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13th Aug 2022

Gary Neville highlights Erik ten Hag decision that ‘backfired spectacularly’ at Brentford

Patrick McCarry

Gary Neville

“If you thought it could not get any lower, well, it just has.”

At 11:43am today, Gary Neville was en-route to the Gtech Community Stadium and bracing himself for another hope-for-the-best-but-expect-the-worse Manchester United league performance.

By 6:12pm, Gary Neville was up in the Sky Sports commentary gantry, trying to put words to his former side going down 4-0 to Brentford after only 34 minutes.

“It’s like a men’s side against some Under 9s,” Neville lamented.

During Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat to Brentford, Neville and Jamie Redknapp both weighed in on a couple of tactical decisions from Erik ten Hag.

Redknapp was surprised with the new United boss starting with Christian Eriksen as a defensive midfielder. Fred had been dropped, after last weekend’s defeat to Brighton, and Redknapp declared:

“Eriksen is not a defensive midfield player. He’s never really played there in his career, and he was caught out [for Brentford’s second goal]. It just sums up Manchester United and it was also the manager’s mistake.”

Indeed, Brentford seemed to anticipate that either Fred or Scott McTominay would be dropped, and Eriksen installed, as they were ready to push up on the Dane inside his own half and around the United box.

“We had to put the pressure on their 6,” Brentford midfielder Mathias Jensen said, after the game, “and that was Christian Eriksen, as we knew they wanted to play the ball out… They couldn’t cope with our threat on crosses, long balls and getting to second balls.”

Ahead of the game, Neville had said United would need to ‘defend for their lives’ against a Brentford side that are known for their high pressing game, at home, and set-piece dominance.

The Bees were the fourth best Premier League side for set-piece goals, last season, but ten Hag started without the taller, more physical Eric Bailly or Raphael Varane in the centre of defence. On the day, the likes of Jensen, Pontus Jansson and Ben Mee [goal below] made hay against United’s more diminutive line-up:

‘They don’t work hard enough’ – Gary Neville

Ahead of the evening kick-off, Gary Neville believed Erik ten Hag had taken the gamble of selecting a smaller, ball-playing XI, as opposed to taller players as he backed United to out-play their hosts.

As it all panned out, United were out-played, out-fought, out-hustled and completely overwhelmed in all departments. During the second half, with United 4-0 down, Neville said:

“I said before the game that I admired him for it. He backed his players to play football but it has backfired spectacularly… I was surprised to see a 5-foot-9 Martinez starting at the back against Mbeumo and Toney.”

Although Neville had a valid point, he picked two of the smaller Brentford players, as Ivan Toney is 5-foot-10 and Bryan Mbeumo is 5-foot-7. As the camera focused on a crestfallen Martinez, Neville said, “He’s had his Patrice Evra moment,” referring to a tough debut that his former United teammate had, before going on to have a successful career with the club.

Neville was also critical of the Glazer family – owners of United – and said the club’s stop-start transfer activity this summer was ‘baffling and difficult to forgive’.

“It’s a real achievement to spend a billion pounds and still be this bad,” he added.

Following the game, Neville was not letting the United stars off the hook. “These players,” he proclaimed, “have proven, under three different managers, that they don’t work hard enough.”

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