'A complete mess' - Neville singles out Mourinho contract decision as root of Man Utd's problems

The Red Devils trail Sunday's opponents Liverpool by 16 points and are struggling to keep pace with the top four after a drab start to the season

Manchester United made a mistake in awarding Jose Mourinho a new contract last January, according to Gary Neville.

The Old Trafford hierarchy extended the manager’s deal in the early weeks of 2018 after he made a positive start to life in the job, winning the League Cup and the Europa League in his first season and returning the club to the Champions League.

He also guided the club to second in the Premier League at the halfway stage last season, a position they held on to, and Neville believes it was these achievements that persuaded the board to invest in the manager long-term.

“I think [the problem] is deep-rooted,” he told Sky Sports. “I mean, from the first day of pre-season it's been a mess, a complete mess. The second Jose Mourinho came out in pre-season you could tell he was at it, he was playing games.

“The club needed to get hold of it then, but it was too late, because they'd given him a contract last January. You know the pattern when Jose Mourinho comes to a football club: the first 12-18 months are usually successful – they won two trophies, they were second in the league last Christmas and he strong-armed the board into giving him a new contract which gave him the power and control.”

But United have struggled for form and consistency this season, lagging in sixth place in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s game against Liverpool at Anfield and trailing their north west rivals by 16 points.

They were beaten 2-1 away at Valencia in the Champions League on Wednesday, limping through to the last 16 in second place behind group winners Juventus.

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“Then on the first day of pre-season he was at it,” added Neville. “And he wanted the money that to be fair if you're going to give a manager a new contract he wants big money to back him.

“He didn't feel that he was backed and it's been a mess ever since then. And there's been a division since then – every single week it's a different player, there's big problems there that are deep-rooted and the club are crawling from week to week, game to game.”