Gary Neville insists he will not put “any real pressure” on Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag this season, but admits the club will be “embarrassed” if top target Frenkie de Jong joins Chelsea.
The Red Devils kick off their Premier League campaign at home to Brighton at Old Trafford.
It will be Ten Hag’s first competitive match in charge after a productive pre-season.
United have brought in Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia so far this summer but are hoping to wrap up more business before the window closes.
They have been linked with Barcelona midfielder De Jong all summer but the player is not keen on a move to Old Trafford as he would rather play in the Champions League.
Furthermore, he is owed £14–17million in deferred wages so would prefer that situation to be resolved before leaving the club.
Chelsea have been added to the mix in recent weeks and are reportedly interested in bringing the Dutchman to Stamford Bridge.
This would be a huge blow for Ten Hag and United, who have been pursuing this deal for months.
And if De Jong does move to United’s Premier League rivals, the club’s former defender, Neville, thinks it could be an ’embarrassment’.
“Manchester United will look like they’re incredibly smart if they get De Jong in for the money they wanted or they might look embarrassed if he goes to Chelsea,” Neville said (quotes via the Daily Star).
The club legend believes Ten Hag needs time to settle into his role and insists he will not put pressure on the Dutch manager.
“Look, Manchester United’s a huge job full stop. Manchester United that struggled like they did last season have to pick up the baton is even more difficult. It’s become even more difficult the fact they haven’t got the players in as early as he wanted, he might still get them in the next couple of weeks.
“Then there’s the Cristiano Ronaldo situation complicated by Martial, he’s not had the ideal point of view of settling in, I think a Manchester United manager is always under pressure but as a United fan, I’m not placing any real pressure on Erik ten Hag.”
Neville continued: “You see (Mikel) Arteta tonight, he’s been there three seasons, spent millions of pounds, this is the season he has to deliver this doesn’t feel like the moment Ten Hag is faced with since coming in and the fact he’s quite got the players he wants.
“I know he says he’s happy with the squad but he can’t be because he does want other players we know that so he can’t quite be happy. I think he’s had a really good impact on the players and what he’ll do is maximise their potential and talent and that’s all he can do at the moment.”
Neville is well aware of the threat Brighton pose and is not expecting an easy encounter at Old Trafford.
“I don’t know what will happen Sunday,” he said. “I liked what I saw pre-season, but Brighton at Old Trafford will be tough.”