Premier League

Manchester United: Gary Neville believes crowd pressure is having an effect on players

Image for Manchester United: Gary Neville believes crowd pressure is having an effect on players

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville believes the current players are yet to display their ability in front of packed stadiums.

Erik ten Hag’s side were dealt another huge reality check on Sunday as they were handed a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford on the opening weekend of the season.

The Dutch coach is the fifth permanent manager at the Red Devils since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, while Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, and Ralf Rangnick have all been involved on a temporary basis. But his task was made abundantly clear as Pascal Gross’ double was enough to secure all three points for Brighton & Hove Albion.

However, Neville has admitted he wasn’t at all surprised by the result and has made a very convincing argument as to what could be contributing to the club’s woes. 

Speaking on his podcast on Sunday, Neville said: “Manchester United have got the same players that we’ve seen in the last 18 months-2 years, and the reality of it is that we’ve seen the same type of performance.

“The only question today was whether Brighton could take their chances and score, and they did, they scored two goals and should have maybe had a penalty in the second half.

“So for me, the outcome of the game was exactly as I thought it would be an or hour so before, as I thought it would be yesterday [Saturday], and the reason I say is that the players that Erik ten Hag has been delivered at the start of the season as his squad have proven last season and the season before – the season before, the fans weren’t in the stadium.

“When these players have had 75,000 fans in the stadium or they’ve played in front of crowds, they’ve not been able to handle the pressure or had the ability to demonstrate that they’re good enough for Manchester United.

“And it’s not just been Erik ten Hag, it’s been with Ralf Rangnick and it’s been with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For Erik ten Hag to be delivered that squad on the opening day of the season is unacceptable.”

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Indeed, without fans in attendance during the 2020/21 campaign, Solskjaer led United to just their second finish inside the top two since Ferguson departed in 2013 as they finished 12 points off the champions and neighbours Manchester City.

They won 21 times that year but still dropped points in 10 of their 19 home fixtures, losing six, and the return of crowds last term has seemingly only added to their troubles as they finished with their lowest-ever points total in the Premier League (58).

Their drop-off in form is perhaps epitomised by Bruno Fernandes’ own personal dip, as the 46-cap Portugal international thrived when first arriving in January 2020 just before the pandemic struck, scoring 26 goals and made 18 assists in his first 51 top-flight games, but has been criticised by Roy Keane for ‘throwing his arms about’ when things aren’t going his way with perhaps the pressure showing.

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