Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville has slammed the form of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the wake of the shock defeat to Newcastle United.
The Red Devils suffered a 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park on Sunday, leaving them 16 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, who need only six wins in the last 11 matches to secure the title.
Smalling endured a particularly poor outing and was fortunate to avoid giving away a penalty for a trip on Dwight Gayle in the first half before conceding a free-kick for diving in the second, from which Newcastle created the opening for Matt Ritchie to score.
Jones had an equally torrid time in United’s last away game, a 2-0 loss to Tottenham at Wembley, when he scored an own goal to compound a slack performance.
Neville says the recent form of the duo has been “a disaster” and felt their play at the weekend made the rest of the United team nervous.
“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, now England women’s boss, told the BBC.
“But the last two away games, 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.
“They were making decision that were strange. They were making decisions all day where you were thinking ‘what are you doing?’
“They bought these two as the best young centre-backs in England.”
Jones admitted United did not deserve to win, despite Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial missing clear-cut chances in each half.
“We didn’t show up, we started slowly and they pressed us and the crowd were on their feet,” he told MUTV.
“We got control midway through the first half and should have scored. We had a few chances cleared off the line, but we weren’t at the races, we weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. Ultimately we have conceded a sloppy goal and the lads are devastated in the dressing room.
“In the last 10 or 15 minutes, we had three or four balls cleared off the line. They were scrapping for their lives and that is the sort of luck they needed and they got it. But it wasn’t bad luck today, we just weren’t good enough and I don’t think we deserved to win the game.”