Paul Scholes believes Manchester United – and Morgan Schneiderlin in particular – had “no balls” against Liverpool.
United succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against their bitter rivals at Anfield on Thursday, and had David de Gea to thank for the loss being less emphatic.
Louis van Gaal’s side now host Liverpool on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie, but Scholes believes the players had “no balls” in the first leg.
Scholes discussed the game with Jamie Carragher as part of an in-depth interview with the Daily Mail. Below is a transcript.
Carragher: “So you’ve had your say and called United a ‘shambles’ but if you were Louis van Gaal, what would you do in the second leg? What team would you pick to turn it round?”
Scholes: “It’s very difficult, really. I’m not sure the squad is strong enough to win the game. Listen. We are at Old Trafford. We should be good enough to win the game. But what changes would I make?. I don’t think there is a lot of choice. I really don’t. He can give them shape, of course. But (at Anfield) it looked like he threw them on the pitch, picked a back four and said, ‘Do what you want’.
Carragher: “I’d never say I was very confident playing Manchester United but when I saw the team, with Guillermo Varela at right back, Marcus Rashford playing right midfield and no Michael Carrick? I thought that was huge. I had confidence then.”
Scholes: “When I saw the teamsheet my first thought was, ‘They’re going to get beat’. I thought Carrick should be playing. Michael probably isn’t in the best form of his life, he’s picking up injuries and he can’t stay fit. But he has to play centre midfield. He’s brave enough to take the ball.
“Coming to Anfield, bravery is the biggest thing. Having the balls to go and play. This is a tough, horrible place to play. It’s a tight pitch, everything is on top of you. But Michael possesses that ability to get on the ball and calmness.
“Morgan Schneiderlin didn’t want to do it. Marouane Fellaini isn’t someone you can play through. He played for one reason: so they could smash the ball up to him and they didn’t have to play through midfield. This is United you are talking about! Every time Fellaini plays, that happens.
Carragher: “So as an ex-player and a supporter, what do you think? From my own point of view, I think about United’s name but then I see the way they are playing. It feels like they have become a long-ball team. How do you feel watching that?”
Scholes: “It’s disappointing. But, deep down, I knew beforehand this would happen. If you play Fellaini, you can only play one way. You have to smash it to him. That isn’t Manchester United. That should never, ever be Manchester United. But, where we are, it is.
“Van Gaal is almost saying we haven’t got the midfield players to handle the ball, to handle the pressure of Liverpool. He is saying we haven’t got the players who can play one-touch. He’s saying if we go long and smash it up to Fellaini, Liverpool can’t win the ball off us.
“It didn’t work. Liverpool were brilliant. Liverpool were 10 times better than United. So much quality. Philippe Coutinho took Varela all over the place. They all ended up out of position. Memphis is nearly playing as a left back!
“United had no control in the middle of the park. If Michael is there, you still might not get control because Liverpool are good. But if you try it, at least you have the chance to get into position.
“Now even if Memphis does get into positions, he has been poor. In games against the top teams, his quality has been really poor. Martial is a young player who will become a top centre forward. But, as a 20-year-old, he is a second or third choice.”