What 11 ex-Man Utd players have said about club’s woes this season

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BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand before the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London, May 2019.

Manchester United have endured a disappointing 2021-22 season and their former players have been lining up to discuss what’s going wrong at their former club. 

After the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane last summer, many expected United to challenge for the Premier League title – a trophy they haven’t won since 2013.

But their league form has been appalling, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked in November and Ralf Rangnick taking over, while United were out of all cup competitions by the middle of March.

With Erik ten Hag installed as their new manager for next season, there’s been plenty of talk about what he’ll need to do in order to revive the club’s fortunes.

We’ve picked out 11 former United players and what they’ve had to say about the state of their former club.

Rio Ferdinand

“I feel from the outside looking in, they all just want to be mates,’ Ferdinand said on his Vibe With Five YouTube channel after United’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. 

“No one wants to put someone’s nose out of joint. It’s like they’re all in an office job in the city. They’re all being nice and they don’t really like each other but they won’t tell each other.

“To win, you’ve got to be pulling people about telling them you’re rubbish, sort yourself out. You don’t have to be that aggressive either… it can be a simple conversation. Please tell me they are [doing that].

“I don’t see a response. Their body language is awful, walking about slumped, like the world’s against them, looking unhappy.

“You’re playing for Man United man, in a derby, do you know how much those fans in that stadium would give to be on that pitch and you’re walking around like ‘I could be doing better things than this on a Sunday.’

“That’s the vibe I’m getting from certain guys. Fred’s an easy cop out, the system didn’t suit him at all.”

“We’ve seen too many managers come and go, it’s not about the manager. If you’re not here to play football, take criticism and improve yourselves every day. If you’re not willing to work hard every day, come out of the club.”

Gary Neville

Neville has been openly scathing about United on Sky Sports this season and had plenty to say following their recent defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.

“What United have done is bring players in with piano introductions like [Alexis] Sanchez or [Paul] Pogba,” Neville told viewers after the 4-0 defeat at Anfield.

“They’ve elevated the player above the manager at the football club. You go to Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City the manager is the primary figure at the football club.

“They’ve undermined managers over the last 10 years at Man United by elevating the players to this god-like status and the players haven’t performed.

“The players could do better, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could’ve done better, Rangnick maybe could have done better.”

And, following the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates, Neville tweeted: “The [Scott] McTominay comments yesterday. ‘Problems with players, staff, higher up and everything’ whilst not something we didn’t know tells you how bad it must be for a player to say it on air.”

Paul Scholes

“I’ve lost a little bit of anger towards it [United’s poor season] now, I feel saddened, it’s not great to watch,” Scholes told Premier League productions after the defeat at Anfield.

“I’d like to see them give at least a little bit of effort, it looks like the last place they want to see. They want their season over, they want it done, they want to move on, but unfortunately there’s no hiding place. You can’t come to Anfield and be like that.

“Them fans have travelled a long way, it’s disgusting to watch. But that’s where the club are at the minute. They’ve got to give a little bit of effort, just for them fans coming to the ground.”

Teddy Sheringham

“You had a manager, decided to sack him, put an interim in charge as [Michael] Carrick, replace him with another interim manager, it just seems to me it’s absolute chaos at one of the biggest clubs in the world,” he told the Manchester Evening News in April 2022.

“When you’re going from one interim manager to another, for the players it does not breed confidence, it does not breed continuity for them. The mentality is if you’re having a bit of a bad time, you’re getting left out, you know the manager is gone in a few months.

“It’s not what you need at Manchester United. You need everyone heading in the same direction. To me, it’s chaos from the top-down and the players are just portraying that on the pitch. I cannot stress enough how ridiculous that situation is. I’m exasperated by it. How they can’t see that at the top, I don’t know.”

Bryan Robson

“In a perverse way, the current malaise should help,” Robson wrote in his Daily Mail column. “You can’t get much lower than that result and performance against Liverpool, so the only way is up.

“As gutting as it was to watch, there was a moment during the second half of Tuesday’s drubbing when Liverpool’s Sadio Mane was defending on the edge of his own six-yard box. One of their best attackers helping out his mates. It sounds simplistic but that moment summed up what United need to get back to: togetherness.

“Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we had a compact side who were good on the counter attack, then we changed to a high-pressing team. The consequence has been a group of players caught between styles who produce these horrible performances from time to time.

“I’ve not been privy to training sessions in recent months so I can’t judge whether it’s down to staff not getting the message across or players not taking it in, but implementing a clear style is a must for Ten Hag.”

Patrice Evra

“Players have this bad habit of not taking responsibility,” he wrote in his Daily Mail column in November 2021.

“In my time I was always going to the manager’s office if I could see a problem in the team, whether I was captain or not. I liked to be in charge of the health of the dressing room, which is why Ferguson loved me.

“I wasn’t the kind of player to blame the manager for every bad result but it can be a tough time when players are not happy, there is negative energy and when you lose your dressing room, you’re a dead man.

“Let’s be honest, United are missing leaders and big characters. We talk a lot about that and many of the ex-players agree. It’s not about shouting on the pitch, it is leading by example.”

– “You know what is frustrating as fans, it’s because we have got the players,” Evra added in January. “But instead of talking about the manager, let’s talk about the players.

“You are at United. Do you understand how lucky you are to play for this club? Show that to us. Show that to us, please. That’s what we are waiting for? We ask you, the players, to perform. That is United.

“If you don’t like it when people criticise you after a bad game, then leave the club. Leave the club.”

READ: Recalling the Patrice Evra banger that gave Man Utd 30 seconds of joy

Roy Keane

“I think the worst thing you could say about United is they did give up,” Keane told Sky Sports after the 4-1 defeat to City. “For a player in a derby, or any game, to give up, it’s unforgivable really. The beauty of top-level sport is there is no hiding place. We saw all United’s shortcomings today.

“There’s ways to lose football matches, we’ve all lost football matches, but the way United lost today. They stopped running. They gave up. There’s players out there not running back. That’s what I don’t understand.

“The manager will be criticised, and the tactics, but players not running back when they are playing for Man United is unacceptable.

“They threw the towel in, which is shameful. I forgive mistakes, but you’ve got to run back. There’s five or six players who should never play for Man United. It’s shameful.”

– “Manchester United have always had, in my experience at the club, was brilliant characters, brilliant men, people you want to work with, people you would be in the trenches with,” Keane told Sky Sports after 4-0 defeat at Anfield.

“Bryan Robson, [Steve] Brucey, [Paul] Ince, [David] Beckham, [Ryan] Giggsy all these lads, brilliant lads. We didn’t win every week, but before every game we asked ourselves, are we going to give everything that we have for this club?

“And obviously, the answer was yes because of the football club. There is no soul with this team, they are robotic.”

Andrei Kanchelskis

“Fair resignation,” he told Soccer Russia after Solskjaer was sacked. “Everything is natural since he did not show results. It was predictable, like we started the season well, then something went wrong.

“Who can achieve results with this team? [Alex] Ferguson (laughs). In my opinion, an Italian coach would be a good fit for this team.”

Dimitar Berbatov

“He’s [Ten Hag] got a massive job on his hands and we’re looking at a rebuild, and probably the biggest rebuild in European football,” Berbatov told Betfair.

“I’ve seen lots of talk about people coming and going, and unfortunately something needs to happen because it was obvious the other night against Liverpool, there is a massive gap there.

“I hope that the club will give Ten Hag the time he needs, we cannot judge him on next season, that will be too harsh and we cannot expect a miracle when the team has been in a poor position for so long now.”

READ: A tribute to Dimitar Berbatov, a man who made you forgive his faults

Paul Parker

“This is the fifth manager since Sir Alex and they’ve never been backed by the people at the top,” he told the Daily Mail in March 2022.

“David Moyes was let down, although I don’t think the club was right for him. Louis van Gaal’s football wasn’t the best but he was let down. Jose Mourinho, maybe the same but he was his own entity.

“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did really well except he was bullied by the players, dictated to by players playing average or worse. Signing a player [Harry Maguire] for over-the-top and then making him captain wasn’t the best move.

“Some of them [the players] have played for at least three managers. Yet the same things are going on. You can see there’s something wrong. It’s not individuals, it’s the collective.”

Peter Schmeichel

“It’s a decision that’s been made and I think that’s very, very positive,” the United legend told CBS (via Manchester Evening News) when asked about the appointment of Ten Hag.

“There are, and I think it’s obvious to everyone, so many things that need to be done at Manchester United.

“The whole football department needs to be restructured. The way we are thinking about how things are supposed to be done, everything needs a bit of a rethink. Announcing the manager is a decision that needed to be made.

“It’s a step in the right direction but, If I’m honest, it could be him or it could be literally anyone. It’s such a big job so everything would be a bit of a gamble.

“I wish him all the best and hope he can help in the process of rebuilding Manchester United.”

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