Erik ten Hag’s tenure at the beginning of the new campaign has been far from ideal, with Manchester United managing just two wins in their first five Premier League matches. Their 3-1 loss to Brighton at Old Trafford on Saturday compounded their woes, leaving them languishing in 13th place in the table.
Despite investing £176.9 million in new signings, including Mason Mount, Andre Onana, Ramus Hojlund, Altay Bayindir, and Jonny Evans, as well as securing the services of Sofyan Amrabat and Sergio Reguilon on loan, Neville believes that the club needed to acquire Declan Rice and Harry Kane to be genuine title contenders this season.
In his podcast for Sky Sports, Neville expressed his initial concerns: “I was worried at the start of the season. There was this feeling that Manchester United had completed their transfer business early in the window, and that was good, but I was concerned the players they had brought in wouldn’t improve them from last season. I never thought for one second they would challenge Manchester City and Arsenal with the players they brought in.”
According to Neville, such a challenge would have required marquee signings like Harry Kane or Declan Rice, but the financial resources needed for these acquisitions were not available.
During the summer, Manchester United were linked with both players, but they ultimately lost out in the race to secure their signatures. Declan Rice joined Arsenal for a club-record fee of £105 million from West Ham, while Harry Kane moved to Bayern Munich for a reported £86 million. Instead, Erik ten Hag opted for young Danish striker Ramus Hojlund to bolster his attacking options.
Neville further discussed the prevailing low expectations among United fans, noting that they were not taken aback by the loss to Brighton.
He remarked, “They’re not performing well at the moment. There’s no sense of hysteria. When I attended the Brighton game as a fan, I thought, ‘Can I be surprised?'”
“As a supporter, you’re always filled with optimism. I’ve never walked across the forecourt at Old Trafford without feeling optimistic, as that’s what football fans do when they visit a ground to support their team.”
“However, within the stadium, there were 72,000 Manchester United fans who were well-informed about Brighton and the state of their current team. I don’t believe any of them were shocked by the outcome. Before the game, there was a sense of ‘let’s see what happens,’ ‘maybe get a draw,’ and those kinds of comments as people arrived at the stadium.”