Manchester United’s alarming performances must fall at the door of their players, rather than Erik ten Hag, believes Chris Sutton.
Pressure is intensifying on the Dutchman after United were humbled with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth on Saturday.
But Sutton – who labelled United’s players as ‘snakes’ on last week’s episode of It’s All Kicking Off – is standing by his assessment that the players are the ones to blame.
‘This has been a club who have won everything,’ Sutton said. ‘They were the dominant force in English football for such a long period of time with a manager at the helm who had serious clout and, you know, maybe the players feared him a little bit.
‘I don’t know whether the players actually fear Erik ten Hag. I don’t necessarily think that’s on Ten Hag. I think he’s got a really, really difficult, job. He’s gone into a difficult situation and he’s finding it tough at this moment in time after doing well last season.’
Manchester United’s players are the ones to blame for their disappointing 2023-24 campaign
That is Chris Sutton’s view, who said on It’s All Kicking Off that it cannot all be on Erik ten Hag
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Sutton added: ‘They are so inconsistent. They’re one of many teams who are so inconsistent but all the same they are Manchester United and the stuff about players’ attitudes and what have you and snakes was, you know, pretty strong and I accept that but I do stand by that.’
The It’s All Kicking Off co-host was left stunned when he saw post-match comments from United captain Bruno Fernandes that United’s players felt like it would be an easy game.
That, Sutton said, summed up the state of the dressing room.
‘You see the comment from Bruno Fernandes, the Manchester United captain, after the game admitting that the players thought, these are his words, not my words, that the players thought it was Bournemouth, it was going to be easy. Really?
‘I mean, that in itself tells you everything you need to know about the mindset of this particular Manchester United dressing room.’
The Dutch manager now faces the difficult task of trying to salvage this below-par season
Podcast co-host Ian Ladyman, who was at Old Trafford during the week to see them beat Chelsea, asked if talk of players being ‘snakes’ had been harsh in the cold light of day.
After watching United capitulate against Bournemouth, Sutton only wanted to double down.
‘No, I thought maybe based on that performance, maybe we were a bit soft on them,’ he said.
‘I don’t think we were [soft on them]. I was alarmed. And with respect to Bournemouth who, you know, getting up and running and are a well-organised team, they have a way of playing.
‘You can see what [Andoni] Iraola is doing at Bournemouth, but for Manchester United to lose 3-0 at home to Bournemouth – 3-0 flattered Manchester United – it could have been four, could have been five, it could have been six…’
Pressure is mounting on the Dutch manager after the club have endured a tumultuous start to the 2023-23 season, with United losing 3-0 at home to Bournemouth on Saturday
Ladyman concurred on much of his co-host’s assessment and added that a now famed tweet from Man United’s Twitter account from a decade ago when David Moyes was in charge, would still apply to this current crop.
Ladyman said: ‘I saw something on Twitter last night, it was a recycled tweet from the official Manchester United club account from 10 years ago this weekend when David Moyes was manager and this tweet on the official club account said, “David Moyes says MUFC must improve in a number of areas, including passing, creating chances, and defending.”
‘Now, it was lampooned at the time because it was kind of like, “yeah, that’s pretty much football, David. You’ve got to improve in everything.” But the point now is that 10 years on and absolutely nothing has changed. You could tweet that again now, and it would still apply.’
United need a response this week but it looks daunting on paper with a home Champions League game against Bayern Munich and then a trip to bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday.