Gary Neville says Erik ten Hag won’t be under pressure to win trophies for at least three years, such is the scale of the job he has to rebuild Manchester United.
The Ajax boss was named as United’s new manager on Thursday and will take up the role from interim head coach Ralf Rangnick in the summer.
Sixth-placed United are currently reeling from a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, and Neville says Ten Hag has a lot of groundwork to do before he and his team will be able to compete with the likes of Jurgen Klopp’s side for major honours.
“What we’re seeing at this current moment is unacceptable,” said Neville. “That needs to be dealt with initially and Ten Hag has got a big job to get the club back up to those minimum standards that they need to achieve, which is 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, as great a job as he’s done. I wouldn’t be putting pressure on Ten Hag in the first two or three years to win a Premier League title. They’re a million miles away from that currently.
“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.
“So initial phase: build the foundations of what he wants to achieve then year three, four, five is when you start looking at him to win trophies.”
Neville warns of long-term impact on players from Man Utd heavy defeats
Liverpool’s big win on Tuesday followed the 5-0 drubbing they dished out at Old Trafford in October, and United have also suffered comprehensive defeats to Premier League leaders Manchester City this term.
Neville believes the impact of those results and United’s wretched run of form which has seen them win just four of their last 14 matches could affect the trajectory of players’ careers – and Ten Hag may have to take that into account when he assesses who from the current squad he wants to bring with him on the journey.
“The players have completely lost their confidence and belief,” said Neville. “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 when they warm up, when they walk out, when they’re playing. They just want these games over. But the problem is there is no hiding place at this club. They’ve got Arsenal Saturday, Chelsea next Thursday where 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 at the club in this moment in time, with the types of defeats they’re suffering, the type of criticism they’re getting, the fans booing them, that’s going to have long-lasting impact on some of those lads to the point where Ten Hag will have to make a decision whether he can recover it – and with some of them he may not be able to. It’s getting that bad.
“There’s a big job to do in many different aspects. The first job is to decide who he wants to keep that’s currently there and then he’s got to decide who he wants to get in with him to make sure that confidence, that belief, that spirit in the dressing room can start to rise.”
‘Rangnick will tell Ten Hag who has to go’
Recruitment is going to be a key focus, with Rangnick saying after the Anfield defeat United may need as many as 10 new players. But deciding who leaves the club to make way for those new recruits will also be important, with Sky Sports News understanding Ten Hag will tell United players he doesn’t want any passengers at the club.
Neville expects interim boss Rangnick, who has seen the current squad up close and personal, to have strong views on who should stay and who should go.
“Recruitment is the most important job in a football club,” he said. “If you get the players wrong, you’re struggling.
“Man Utd have repeatedly flip-flopped over a 10 year period to different philosophies. There have been moments that I believed they were on the right track but how it’s unravelled in the last 8-10 months, from being in a Europa League final to where it is now is alarming.
“I can’t explain it. I don’t think any Man Utd fan can explain it, or probably anyone inside the club can explain why it’s gone from a level which wasn’t at the very top but certainly going in the right direction, to a point where that dressing room looks broken in spirit, in energy, in belief in each other, in likeability of each other as a group.
“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, he’s not doing it individuals yet, 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.”
Will Ten Hag walk into Champions League football?
Man Utd are currently sixth in the Premier League, three points off the top four but having played a game more than both Tottenham (fourth) and Arsenal (fifth). Will they squeeze into the Champions League? Here are their remaining fixtures…
- April 23 – Arsenal (a) Premier League
- April 28 – Chelsea (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
- May 2 – Brentford (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
- May 7 – Brighton (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
- May 22 – Crystal Palace (a) Premier League