I knew exactly where the next pass was going when I was playing for Manchester United. I played with those players for many years. Obviously, Erik ten Hag has not had many years but he has had 18 months and I don’t think at this moment in time you can see those patterns developing.”

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe arrives at Old Trafford for Manchester United’s match with Tottenham

Does the injury list explain the lack of those patterns?

“The patterns are worked on as a squad, not just as a team. The more you play together, the more you develop an understanding, but the patterns are worked on as a squad. The patterns are not just given to the first 11 and the rest have to try to work them out.

“The fact that they have lost [Harry] Maguire, [Victor] Lindelof, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, it does impact Manchester United because they have lost some experience there, particularly Martinez who is good at playing out from the back.

“But Tottenham had five or six players missing, their whole midfield was missing, but [Hojbjerg and Skipp] still try the same patterns. Not as successfully as Bissouma and Sarr but they still do the same thing. Even when Emerson Royal and Ben Davies have been centre-backs, they still try the same things. It may not be as successful but you still see them trying to do the same things.

“So I don’t think it is an excuse that Manchester United have four or five players out. You can see that the results might suffer a bit, you can see that they might not do the things that they want to do so well. But I don’t see any pattern either with the first-choice players or without the first-choice players.

“That is a real concern and it has to change.”

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Roy Keane and Jamie Redknapp discuss Marcus Rashford’s goal celebration

Speaking to Sky Sports on the broadcast prior to recording The Gary Neville Podcast, the former United player had articulated many of the same ideas. “I am a little bit worried about the lack of combination and patterns of play at United, and the lack of consistency in performance,” he told Sky Sports.

“When you’re in difficult moments in games, you have to rely upon something to get you through it. That’s usually the work you’ve done on the training pitch during the week. It isn’t an excuse to say players have been missed because that pattern of play goes into the squad. You can see that with other teams that have had players missing.

“I worry that what we see is a pass gets played to one player and then they work out what their next pass is whereas other teams know what their next pass is. You never see players in the same positions. Even out of possession, they’re chasing around people, man-to-man marking. They’re never really in shape from an attacking perspective, out of possession. When is that going to change?

“I am scratching my head a little bit because this is a guy [Ten Hag] who has coached with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, had done the job he did at Ajax with patterns of play, combinations and really fluid football but then said in an interview before Christmas that he couldn’t deliver the Ajax football at Manchester United.

“I get that because Ajax is such an embedded way of playing and style but when Louis Van Gaal came here – and I wasn’t a great fan of his football – he was able to play a real distinct style of play. Why aren’t we seeing something develop that we know where this team is going?

“Is it a high-pressing team? No. Is it a possession team? No. Is it a counter-attacking team? Sometimes, if a team leaves space in behind. It’s not a direct team. I’m not quite sure what it is and that does need to develop in the next few months if it can.”

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