Roy Keane has hit out at claims Manchester United have taken great steps under Erik ten Hag, putting them well behind Arsenal and Manchester City and naming four troublesome positions for the manager to sort out.
Man Utd went into the match against Arsenal on Sunday high in confidence after going unbeaten in their previous 10 games. That run included the impressive 2-1 victory over rivals Manchester City on January 14.
However, Ten Hag’s men were beaten 3-2 by Arsenal at the Emirates (Ten Hag’s reaction is available here). Despite taking the lead through Marcus Rashford inside 20 minutes, they were pegged back by an Eddie Nketiah goal, with Bukayo Saka then giving Arsenal the lead.
Lisandro Martinez got Man Utd back into the clash by heading over the line after an Aaron Ramsdale error. But Nketiah flicked home at the back post late on to ensure all three points remained in north London.
During an appearance on Sky Sports (22/01, at 18:50) after the match, Keane did admit that Man Utd have made some progress under their new boss. However, he thinks they are still some way off competing for Premier League titles again.
Keane also cannot believe that Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and Fred – players who were expected to be replaced under Ten Hag – are still featuring regularly.
“The last few days have been difficult, dropping points right at the last minute against Palace and the defeat today,” the pundit said. “United weren’t at their best, you’re thinking ‘could you hang on for the draw, take the point and move on’.
“United [have] made progress but then come the end of the game I’m looking, Shaw’s still at left-back, question marks over Wan-Bissaka, Fred’s back in midfield, McTominay’s in. [It’s] as if they haven’t moved on from their problems in the past.
Defeat to Arsenal was ‘a reality check’ for Man Utd – Keane
“I’m not just blaming them players because it was a tough game, you’ve got to give credit to Arsenal. But yeah, it is a reality check.
“I’ve said it for the last few months, I think Man Utd are well short. I know we’re missing an important player today [Casemiro] but that’s the game. A squad like Man Utd’s should be able to deal with it.
“When the going got tough and there’s 20 minutes to go, you’re looking at the options off the bench, they weren’t great. For all the money United have spent, they’re still well short. We saw that today against an Arsenal team who are flying, and they’re still behind Man City.
“I always felt United were certain to get top four, I think they’ll be fine for that, probably try to win a cup. But in terms of competing for league titles, they have a bit to go yet.”
It is harsh for Keane to call out Ten Hag over the decision to play McTominay. After all, Casemiro is serving a suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season recently.
Wan-Bissaka, Shaw and Fred have all improved since Ten Hag arrived in the summer, too. Having said that, it is easy to see where Keane is coming from in his overall squad assessment.
Man Utd still do not have enough world-class players in their first team to come up with a genuine title challenge. And the same can be said for the bench.
It is clear more additions are needed this summer to help Ten Hag and his side take the next step, where they can really get up there with the likes of Arsenal and City.
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