Gary Neville (right) and Roy Keane (left) as Sky Sports pundits discussing the future of Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag (centre) - November 2023

What Gary Neville, Roy Keane and 7 other ex-Man Utd players have said about Erik ten Hag’s future

Erik ten Hag is coming under increasing pressure at Manchester United – prompting a range of opinions from the club’s former players working in the media.

Manchester United have endured their worst start to a season since 1962-63. They’re out of the League Cup, a long way off the top four in the Premier League, while their Champions League future hangs in the balance after losing two of their first three group stage outings.

After leading United to back-to-back 3-0 home defeats to Man City and Newcastle, the Dutch coach is now the second favourite with the bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.

We’ve compiled the thoughts of nine former Manchester United players.

Gary Neville

“I don’t think they will sack him at all,” Neville told the Webby & O’Neill YouTube channel.

“Partly because he shouldn’t be sacked, partly because they believe in him and partly because he did a good job last season.

“It won’t be on the table for discussion. If a new manager comes in, they have to pay off Ten Hag’s coaching staff, and go and spend a load more money on a new manager’s players.

“They have already had the Ralf Rangnick experiment of five months interim. He isn’t going anywhere and he shouldn’t be going anywhere.

“Of course, he will come under pressure if results continue as they are but that won’t come from the ownership this season.

“We keep changing managers but they can’t all be bad managers when they come to Manchester United. They have been, and are good managers with really good reputations but haven’t been able to succeed.

“I don’t think they will fire the bullet this season. I think he will be given time but this will be deemed as a bad period because some of the performances have been awful. When he has a fully fit squad and his players back, then we can judge him.

“He has a lot of injuries and that is impacting the style of play. He can’t play out from the back, he hasn’t been able to play through midfield without Casemiro. It is a little bit all at sea.”

Roy Keane

“I wouldn’t say embarrassed but I do feel for the United players,” said Keane, speaking on Sky Sports, following the Manchester derby defeat.

“They are short in every aspect – technically, tactically and, worryingly, physically. United looked so off it.”

“Just like the FA Cup final, City weren’t even at their best, but they were toying with them.

“I do feel for the United players – they were off on every level… a long way back for this team. A long way.”

The former captain stopped short of criticising Ten Hag explicitly but did say the decision to hand Bruno Fernandes the armband was the wrong one.

Paul Scholes

“I think he’s been a very good coach so far, I like him,” Scholes told TNT Sports during the coverage of the recent Champions League win over FC Copenhagen.

“He’s been ruthless in a job that is incredibly difficult, he’s essentially been thrown out to the lions in the sense of answering every single question thrown at him by the media and I think he’s handled it really well.

“Has he put a team together that is good enough to challenge for the Premier League? No, but it looked like a good start towards the end of last season.

“We’ve come into the summer and the recruitment hasn’t been there, it’s not at the level of competing with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. There’s still a lot of work to do, but he’s the right man, whether Jim is coming in to bring someone else in or not.”

Rio Ferdinand

“When the season started there were some positives and optimism around the place. Then the season started and recruitment fell away a bit and you look at the performances and results,” Ferdinand said via TNT Sports following their wins over Brentford and Sheffield United.

“Man United, any story becomes massive news around the place and hysteria follows. That was it for a month or so when the season started. The past couple of games they’ve picked up a few points now which is positive.

“But it’s definitely not the trajectory seen last season. That could change quite quickly given the last couple of results and what’s to come. It was disappointing because I was so positive after last season.”

“There was an improvement on the season prior to him coming here,” he added later.

“There were massive situations that he has had to deal with and he seemed to deal with them very well,” Ferdinand continued.

“He came out of those situations positively, whether it be Cristiano, Marcus Rashford turning up late, Harry Maguire. These situations have been put to one side because of the results and the progress in terms of what they were looking like.

