Former Manchester United forward Teddy Sheringham believes a lack of leadership at the club has led to the problems that Manchester City exposed on Sunday.
United were beaten 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium leading to accusations that the players gave up during a limp second-half performance.
Sheringham won three Premier League titles for the club under Sir Alex Ferguson, scoring the equaliser in their famous Champions League win over Bayern Munich in 1999.
“I have seen both sides of the story,” Sheringham told Monday Night Football.
“I have played in a very dominant Manchester United side where it is demanded that you are 100 per cent committed to the cause and everyone is rowing in the same boat together led by a top manager.
“But I have also been in it where there are fragments in a team, in a club.
“When you play against a team like Manchester City they find every little hole in your set-up. They work you and they work you again.
“Everyone is trying hard to stop that but then they come back out and they go for another area, they keep prodding at you. It grinds you down when these teams keep dominating you.
“When you are playing in a team that is focused and all rowing in the same way it is all great. But when you are playing for a manager and you’re thinking, ‘He won’t be here next season. I don’t have to try that hard, he’ll be gone, I’ll work for the next manager.’
“There are vibes like that and you can see them all over the pitch.
“Players are being left out. Is he injured? Is he not? There are just problems at the club. I think that comes from the leadership at the football club.”
Ralf Rangnick was appointed as Manchester United’s interim manager in November following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But the authority of the German has been questioned and Sheringham sees a marked contrast with the position that Pep Guardiola enjoys at Manchester City.
“Look at Manchester City. They are being led by a top man who is devoted to Manchester City being better, the best that they can be.
“When you look at Manchester United. They had an interim manager. They sacked him. They get another interim manager in. What is going on at this top football club? What is going on?
“And that filters down. If you are getting someone in for the long stay and a desire to make them better, everyone will follow it.
“When it is not, it is hard for everyone to follow in that same way because it is going to change at the end of the season and you are going to have to start again with another manager with new ideas again.”
In terms of the running stats, City comfortably outperformed their rivals, running 116.03km to United’s 112.71km and outsprinting them 162-125.
In the second half, as City ramped up their intensity from 76 sprints to 86, United dropped from 66 to 59.
“It is a difficult game that shows we have a long way to go to close that gap,” United interim boss Rangnick said.
But while the gap in quality is one thing, the difference in athletic output is another.
Jamie Carragher saw the arrival of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard midway through the second half as the point at which United’s display took a marked turn for the worse.
“The biggest change and contrast was when the substitutions were made,” Carragher told Monday Night Football.
Did Manchester United give up?
“No. It is 3-1 and you are playing against the best team in the world. Of course, the shoulders go down and there is a little bit of players losing belief.”
But he went on to highlight a phase of play in the 73rd minute when several United players attempted to pressure the City defence only for Rashford not to join in.
“This is what I don’t like and that is why I go back to the substitutions. Marcus Rashford does not move.
“Others around him are chasing, almost going man for man, getting run ragged. They are possibly shattered by the way, chasing Manchester City through the game. Certainly, the two central midfield players. He lets the ball go inside.
“A couple of passes and they are through you.
“The worst thing for me is that Rashford was certainly not the highest player in terms of the press, there were four or five players ahead of him. He is now the deepest one.
“I don’t want to just jump on a bandwagon, I know Rashford is getting a lot of stick right now. [But] that is not acceptable. It is not.
“And, for me, there were two or three in that second half who chucked it.”