Manchester United’s “jigsaw is half empty”, says Gary Neville, with the Red Devils unaware of what pieces are missing and whether Jose Mourinho or underperforming players should be shouldering the blame.
A testing 2018-19 season is seeing plenty of uncomfortable questions asked at Old Trafford, with a disappointing transfer window having set the tone for what has unfolded so far in Premier League, Carabao Cup and Champions League campaigns.
Talk of dressing room unrest, potential player sales, struggles to land fresh faces and inconsistent performances across multiple competitions has United wondering in which direction they will head from this point.
Former defender Neville admits he is unable to predict what will happen, with a derby defeat to Manchester City on Sunday highlighting old flaws and opening new wounds for a club lacking direction and a clear long-term plan.
He told Sky Sports of the current state of play: “There is not just one piece of the jigsaw or one answer at Manchester United here, where they can say this is what we need and all of sudden they are going to win the league.
“The jigsaw is half empty, but the problem is at the moment when you’re looking at it, you’re not quite sure what pieces are missing and that’s something the board, the owners, the senior recruiters, the coach, they have got to sit down and say how do we build a title-winning team? You build a title-winning team by keeping clean sheets.”
Neville added: “I’ve seen [these players] under Louis Van Gaal a lot of these players, I saw them and I didn’t like what I saw when he was the coach..
“At this moment in time, Manchester United don’t look like they can win a game proactively. They finished second last season, the best since Sir Alex Ferguson finished.
“I’m not defending Jose Mourinho, but could the manager get more out of them? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know if the players are good enough, I haven’t got a clue.
“Look, if you asked me: ‘Is Ashley Young playing the best he could play?’ Yeah. ‘Is this the Chris Smalling we have seen for the last few years?’ Yeah. [Victor] Lindelof is playing better than he has ever played. [David] De Gea’s not.
“It’s so confusing when you watch Manchester United, it’s so confusing because what would you change? If you were going in there as the manager tomorrow what would you change?”
A 3-1 defeat to City has left United eighth in the Premier League table, 12 points adrift of their neighbours at the summit and seven short of the top four.