“Then as the season started and things don’t go to plan or follow suit from last season a lot of questions will be asked. But he seems like the type of guy who understands the situation, the side of the job and size of the club. He’s taken that on his shoulders.”

Wayne Rooney

Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer hasn’t spoken on the record about his old club’s poor form of late, but he has given his thoughts on Ten Hag – and revealed that the players enjoy training under the Dutch coach.

“He’s exactly what Manchester United have needed for a few years now,” Rooney told ESPN back in February – admittedly when Ten Hag’s stock was at its highest following the League Cup win.

“I’ve been down to the training ground quite a few times, especially in the [MLS] off-season when I was back home in England, and spoke to quite a few of the players.

“I know the players are enjoying working under him, which is always important, but he demands a lot of his players.

“I think he’s changed the mindset and the confidence and belief of the players, that they’re actually a good team, and I think people are starting to see that this season, and they’re in a good position.

Michael Owen

“The one thing that I say to people is that if you put Man City in front of me and changed the colours of their shirts and the faces of the players, I could watch them for about 30 seconds and say ‘that’s Man City playing'” Owen told DAZN Bet.

“I could do the same with Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and virtually every other team. They just have an identity, but I watch United and still don’t know what they are.

“I don’t know if they are a counter-attacking team, I don’t know if they are a possession team, I don’t know if they press from the front. I don’t feel they have this identity of what other teams have got.

“That’s my worry as I don’t know where their destination is, I don’t know what the end-game is, I don’t know what they are building, they are just a bit of everything at the moment.”

READ: Comparing Man Utd’s record under Ten Hag in 2023-24 to the final days of Moyes, Mourinho and Solskjaer

Robbie Savage

Strictly speaking, Savage never appeared for Manchester United but he did come up through the club’s academy, alongside the likes of Scholes and Beckham in the famous Class of ’92.

“The next few games are massive for them. Fulham away in the Premier League, then I’m going out to Copenhagen to watch them in the Champions League. If they lose against Fulham on Saturday, then for me, the midweek match next week against Copenhagen becomes a must-win game,” Savage told Planet Sport Bet.

“I’m sure Erik ten Hag doesn’t think everything is fine – he’s got to solve problems and work things out, maybe change his style of football, but whatever he’s doing now is not working.

“If Manchester United lose both of their upcoming games, I think there’s some serious questions to be asked about whether Ten Hag can continue in his role at the club.

I’ve always said to give Erik ten Hag time and give him until Christmas, but inevitably, all managers and coaches are judged on results.

“If they get beaten by Fulham, you can’t have played 11 and lost six league games in a season and think it’s all fine. If they then lose against Copenhagen, that makes their position in the Champions League very vulnerable, considering they still need to go to Galatasaray.”

Dimitar Berbatov

“It would be harsh If Erik ten Hag were to leave United before Christmas,” the Bulgarian told Betfair in the wave of the defeat to Manchester City.

“Who would replace him? The Man United hotseat isn’t easy for anyone, as the last 10 years have shown.

“If they lose against Newcastle, the spotlight will be on Ten Hag again, but that’s football. I don’t know how long Man United’s patience will last, but I hope it doesn’t come to Ten Hag losing his job.

“I don’t care how they do it but United must beat Newcastle. I’ll back United to get an ugly win.”

Reader, they didn’t get that ugly win against Newcastle.

Gary Pallister

“I’m not sure he’s [Ten Hag] comfortable with, with any of the scenarios at the moment, that’s been an area of concern, finding the balance,” the former United defender told Live Score Bet.

“Mason Mount’s come in and he’s left him out a few games. He’s left Christian [Eriksen] out when we play all the ball-playing midfielders, we look a little bit light.

“We don’t have the protection and that’s why he’s brought Scott [McTominay] in to sit in that in front of that back four and give us a bit more solidity because we’ve been far too easy to score against this season.

“You need players to put their hand up right now and say ‘You can’t leave me out the side’, especially in that midfield area.”

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