Phil Neville: These Man United stars were absolutely scandalous against Chelsea

by Leo Nieboer


Former Manchester United full-back Phil Neville has pilloried Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera for the individual errors they made against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

Chelsea’s first goal came after a failure of communication and composure from Smalling and Blind, allowing Pedro drive home into an empty net after just 30 seconds.

Pogba and Herrera then completely failed to track the run of N’Golo Kante, who duly added Chelsea’s fourth of the day after 70 minutes.

Neville, speaking after the game, did not hold back in his criticism of the quartet.

“For the fourth goal… Herrera and Paul Pogba there, I think it’s absolutely scandalous,” he said.

“The way Kante runs in behind Pogba – Herrera can see the run as well but doesn’t track him – then he’s one-on-one with (Chris) Smalling and it’s just too easy.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to run in behind Herrera.”

The mistakes they (United) made in the game, you can’t legislate for that as a coach. United had opportunities to get back into the game but ultimately they weren’t good enough and Chelsea were fantastic.

“Smalling will get the blunt of the criticism but there were other players involved.

“Straight from the kick-off Daley Blind isn’t in line with his centre backs. He should be up, then they can play Pedro offside. Pedro makes a run in behind him and Chris Smalling should see the run. I don’t think he sees him.”

In a way, I can sympathise with Smalling and Blind with regard to that first goal. Yes, it was a terrible lack of communication. And yes, that hopeful punt up the field should have never led to a goal. But those freakish, seemingly inexplicable early meltdowns do happen from time to time.

It essentially boils down to the player’s psyche, and how it can sometimes fail to immediately align itself with the pace of the game. This is, above anything, a fact of life: when you’re thrown into a pool, you don’t immediately start swimming. Of course, it is their job to be ready from the first whistle, but there is at least an explanation behind their early capitulation.

Less explainable is the lackadaisical approach both Pogba and Herrera took up when chasing after Kante. It was like they thought: “Well, it’s Kante – he never scores goals, that’s just not what he does.” The gloomy truth, however, is that their failure to track the 25-year-old stemmed from a complete lack of mental strength; 3-0 down after 70 minutes, it was like they’d already given up. And that, as much as I value both Pogba and Herrera as assets in this United squad, betrays the first rule of playing at the highest level – to put in absolutely everything until the final whistle.

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