Philippe Coutinho scored on his Aston Villa debut to salvage a draw against Manchester United (Picture: Getty)
Roy Keane urged Manchester United’s younger players to follow Cristiano Ronaldo’s lead following the side’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, while theorising that something was ‘amiss’ with Marcus Rashford.
The Red Devils had looked to be cruising towards three morale-boosting points at Villa Park as Emiliano Martinez spilled Bruno Fernandes’ tame strike into the net in only the sixth minute.
The visitors doubled their lead midway through the second half as Fernandes hammered home his second of the evening, but Philippe Coutinho’s introduction just moments later turned the game on its head.
The Brazilian debutant, who completed a loan move from Barcelona in the week, played a key role as Jacob Ramsey pulled a goal back for Villa before getting on the scoresheet himself to equalise in the 81st minute.
Steven Gerrard’s men held firm to end a run of three successive defeats, while the United’s players appeared crestfallen at the final whistle as they lost yet more ground in the race for a Premier League top-four finish.
During a candid conversation with Premier League Productions ahead of the clash, Ronaldo – who missed out through injury – hinted he had been left frustrated by the younger members of United’s squad struggling to take on criticism and constructive feedback.
‘The mature, older players can always help the young players, but, I can give you an example: if I give you advice, even if you are younger than me and if you don’t implant that in a daily life it will be difficult,’ the five-time Ballon d’Or said.
‘I remember when I was 18, 19, 20, some older players speak with me and I put that as, “Cristiano, you know you have to improve. They know more than you, they are more experienced than you.” They passed through many bad moments.
‘This new generation, they don’t accept that if you criticise them. I don’t say this in relation to our players but in general. I have kids, I know. Sometimes when you’re a little bit harder, they do the opposite, you have to find the right balance to speak with them.
‘But in my opinion, the main point is it should come from inside you. You should be proud of yourself, look in the mirror and say: “Listen, I gave everything. And I think all of us should do that. Because it’s a new year, we change the page, we have many things to win, we have to believe on that, if not it will be a nightmare.”
‘The individual is the most important thing. We are here to help when they need my help, my support, my advice, I will be the number one to help but if you don’t want my help, do your job, look for yourself and do your best to help the team.’
United were cruising as Fernandes fired in his second at Villa Park (Picture: Getty)
In his post-match analysis for Sky Sports, legendary ex-United captain Keane referred back to Ronaldo’s interview and suggested there was something ‘missing’ in the ‘culture’ of the club.
‘I don’t think any player should have a problem if Ronaldo is making points, obviously, you can tell them face-to-face but sometimes you have to do it through the media,’ Keane said.
‘But you’d hope these young players are looking at Ronaldo and some of the senior players. The word I would use at any club, particularly the big clubs is, “What’s the culture?”, “What’s it like at the training ground?”.
‘Are these young players, [Jadon] Sancho, Rashford and [Mason] Greenwood, are they still looking at some of the senior players? You’re hoping the senior players are setting a good example. Maybe all of them aren’t and maybe some of these young players aren’t so quick to do a little bit extra afterwards, and these are all the fine details you have to improve on.
‘If the culture isn’t right at Manchester United, in terms of the pace of training, the tempo, people’s attitudes, the way they speak to the staff, if that’s not right, you’re going to notice it. To me, there’s something missing at Manchester United, there’s too many loose ends.
‘We’re on about Sancho, what’s happened to Rashford? Man United have to get to the bottom of it, that’s part of the responsibility when you’re working with good, young players.’
Rashford has looked ‘lost’, according to Keane (Picture: Getty)
Keane said Rashford – who missed United’s trip to Villa due to a dead leg – had looked ‘lost’ in some of his recent performances and called for senior squad members at the club to put an arm around his shoulder.
‘He’s done amazing things over the last few years, amazing, on and off the pitch, but clearly there’s something amiss,’ the ex-Republic of Ireland international added.
‘I looked at him Monday night [and thought], “The lights are on but no-one’s home”. The kid looks lost. There’s something amiss.
‘Sometimes with young players it’s confidence, it might be anything to do on the football pitch, it might be stuff off the field.
‘The club have got to help him, the senior players have got to help young players.
‘There’s plenty amiss at Man United at the moment that needs to be fixed.’