- Phil Neville criticised Chris Smalling and Phil Jones for their displays on Sunday
- The pair played in central defence as Manchester United lost 1-0 at Newcastle
- Neville said they both made strange decisions and looked nervous and tense
Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville has criticised centre backs Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, labelling the pair a ‘disaster’ following Sunday’s surprise defeat at Newcastle.
With Jose Mourinho‘s side slipping up and Liverpool easing to victory at Southampton, United, who at one stage this season were running clear in second, are now just two points above third place.
United do boast the best defensive record in the Premier League, but Neville believes that is not down to the England stars.
Phil Neville called Chris Smalling (left) and Phil Jones (right) ‘a disaster’ in defeat at Newcastle
Matt Ritchie scored the only goal in the second half as Manchester United left empty handed
The 41-year-old, who made over 250 appearances and won the Premier League title with United, picked apart Jones and Smalling’s nervy performances at St James’ Park after the pair allowed Matt Ritchie to steer in the only goal of the game.
Mourinho said Rafa Benitez’s men had the ‘gods of football’ on their side for the three points but Neville placed blame on United’s backline for helping out.
Speaking on Match of the Day 2, he said: ‘They have got the best defensive record because they have the best goalkeeper in the world in David de Gea and (Nemanja) Matic out in front who protects them really well.
Neville said the pair were ‘making strange decisions’ and ‘created a nervousness and a tension’
Smalling was booked for diving and Newcastle scored the winner from the resulting free-kick
Replays showed the defender was also lucky not to concede a penalty for fouling Dwight Gayle
‘But the last two away games (against Tottenham and Newcastle), Smalling and Jones have been a disaster.
‘Against Dele Alli and Harry Kane, they got bullied. Against Newcastle did they make many mistakes, no, but they created a nervousness and a tension.’
The newly-appointed England Women’s boss says it is the lack of decisiveness that is letting Smalling and Jones down at the moment.
‘They were making decisions that were strange,’ he added. ‘They were making decisions all day where you were thinking: “What are you doing?”‘
Replays showed that Smalling got away with conceding a penalty for bringing down Dwight Gayle in the box, while the pair’s passing and support play for De Gea was substandard all game.
Smalling was also booked for diving which led to Newcastle’s winning goal in the second half, with Ritchie scoring from the resulting free-kick.
With two away games coming up next in the FA Cup and Champions League, Mourinho may be tempted to shake things up in his defence, which could see Smalling and Jones dropped after their recent struggles.
–Credit: Sport | Mail Online