Roy Keane slams "frightened" Man United after bore draw vs Arsenal
"It looks as if the players have all got a bit frightened of the challenge."
Manchester United's home loss to Sheffield United and their draw with Arsenal has seen them slip three points behind Manchester City, who have a game in hand and are stacking up multiple clean sheets.
For those who doubted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were capable of a title challenge, the past four days have re-affirmed that belief. Jürgen Klopp was quick to remind reporters, after his side lost at home to Burnley last week, that every side would experience another slump before the season was out.
United are not exactly in a slump, but they have looked ponderous and heavy in their last two outings. Solskjaer tried to rest some of his key players against the Blades and was left ruing that call as his team lost 2-1 to a bang average team.
Arsenal are a couple of steps above Chris Wilder's side, but no more than that. With three of their best players out injured, they gave starts to Nicolas Pepé and Gabriel Martinelli. Their best chance of breaking the deadlock came from an Alexandre Lacazette free-kick that rattled the United crossbar.
Fred was denied by a glorious Bernd Leno save in the first half, and Edinson Cavani conspired to miss the target twice from six yards out. Following the game, Roy Keane took United to task but it was fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher who sounded more exasperated.
The former United captain cut a frustrated figure, post-match, as he bemoaned Solskjaer's side and their lack of drive. "I'm scratching my head with United, really," he admitted.
It ultimately took Carragher climbing into United to light a fire under Keane. The former Liverpool defender proclaimed:
"I'd be more angry as a United fan about today than I would be mid-week. Yes it was a game they should have won against Sheffield United, but we've been there before. As players, at times you lose a game you shouldn't.
"But it's almost like United can't believe where they are. There's almost this idea that United are building for next season. Man City, this year, have no strikers. Liverpool have got no centre-backs... This is a fantastic opportunity, where they are right now. But it's almost like they're happy to be there."
Having somewhat eased off, Keane expanded on his previous point and few could disagree with his comments.
"There's a different type of pressure though, now, isn't there Jamie?" he began.
"If you look at where they were the last few months, they were getting the plaudits but they were sneaking up the table. And they got into a good habit of winning even when they weren't playing great, particularly at home when they were playing on the counter-attack.
"All of a sudden, these last three or four weeks when they got to the top, people are saying, 'Can you win the league? Can you compete with Man City?' And it looks as if the players have got a bit frightened of the challenge. It's like they've said, 'I don't think we're ready yet'."
Asked by Carragher if United were almost content to be second in the league, Keane's eyes nearly left his sockets.
For United, when Keane was a player, second was nowhere. For the current United, second may be the best they can hope for.