Neville hits out at 'desperate' Man Utd transfer strategy amid Arnautovic links

·3 min read

Gary Neville launched a scathing attack on Manchester United's transfer strategy after their 2-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, labelling the Red Devils "desperate" amid reports linking them with Marko Arnautovic.

United began the Erik ten Hag era in dismal fashion on Sunday as Pascal Gross' double condemned them to an opening-day defeat to the Seagulls.

The result made Ten Hag the first United boss to lose his first Premier League game at the helm since Louis van Gaal did so against Swansea City in August 2014.

With wantaway striker Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench and fellow forward Anthony Martial injured, United struggled to test a resolute Brighton rearguard and only pulled a goal back when Alexis Mac Allister put through his own net.

In the aftermath of United's defeat, widespread reports suggested they had a £7.6million (€9m) bid for Bologna's 33-year-old forward Arnautovic rejected.

United have also failed to entice top target Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona thus far, and Neville did not hold back when discussing the club's recruitment.

"The first thing you do when the phone rings from Manchester United is reject the bid, because the reality of it is after losing that game against Brighton on Sunday, they're actually negotiating from an even worse position than they were on Saturday, and that's an even bigger problem for them," the former United defender said on Sky Sports.

"I've got a comment on everything in the world, apart from Manchester United signing Marko Arnautovic. I've got nothing to say.

"We've seen Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edison Cavani, Odion Ighalo - desperate, it's a pattern.

"It's happening time and time again. I don't even get angry or animated about it anymore. I'm not going to comment about it."

Micah Richards was also unimpressed by the potential acquisition of Arnautovic, adding: "What has happened to Manchester United, seriously? I'm not going to stick the boot in. Arnautovic was a quality player, but he's 33 playing in Italy."

After playing in the Premier League for Stoke City and West Ham, Arnautovic spent two years in China with Shanghai Port before moving to Bologna – for whom he scored 14 Serie A goals last season – in 2021.

In his post-match media conference, Ten Hag declined to mention Arnautovic by name, only lamenting the unavailability of the strikers in his squad, with Ronaldo limited to a substitute appearance.

"I don't go into names because I think in this pre-season 250 players are involved or linked with Manchester United, so that's it," Ten Hag said. "We have two strikers, maybe a third one, with Marcus Rashford as well.

"We considered him as a striker, but he had a really good pre-season on the left side and today he had two really good chances coming in from the left side.

"So I think it was the right decision to do it like this, the typical number nine wasn't available today."