Manchester United should not be expected to win trophies under Erik ten Hag immediately, says Gary Neville, warning it is a long job for the Dutchman with a mentally shot squad at Old Trafford.
The Ajax boss will take the reins from interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season, with the Red Devils arguably facing their lowest point in the post-Alex Ferguson era.
Questions over whether a squad low on confidence can challenge for Champions League football remains in the air, and several key players look destined for the door.
Hopes are high that Ten Hag can facilitate a fast turnaround – but speaking after his appointment, former defender Neville has warned there will be no quick fix at the Theatre of Dreams.
“What we’re seeing at this current moment is unacceptable,” Neville told Sky Sports News. “Ten Hag has got a big job to get the club back up to those minimum standards.
“They need to achieve […] attitude, work ethic, belief, confidence and then hopefully you start to think about winning trophies.
“But honestly, I wouldn’t be putting too much pressure on Ten Hag in the first one or two years to win a trophy at the club. It would be great if he did and he’d be overachieving, in my opinion.
“It will be: get into the top four, re-establish Man Utd in the Champions League, attract the players into the club who can play in the way he wants to play, and then get a system of belief.
“It took Jurgen Klopp four or five years to win a Premier League title. I wouldn’t be putting pressure on Ten Hag to win a Premier League title. They’re a million miles away from that.
“At the end of last season, I thought they were getting closer. But it’s all collapsed and fallen to pieces. I don’t know why that’s happened. Ten Hag gets to pick up the pieces.”
It has been a dramatic fall from grace for United, after their much-vaunted rebuild under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked on the cusp of paying dividends last term.
But since their Europa League final defeat at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, they have delivered few statement performances, and Neville believes the losing feeling will be hard to shake.
“The players have completely lost their confidence and belief,” he added. “They don’t want to play football for Manchester United at this moment in time.
“That’s not they don’t want to play football for the club – they don’t want to play football. They want the season to finish. You can see it in their eyes. They just want these games over.
“But the problem is there is no hiding place at this club. All the eyes are still going to be on them and they’re going to have to try to turn up. They’ve got to find something from somewhere.
“I want to be careful in saying there’s long-lasting damage but the mental impact of what’s happening, that’s going to have [a] long-lasting impact on some of those lads.”
Ten Hag will succeed Rangnick, with the German expected to remain at the club on a consultancy basis – and Neville feels that it will be the latter who helps the Dutchman dictate transfer policy.
“Recruitment is the most important job in a football club,” he said. “If you get the players wrong, you’re struggling.
“Rangnick has had four or five months to assess that dressing room. I’m pretty certain they’ll be having pretty direct conversations about who he needs to get rid of.
“It’s on the tip of Rangnick’s tongue in every single interview he does and you feel like he’s going to go rogue at some point and start calling players out.
“He’s doing it in groups, but there’s no doubt Rangnick will be passing on that very specific information about who Ten Hag needs to get rid of – and I’m sure Ten Hag will listen and buy into that.”
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