Football News

Man Utd are “playing like a small club” – Roy Keane slams former side despite Erik ten Hag’s positivity

By James Amey

Published: 8:39, 8 April 2024

Manchester United have lost further ground in the race for the top four. 

After playing out a 2-2 draw with rivals Liverpool and Tottenham’s 3-1 victory over struggling Nottingham Forest, Man Utd are now 11 points off a guaranteed Champions League spot with just seven games remaining.

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Despite a first half to forget that saw them go in 1-0 down thanks to Luis Díaz’s 23rd minute strike, having failed to have a single shot in the first half of a Premier League game at Old Trafford for the first time since 2015 against Man City, Erik ten Hag’s side fought back to take 2-1 lead with 67 minutes on the clock.

First, Bruno Fernandes scored his 50th Premier League goal in style after a Jarell Quansah mistake gave the Portuguese midfielder a free shot on goal from 44.53 metres out and he expertly dispatched the ball past Caoimhín Kelleher, putting his name firmly in the hat for Manchester United’s goal of the season to draw the game level with his side’s first shot of the game.

The Red Devils seemed to have gotten their groove back in the match and it wasn’t long before Kobbie Mainoo made Jürgen Klopp’s side pay for missing all of their chances in the first half. The 18-year-old became the youngest ever Manchester United player to score against Liverpool in the Premier League with his second league goal of the campaign, curling the ball into the top corner from just inside the box with another fine finish.

However, just as it looked like they were heading for all three points, Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Harvey Elliott in the box with just nine minutes remaining and Mohamed Salah dispatched his penalty to see the points shared at Old Trafford. It was a record strike for the Egyptian in more ways than one as he became the the first visiting player to score in four consecutive Premier League away games against United, the top goalscorer against Man Utd in the Premier League (11) and the top goalscorer against Man Utd at Old Trafford (6) in the Premier League.

It was the second time in the last two Premier League games Manchester United had conceded a penalty in the final 10 minutes after their collapse against Chelsea in midweek, but manager Erik ten Hag remained upbeat after the game.

“I have mixed emotions. On one side, very disappointed. Again, we give a certain win out of our hands by making, let’s say, not a very clever mistake there, like on Thursday and like last Saturday. And we lose seven points in one week, where we should have had nine points. That makes a huge difference ” He said.

“On the other side, I’m very proud of this team and we have young players coming in and then give this performance and can play on this level and it shows the future for Man United is very bright.”I’m very proud of this team and we have young players coming in and then give this performance and can play on this level and it shows the future for Man United is very bright.”

“You saw Liverpool were dominating the game but we stayed in the game. In decisive moments, we were losing duels and losing battles. But then the resilience and the quality, the way we play and the way, in and out of possession, how we organised it and how they played there together. Also the resilience because it was necessary in the first half, when we didn’t win the decisive duels and we were hammered. We were bullied by Liverpool. The young players were sometimes even overwhelmed but, then, in the second half, they stepped up and you saw the improvement in the belief and they were convinced we could get a win.”

However, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane wasn’t as impressed in the Sky Sports Studio after hearing the Hag’s comments.

“The way Man United are playing is like a mid table team, a small club, you don’t know what you’re going to get.” He said after the match.

“Obviously he’s (Ten Hag) had a couple of glasses of wine after the game,I don’t know how strong that is, but he seemed really upbeat, and I admire him for it, because he’s obviously seeing something that I’m not seeing at this moment in time.

“I’m not saying there’s not potential at the football club or with these young players, but in terms of competing with Arsenal or Man City and Liverpool, they’re way off it. They are competing at this moment in time with Aston Villa and Spurs for that fourth and fifth position, and at this stage, they’re well behind them.

“So I don’t get his positivity, but maybe that’s just me obviously being a bit old and grumpy. He’s upbeat, but I certainly didn’t see that upbeat performance – I thought [there were] two very good goals from Man United and a team that hung in there and stuck at it, and I give them credit for that, but if you’re looking at the bigger picture I’m not sitting back here and going ‘Man United are on their way back.”

Liverpool’s 28 shots was the most Man Utd had faced on record (from 2003-04) in a Premier League game at Old Trafford and they have now conceded more shots than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues in 2024 (253). This is at least 26 more than any other side and at least 95 more than any other team currently in the top six during this calendar year, which is obviously a huge problem for Erik ten Hag.

The Red Devils have also dropped 12 points from winning positions since the start of the year, with Crystal Palace (15) the only Premier League side to give away more away in that time, leaving them with a near miracle if they want to be playing Champions League football next season.