Gary Neville believes the sudden transformation of Manchester United’s form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer demonstrates how they downed their tools under Jose Mourinho.
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was Man United’s seventh win in a row under Solskjaer, who took over from Mourinho in December.
The difference in performances and overall spirit is nothing short of remarkable: players look as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders, allowing them to properly breathe again.
But to Neville, the way players suddenly improved provides cause for concern over their capacity to “switch on and off like a tap” – a trait which doesn’t bode well for a title challenge.
“I think when he [Solskjaer] came in, the club couldn’t have been any lower in terms of expectation, there was a bad feeling around the club,” he said.
“He’s done an incredible job, he’s put himself in the frame and he keeps on winning. I think it’s the best start for any Manchester United manager in the history of the club. It’s unbelievable really.
“The Manchester United players at the end were obviously not trying for Mourinho as they just switched the tap on and off. The difference is incredible but I must admit I have my doubts about those group of players.
“It’s that they can just switch on and off like a tap, it doesn’t fill me with confidence that they can take Manchester United back to the title but what they are doing at least is performing to their capabilities.”
An often used phrase to describe the demise under Mourinho is that United players ‘stopped running for their manager’. This was true both literally and figuratively.
Against Cardiff City, United outran their Premier League opponents for the first time this season. At the same time, an intangible spring in their step was there. It was not the overall tactical approach which changed; it was the entire attitude.
When you have a manager who belittles players, complains about them and the club not doing what they should, pointing to literally anything apart from himself to explain the awful predicament he finds himself in, you cannot be surprised when they stop giving everything.