Gary Neville has provided some “insight” into why Erik ten Hag has not been playing Manchester United midfielder Fred while discussing why he thinks his former side can stop Manchester City claiming the Treble.
City can go four points clear at the top of the Premier League if they win their two games in hand having torn Arsenal apart in midweek ahead of their 2-1 win over Fulham on Sunday.
And Pep Guardiola’s side are very much in the hunt for an historic Treble with Real Madrid to come in the Champions League semi-final and United to play in the final of the FA Cup.
While explaining why his former side have a decent chance of upsetting City at Wembley, Neville gave an “insight” into why Fred is playing a bit-part role under Ten Hag.
The Brazil international started five Premier League games on the bounce in February into March, but has been reduced to brief substitute appearances since the 7-0 drubbing by Liverpool.
“I think United have probably got more chance than Real Madrid. I think United in a one-off game at Wembley. The centre-backs will be back, I’m hoping they’ll be back by then and we’ve got players fit,” said Neville on The Overlap.
“I just think if we set up in such a way… I’m hoping that we go into the game with Bruno Fernandes on the right and that we stiffen up the midfield with Scott McTominay [holding] and Casemiro and Christian Eriksen or Marcel Sabitzer. And we go a bit more sort of thoughtful in the game.
“Doing what Arsenal did with the three in midfield that were attacking [was the wrong move]. We need to be a bit more [defensive].
“Erik ten Hag doesn’t like doing this, he likes to dominate the ball, he likes to control the ball.
“He’s left Fred out for the last few months because he wants Eriksen. I’ve got a little bit of an insight into why Fred’s not playing, Sabitzer is playing because he can hold [the ball].”
Jamie Carragher couldn’t resist a dig at Neville over his Fred comment, interrupting to joke: “He spoke to the masseur!”
An irked Neville continued: “Oh my god. Right, so, Sabitzer, Eriksen, Fernandes – he wants players who can take the ball. Every manager wants that.
“But I just think against City, having Bruno one step further up – like we’ve done in certain games – being a bit more solid and just making sure we’re a bit more respectful. Doing the opposite of what Arsenal did that night.
“We can’t press City high and basically think we can keep possession off them and expose our centre-backs. So I think we’ve got to make sure we’re a little bit more thoughtful in the game. Be in it with 15 or 20 minutes to go.
“I think United have got a chance. I’m not saying they’re going to win – I don’t feel that confident – but I’ve booked my tickets, I’m going down, and I’ve got a little bit of hope that tradition and history will look down on us.”