Paul McGrath: I can only imagine Roy Keane’s reaction to Man United’s Spanish debacle
United players need to respond as season is on the line in FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday
Manchester United season is on the line when they take on Brighton in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
If they beat Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final, the same domestic Cup double that Liverpool won last season is still there for them
Lose to a bubbling Brighton, and they are reduced to winning the Carabao Cup and a scramble to get into the 2023/4 Champions League.
And a scramble it will be, because United’s next three Premier League matches are a trip to Spurs on Thursday, followed by tough games against Aston Villa and Brighton.
On the basis of what we saw in the heat of southern Spain on Thursday night, you would not back the Red Devils to win any of those games.
When the heat came on, Manchester United’s players did not want to know.
Erik ten Hag has some job in the summer because he must find a modern-day version of two of the greatest players I ever played with, for United need a new Bryan Robson or Roy Keane.
I can only imagine the reaction of either of those legends at half-time in Seville last Thursday.
‘Having a go’ doesn’t even begin to cover it; they would have been raging, calling out those players who were not doing the business.
In the early minutes in Seville, one of the home team put Marcel Sabitzer out over the advertising hoardings with a late challenge.
Robbo would have been over immediately, fuming and laying down the law. Roy, the same, letting the Sevilla lads know this wasn’t on.
Not a single United player got involved when Sabitzer was shunted out well beyond the touchline.
Even Casemiro, such a shining light for United this season, was very poor on Thursday.
But not as poor as Harry Maguire and David de Gea. Maguire’s confidence seems shot now when playing for United.
He wasn’t making those mistakes for England at the World Cup. Yet you sense they are coming every time he pulls on a United shirt.
De Gea should not have given him the pass for the first goal, even though Maguire called for it.
When he did, the centre-half should have just put his boot to the ball, and if it ended up in Row Z of the Stand, and in a throw-in to the home team, well what harm. That’s what I would have done!
Do you remember when Pep Guardiola arrived as manager at Manchester City, and Joe Hart was the No 1 goalkeeper for club and country at the time?
The Catalan got rid of Hart immediately on the basis that he could not kick the ball accurately, either short to his defenders, or long to his attacking team-mates.
In came Ederson, and in came Alisson at Liverpool – two goalkeepers who can do what their manager wants his goalkeeper to do with the ball.
I’m afraid De Gea have never been good with the ball at his feet, and he’s hardly going to get better any time soon.
As well as the other players whose futures he must consider, Ten Hag must now decide whether to move De Gea on, too.
It is clear that United may have to bite the bullet and almost give away, or secure very modest transfer fees, for those players the manager no longer values.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial and Anthony Elanga, with Maguire and possibly De Gea, are just four more players whose futures at Old Trafford seem grim.
But their departures will not raise enough income to buy the four world-class footballers, minimum, that United need. It’s time again for the Glazers to get out the cheque book.
For all that, I still believe United will have enough about them, in terms of a response to their Europa League exit, to beat Brighton at Wembley this afternoon.
Marcus Rashford will be fitter for having played the second half in Spain, and Bruno Fernandes will be back in the team.
And there simply has to be a reaction from the United players.
They will know what happened on Thursday was not acceptable from any group of Manchester United players.
And debacles have happened too often this season, think Brentford, Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle and now Sevilla.
It’s time for United’s players to stand up at last and a FA Cup semi-final is the perfect place to do it.
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