Gary Neville questions Erik ten Hag’s system after Manchester United’s loss to Brighton

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has criticised Erik ten Hag’s decision to play with a narrow midfield in the Red Devils’ loss to Brighton, saying Scott McTominay looked ‘legless’ trying to cover out wide.

With Antony on a leave of absence, Jadon Sancho exiled and Mason Mount and Amad Diallo injured, Ten Hag was left bereft of options on the right wing so opted to play with four midfielders and two frontmen.

But United’s narrow midfield – particularly the players on the sides of the diamond – had to do a lot of covering out wide as Brighton’s full-backs and wingers bombed forward and exploited the space.

Neville’s Criticism of Ten Hag’s System

Neville felt the set-up simply did not work and played into the visitors’ hands, with both McTominay and Christian Eriksen struggling, and believes Ten Hag should have lined up differently.

Speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, the United legend explained: ‘Systems do have an impact on matches. There’s this thing at Old Trafford, on the dugout side there’s no space. This is not an old wives’ tale, it’s absolutely true.

‘I played right-back on that side of the stadium and there’s no space. On the far side, you have acres of space away from the dugout. So the space for the opposition is always on the other side of the pitch. I don’t know why that is! But It’s always happened at Old Trafford.

‘Yesterday [Saturday] I was sat on the opposite side of the pitch and in the first half Eriksen was being asked to get out to Brighton’s right-back and right-hand side, along with Sergio Reguilon – and that’s where the first goal came from.

‘Eriksen had to get out there because he was playing narrow in a three, in a sort of diamond it was. In the second half, McTominay was over on this side – and McTominay can run by the way, he’s got big energy – he was legless at times.

‘Honestly I was watching those lads very closely, this wasn’t a massive lack of effort or players chucking the towel in, none of that sort of stuff, they were trying their very best. But McTominay couldn’t get out to their left side in the second half and that’s where the two goals came from.

‘I was surprised that they kept with such a narrow midfield and didn’t have the 4-3-3 or the 4-5-1 because Manchester United’s pitch – even though it may come up in size the same as other pitches – it just always feels massive in the wide areas. It always has done, particularly in that far side away from the dugout, and Brighton have got the system of play and the quality of players to be able to dismantle you and find the spare pass.’

Current Issues Off The Pitch At United

On the current issues off the pitch at United, he continued: ‘The only thing I would say is, how popular is Sancho in the dressing room? How popular is Harry Maguire in the dressing room? How popular is Antony in the dressing room?

He’s got some bugs in there that we don’t know from the outside what discomfort and uncertainty is being created on the inside.

You’ve got a player who is changing in the first-team dressing room but is over with the academy. You’ve got Harry Maguire who has been captain of these players 12 months ago who now is in some ways alienated and is third, fourth, fifth centre-half. He’s got some situations in there that you don’t know the damage it’s having.’


Gary Neville has criticised Erik ten Hag’s decision to play with a narrow midfield in Manchester United’s

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