Meulensteen joins United's critics
Rene Meulensteen has claimed Manchester United are suffering from an 'identity crisis' after criticising the performances of the team under manager Louis van Gaal.
United head into Sunday's lunchtime meeting against old rivals Liverpool on the back of five straight wins in the Barclays Premier League, a run which has moved them up to third, but that has not prevented criticism in recent days from former players Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, and now Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant has added his voice.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Dutchman said: "I find it a big surprise that Van Gaal has not managed yet to make the team play better. We are nearly at Christmas now and look at the performances. I still don't see a flow, a rhythm. They win five on the spin but they were absolutely pummelled at Arsenal and should have lost against Southampton."
Meulensteen, who was Ferguson's assistant between 2007 and 2013 and later took charge of Fulham, admitted that Van Gaal is "not my cup of tea" thanks to his abrasive style, but was more concerned with keeping United's traditions alive.
He added: "I said to Ryan (Giggs, Van Gaal's assistant): 'I'm so glad you're staying at the club in this role because you're the one holding on to this life-line to the Ferguson era but I'm telling you it's going to be the most difficult three years ahead of you.' The lifeline is the connection to Ferguson, and what Ryan grew up with, the DNA that Ferguson put in the club. If Giggs leaves the club, that's it, done, gone, forget it, he's the last one holding on to it. It would be a very sad moment."
United looked tentative early in the season, and even though their form has improved since the derby day defeat to Manchester City, Meulensteen believes the fear factor is yet to return.
"United have been thrown into a bit of an identity crisis," he said. "Under Ferguson, it was routines, straightforward, people didn't have to think about it. We just rolled on. That sequence was suddenly broken, and players were affected.
"With Ferguson, we had the same approach home and away: 'We are United and we are going to dominate.' First five minutes we went to get the initiative, get the lead, 'run the energy out of their legs', the manager used to say, keep picking them off, waiting for the next goal, just to kill them off."