Neville picks out ‘legless’ Man Utd player vs Brighton; reveals pre-season ‘worries’ have come true

Joe Williams
Man Utd legend Gary Neville
Gary Neville at Goodison Park in his role as a Sky Sports pundit.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville insists Red Devils fans are no longer surprised to see their side lose at home to Brighton.

Man Utd lost 3-1 to the Seagulls at Old Trafford on Saturday, which means they got just six points from their opening five Premier League matches.

The Red Devils two wins came in unconvincing performances against Wolves and Nottingham Forest, while they have lost against both Tottenham and Arsenal.

Rasmus Hojlund, Andre Onana, Mason Mount, Sofyan Amrabat, Sergio Reguilon, Jonny Evans and Altay Bayindir all joined in the summer transfer window but Neville doesn’t think they’ve improved the starting XI from last season.

Speaking on his own Sky Sports podcast, Neville said: “I was worried at the start of the season.

“There was this feeling Manchester United had got their business done early in the transfer window and that was good, but I was concerned the players they had brought in wouldn’t improve them from last season.

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“I never thought for one second they would challenge Manchester City and Arsenal from the players that they brought in.

“That would have needed a Harry Kane-type signing or Declan Rice, as an example. They didn’t have the money to do those types of signings.

“They’re not very good at the moment. There’s no hysteria. I went to the Brighton game as a fan thinking, ‘Could I be surprised?’.

“You’re always optimistic. I have never walked over that forecourt at Old Trafford and not been optimistic because that’s the job of a football fan going to any ground where you support your team.

“But 72,000 Manchester United fans in that stadium, who are informed and know Brighton and know their current team, I don’t think any of them were surprised at what they saw.

“Before the game there was that feeling of, ‘Let’s see what happens’, ‘Take a point’, those sort of comments speaking to people as you go in.”

And Neville picked out Man Utd midfielder Scott McTominay for being “legless at times” against Brighton as Roberto de Zerbi’s side got the better of the Red Devils in the tactical battle.

Neville added: “Manchester United started brightly in that first 10, 15 minutes but the moment Brighton started composing themselves, the centre-backs get on the ball with their goalkeeper and pop a few passes into midfield, they dismantled Manchester United by doing what Brighton do.

“[Danny] Welbeck and [Adam] Lallana dropping into pockets, the two wide players being high, [Lisandro] Martinez and [Victor] Lindelof being caught in no man’s land at times.

“We quite often say that football players win football matches, it’s the most obvious thing to say, and that systems don’t win matches. I’m sorry, systems do have an impact on matches.

“There’s this thing at Old Trafford: dugout side, there’s no space. On the far side, you have acres of space away from the dugout. The space in the game is always for the opposition on the other side of the pitch. I don’t know why that is, it’s always happened at Old Trafford.

“I was sat on the opposite side of the pitch. In the first half, [Christian] Eriksen was being asked to get out to Brighton’s right-back and right-hand side with [Sergio] Reguilon. That’s where the first goal game from. Eriksen had to get out there because he was playing in a diamond.

“In the second half, [Scott] McTominay is over on this side and he was legless at times.

“I was watching those lads very closely. This wasn’t a massive lack of effort or players chucking the towel in, they were trying their very best, but McTominay couldn’t get out to their left side in the second half and that’s where the two goals came from.

“I was surprised they kept a narrow midfield and didn’t have a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 because Manchester United’s pitch always feels massive in the wide areas, it always has done.

“Brighton have got the system of play and the players to be able to dismantle you and find the spare pass.

“I always used to think at Old Trafford, ‘Don’t give the opposition an easy out’. They had an easy out yesterday and they dismantled Manchester United and made them look quite ordinary at times.

“It was a worrying, concerning day in that Brighton were better than Manchester United. They were fantastic with a group of players that on paper aren’t as sexy, as valuable but they were the better team.”