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Sharpe slams Van Gaal over Arsenal capitulation

Former United attacker Sharpe pinpointed Van Gaal’s tactical naivety as the main cause of the one-sided result, when United trailed by three goals after just 19 minutes, while also criticising the Dutchman's failure to buy a centre-back and his overall style of play.

“There is a fine line between genius and madness and I am not too sure which side of the line he is at the moment,” said the 44-year-old Sharpe, who is in Singapore ahead of The Castlewood Group Battle of the Reds Masters clash between ex-Liverpool and United players.

“Sometimes I think he is brilliant, other times I think he is crazy. In the Arsenal game, to play (Michael) Carrick and (Bastian) Schweinsteiger … the pair of them are not the quickest.

“Arsenal are one of the best footballing teams on their day and they can pass it as well as anybody and to go to their backyard and keep the ball is a huge ask. They pass the ball sideways and keep the ball, it gives teams time to get into position and get comfortable.”

Sharpe, who made close to 200 appearances for the Red Devils from 1988-1996, was also struggling to understand why the Dutch manager was unable to strengthen the defence during the transfer window.

“They still need an experienced leader at centre-back,” he said. “I am still not 100 per cent convinced about (Chris) Smalling.

“(Daley) Blind has done a great job so far, but obviously he is a midfielder and not really a centre-half. So I am a bit surprised because every supporter knows that (Van Gaal) has been looking for a centre-half and yet he goes to buy a forward (in Anthony Martial).”

Van Gaal splashed £120 million (S$260 million) during the summer transfer window on Matteo Darmian (from Torino), Memphis Depay (PSV), Martial (Monaco), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton) and Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich) and Sharpe singled out Martial and Depay for praise thus far.

“These two have come in and look like they have been playing there for the past 10 years, they don’t seem to be fazed at all,” he said. “For Martial to come in and score four in his seven games and show the composure that he has… is just fantastic.”

However, Sharpe feels that the duo’s abilities will not be utilised until the manager decides to tweak his tactics to a more expansive approach in attack.

“I think if the manager can play a quicker game, getting the ball forward, it will suit the both of them,” he said. “I think it stifles them a little bit with the tippy-tappy sideways football.

“The manager has been talking about three up front like Real Madrid and Barcelona, but you need to get the ball in front quickly and allow them to play three against four if you like, because they are good enough to do that.”

Like Martial and Depay, Sharpe was once a wideman himself and will be looking to dust off the boots and pull up his socks on November 14 at the Castlewood Group of the Reds Tour.

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