Luke Shaw says Manchester United have gotten complacent since winning the Carabao Cup as the defender and Marcus Rashford challenged team-mates to ensure their 7-0 evisceration by Liverpool does not derail their season.
United’s players reported at 9am as planned on Monday for a recovery session and analyzed the capitulation back with Ten Hag – who had already been in the building for a couple of hours – and his coaching staff.
Ten Hag made no secret of his unhappiness with what he regarded as a lack of professionalism, indiscipline and fight reminiscent of the collapses at Brentford and Manchester City earlier in the season, with Shaw admitting the performance was “disgraceful”.
But sources said the focus was very much on getting the joint worst competitive defeat in United’s history out of their system quickly and ensuring there is an immediate response against Real Betis in the first leg of their Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday and at home to Southampton in the Premier League three days later.
Despite the anger and embarrassment at both the manner and scale of the loss at Anfieldthe mood was said to be far removed from the toxic atmosphere and scapegoating that took root in the wake of heavy battering last season.
Given United’s impressive home form this term, two matches in quick succession at Old Trafford are also regarded as offering a good platform to bounce back swiftly. “No one is losing their minds in there,” one insider said.
Shaw pulled no punches and claimed United had taken their eye off the ball since beating Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final the previous weekend, since when they were forced to come from behind to beat West Ham in the FA Cup and imploded against Liverpool.
“Our standards have clearly dropped since we’ve won that trophy and in the last couple of games we haven’t been our normal selves,” said the left back, who was at fault for the second and sixth goals. “We showed no personality, no mentality and for a big team to come here we need to be better.
“It showed in the first half that if you switch off for one moment then you get punished. In the second half we switched off for the whole half and not just moments. Like I said, it was embarrassing, disgraceful and it’s not acceptable what that second half was. We can’t let this one result derail our whole season because we’re in a really good place. It’s another hurdle we need to go over and as a team we’ll climb over that.”
Rashford urged United’s supporters to “trust the process” under Ten Hag. United are still in contention to win the Europa League and FA Cup and are seven points clear of fifth placed Liverpool in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Shaw added: “On the pitch I felt embarrassed for us players, for the fans that were there supporting us, that were watching at home, to watch that second half.
“I can only apologize for that and us as players have to own it, we have to stand up and accept that it was nowhere near good enough. It was completely unacceptable and I’m sure they’re hurting, but us as players are hurting a lot.”
Bruno Fernandes was one of the players to come in for the fiercest criticism after the United captain was attacked by the club’s former players, Gary Neville and Roy Keane, for his “disgraceful” body language and “embarrassing” petulance and perceived play-acting during the match.
Neville claimed Fernandes had complained about not being substituted instead of Rashford for Anthony Elanga in the 85th minute. But United denied on Monday that was the case and insisted that the Portugal midfielder had actually been seeking clarity from the bench about his position and whether he should play centrally or wide as a result of Elanga’s arrival.
Fernandes also sparked controversy following an incident involving assistant referee Adam Nunn late in the game.
But there was some good news for Ten Hag on Monday, with Fernandes escaping disciplinary action from the Football Association after he appeared to lay his hands on Nunn. The FA are able to take retrospective action if a player committed a sending off offense that was “not seen” by the match officials. But it is understood that no action will be taken in this case because the incident was spotted by referee Andrew Madley and his team at the time and they chose not to include it in their report.
The news came despite the chief executive of Ref Support UK calling for Fernandes to be hit with a five-match ban and made an example of. “Just like someone doing a Ronaldo celebration or a Cruyff turn, children will mimic what they see on TV,” Martin Cassidy said. “We’re talking about a world class official being pushed in the back here.
“The onus is certainly on the FA. They have all the evidence in front of them to send a real strong message across all football that touching a match official in this way is totally unacceptable.
“Fernandes behaved like an entitled child. The FA has done an awful lot of great work since the beginning of the year in terms of protecting match officials, such as the body cam pilot, which is a wonderful progressive move. But they can damage that by not addressing this with a strong ban. We believe it should be five games for this.”