Gary Neville has stated that Manchester United have been playing with a ‘mood’ so far this term under Erik ten Hag.
The former United captain has not been complimentary of the team’s performances and their most recent defeat against Crystal Palace only exasperated the issue with the team losing four of their opening seven Premier League fixtures.
It comes shortly after a 3-0 victory against Roy Hodgson’s side in the Carabao Cup, and whilst it was not an important game compared to the league – which was displayed by the teams put out by either side – Neville believed that there was a clear difference with United in that encounter.
“I wasn’t expecting to like it [the game vs Palace in the Carabao Cup] because of what I have seen this season,” Neville admitted on his podcast, “and I really enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed the performance from United; Hannibal, [Facundo] Pellistri, [Alejandro] Garnacho played. [Sofyan] Amrabat in midfield with Casemiro looked like it was something but there was real energy, sprinting back from the wide players, the back players played really well and I thought: ‘That is a likeable performance, that is something I can live with.’
“I actually tweeted out at half-time that this is the best performance of the season and I was really encouraged, not by the fact that Crystal Palace left players out or because it was the Carabao Cup, but after where we have been as Manchester United this season, this is the first performance I have seen without ‘mood’.
“I can’t pinpoint what ‘mood’ looks like. I nearly tweeted on Wednesday morning but I thought: ‘No, I don’t want to start a riot on my timeline,’ I nearly tweeted out: ‘That is the first time I have seen Manchester United play this season without mood.’ It was fresh, it was likeable, there was an energy to it and there was patterns of play in the game where I felt like that reflects a bit of work on the training ground.
“I haven’t seen the game today [Saturday], they may have been absolutely amazing and lost 1-0 but it doesn’t surprise me that this has happened today against the same club. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
The ‘mood’ that Neville highlights can be seen throughout many performances, and two players seemed to be key in it not being evident in the cup win.
Alejandro Garnacho and Hannibal Mejbri started in that encounter and both performed brilliantly. They offered energy both in and out of possession, which is something that Ten Hag’s side has lacked this term.
Hannibal did not appear in the following game, whilst Garnacho came off the bench. Both were demoted to the bench and the ‘mood’ appeared to continue.
Whilst players like Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes are excellent and two of the club’s best-attacking talent, it seemed unfair that both youngsters were dropped after their midweek performances.
Fernandes could’ve been moved to the right in order to keep the same midfield of Casemiro, Hannibal and Mason Mount, whilst Garnacho perhaps deserved to earn a start ahead of the out-of-form Rashford.
Of course, it’s difficult to drop your star players or move them out of position, but it appeared that Hannibal and Garnacho were key to why the ‘mood’ disappeared against Palace in the cup, and the fact that it resurfaced in the league was slightly worrying.
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