Ex-Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit says Manchester United have squandered so much money on “average” players they no longer have any fear factor.
Ahead of United’s Premier League clash against Arsenal on Monday night, Petit says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils no longer inspire awe in their opponents as they did for so long under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Petit was a member of the Arsenal team of the late 1990s that enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Ferguson’s United – although they usually came off second best.
But with Solskjaer’s struggling in 11th place in the Premier League after just two wins from their opening six matches, the 49-year-old insists he “doesn’t recognise United”.
And he says the Gunners have a great opportunity to beat their old adversaries.
Petit told Paddy Power: “I don’t recognise Manchester United any more. They should scare their opponents – they haven’t done that for a long time.
“I’m very surprised about this, because they’ve been spending so much money.
“Yet the profile of the players is not what United expect – especially when it comes to the fans and former players.
“I remember back in the day when you had to play against United, you always knew you were going out to face the best footballers in the Premier League – and probably in Europe.
“Some of the players at the time were among the best in the world in their position – now I’m wondering: where are those United players with character, who enjoy responsibility? Who play with imagination, creativity, and who have a great mentality on top of that? I used to see that all the time at United.
“Now, you only ever briefly see the light of the team before it disappears straight away.”
Petit says turnover of managers is a problem for United, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Solskjaer all having managed the side in the six years since Ferguson retired after more than 26 years in charge.
But he says the managers have also been hampered by the lack of world-class players at a club once renowned for them.
“The biggest problem at United is the players they have, but the stability of the manager is an issue for them as well,” said Petit.
“We all believed things would be difficult after Alex Ferguson departed. He was such a huge figure at the club – but we’re talking about Manchester United.
“Of course teams can sometimes have difficult two or three-year periods, which has affected even some great managers, but they just don’t have the right players any more.
“They’ve put a lot of money on the table. But how many of the current squad are among the world’s best? They’ve spent so much money on average players, which has been the case for ages. It’s not a question of money – it’s a question of profile.”
“You just don’t know what to expect from this fixture,” he said. “Arsenal have been thrashed by Liverpool, though United aren’t on that level. That said, you’d think Arsenal have a very good opportunity to win at Old Trafford.
“They need a win away from home, as they’ve been dropping points so easily on the road. This match is very important for them, and it’s a good time to be playing Manchester United.”