In pictures: Man Utd v Aston Villa
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Gary Neville has called on Manchester United to start gelling together as a team and not play as a “group of individuals” if they want to end their trophy drought this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday after a late Kortney Hause goal.
It was the first time in the current campaign that the Red Devils have tasted defeat in the Premier League after an encouraging start with four wins from their opening five games.
But it was their third defeat in four games in all competitions after losing to Young Boys and West Ham over the past 10 days.
Solskjaer oversaw another significant summer of spending with the arrivals of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, before clinching the return of Cristiano Ronaldo on deadline day.
The Portuguese superstar has already notched four goals for United but could not find the back of the net on Saturday.
And former United defender Neville, working as a co-commentator for Sky Sports, believes similar results will follow if the players do not learn to play together as a team.
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“Look, I said it even when they were winning, even when was Ronaldo scoring… they don’t play well enough as a team to win this league in my view,” he said on his Sky Sports podcast.
“I think that you have to be a unit in possession and out of possession and when you’re only delivering moments, those moments won’t go for you in certain games.
“You need patterns of play, you need a way of playing. And I, at this moment in time, still see a group of individuals playing in moments with some passes and combinations at times.
“Some of them are still new together, Varane, Sancho hasn’t settled in yet. But they’ve got to come together as a team and define a style of play. They’ve got to get results when they don’t play well.
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“I think the way they are at the moment, they will always have days like yesterday [the 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday], they’ll have patches of four or five games where they will only win two and they’ll go win 15 on the bounce away from home.
“That’s the type of team they are, I have called them ‘The Odd Bunch’. I still look at them and see a team that wins games in moments.”
Man United have not won a trophy of any kind since their Europa League triumph in 2016-17 under Jose Mourinho, having lost in the same competition in May in the final to Villarreal.
There are now only three possible avenues to win silverware this season after the 1-0 defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup in midweek, where Solskjaer made a host of changes.
Neville suggested that the Red Devils should have prioritised winning the competition as a platform to launch them towards further success in the future.
“If you sign [Edinson] Cavani, [Bruno] Fernandes, Ronaldo, Sancho, Varane, you’ve got to then win a trophy at some point in the next 12-18 months, this season or next, while Ronaldo is here,” he said.
“That’s why it’s [Ronaldo] a make-or-break signing. You have to win a trophy and that’s why it was a bad one against West Ham on Wednesday night.
“I’m sat there watching at home and I’m thinking ‘this is one of the trophies you can win’ and actually, I’ve seen this trophy be a springboard for teams to go and be really successful.
He continued: “Go and win that trophy in March and that gives you the impetus for the rest of the season and the confidence. The Europa League’s still a bad one; you have to win that trophy.
“There is definitely some pressure building [on Solskjaer] after that game yesterday, but they’ll probably win five or six games on the bounce.”
United are one of four teams along with Chelsea, Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City that have been earmarked for a title challenge after strengthening their squad.
But Neville fears that while their top four rivals have already established their identity on the pitch, United are yet to map out their footballing blueprint.
“I saw people saying ‘Ole out’ but I think the club will see this project through,” Neville added.
“I don’t like calling managerial reigns ‘projects’ but they will see this through because they have had world-class, international managers in the building and it’s not worked for the club, for the fans,”
“It does seem that the dressing room is happy, but they have got to start to become a team, they have to start putting combinations together and pattern of plays.
“I know what’s going to happen when I can see Man City or Liverpool are building out from the back. When Manchester United build from the back or through midfield, I don’t know what’s coming next sometimes.”
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