Manchester United suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton at Old Trafford, leaving them with just six points from their first five Premier League matches this season.
The team secured two narrow victories over Wolves and Nottingham Forest, but also suffered losses to Tottenham and Arsenal.
Despite the summer signings of Rasmus Hojlund, Andre Onana, Mason Mount, Sofyan Amrabat, Sergio Reguilon, Jonny Evans, and Altay Bayindir, Neville believes the starting XI has not significantly improved from last season.
Speaking on his Sky Sports podcast, Neville stated, “I had concerns at the start of the season. There was this feeling that Manchester United had completed their transfer business early in the window, which was good, but I was concerned that the new signings wouldn’t enhance the team compared to last season.”
“I never once believed they could challenge the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal with the players they brought in. It would have required a signing of the caliber of Harry Kane or Declan Rice, for example, but they didn’t have the funds for those types of transfers.”
“At the moment, they’re not performing well. There’s no hysteria. I attended the Brighton game as a fan with a glimmer of hope. As a supporter, you’re always optimistic. I’ve never walked across that forecourt at Old Trafford without feeling optimistic because that’s what football fans do when they go to a game to support their team.”
“However, with 72,000 Manchester United fans in the stadium who are well-informed about Brighton and the current state of their team, I don’t think any of them were surprised by what they witnessed. Before the match, there was a sense of ‘let’s see what happens,’ ‘settle for a draw,’ those sorts of comments from people as you enter.”
Neville also pointed out that Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay appeared to struggle at times against Brighton, with Roberto de Zerbi’s team gaining the upper hand in the tactical battle.
Neville added, “Manchester United started brightly in the first 10 to 15 minutes, but as soon as Brighton began to compose themselves and the center-backs began to play the ball among themselves and distribute passes into midfield, they dismantled Manchester United by playing to Brighton’s strengths.”
“Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana were dropping into pockets, the two wide players were positioned high, and Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof were caught out of position at times.”
“While we often say that football players win football matches, and that’s the most obvious thing to say, systems do have an impact on matches. There’s something at Old Trafford where the side near the dugout doesn’t have much space, but on the far side, there’s a lot of space away from the dugout. The available space on the pitch is always on the opposite side for the opposition. I don’t know why that is; it’s always been that way at Old Trafford.”
“In the first half, Christian Eriksen was asked to cover Brighton’s right-back and right flank with Sergio Reguilon. That’s where the first goal came from. Eriksen had to move out there because he was playing in a diamond formation.”
“In the second half, Scott McTominay was on the same side, and he appeared fatigued at times. I was closely watching these players. It wasn’t a lack of effort or players giving up; they were giving their all, but McTominay couldn’t cover their left side in the second half, and that’s where Brighton scored their two goals.”
“I was surprised they kept a narrow midfield instead of opting for a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 because the Manchester United pitch always feels expansive in the wide areas.”
“Brighton had the system and the players to dismantle Manchester United, finding those spare passes.”
“At Old Trafford, I used to think, ‘Don’t give the opposition an easy way out.’ Yesterday, they had an easy way out, and they took advantage of it, making Manchester United look rather ordinary at times.”
“It was a concerning day because Brighton outperformed Manchester United. They were fantastic with a group of players who, on paper, may not be as glamorous or valuable, but they were the superior team.”