Rio Ferdinand believes a fear of failure and consequences needs instilling in the Manchester United dressing room if things are to turn around under incoming manager Erik ten Hag.
Having finished runners-up in last year’s Premier League and Europa League, the summer signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho only fuelled optimism around Old Trafford.
But hope only made for an ever harder fall for the 20-time league champions, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer departing in November and interim successor Ralf Rangnick failing to get a consistent tune out of the squad.
United are set to miss out on Champions League qualification and fan anger at the owners continues to provide a backdrop, with more protests against the Glazer family planned during Monday’s match with Brentford.
Protestors plan to leave 17 minutes from the end – a minute for each year of the Glazers’ ownership – in the final home game of a season in which Ferdinand feels the dressing room culture has become too soft.
“When I look from the outside, I don’t feel that there’s a fear factor,” the former United defender told the PA news agency.
“When you look at great teams, you didn’t want to ever disappoint your manager or your team-mates.
“By that I mean from basic things to making sure that I’m in at the right times, making sure that my application on a day-to-day basis is at that level. The culture, the standards are here every day.
“Going out onto the pitch, if anybody could ever say to me that I hadn’t put the work in for 90 minutes that would have been terrifying for me.
“To think that my team-mates would read that or think that, or my coaching staff would think or feel that.
“I don’t think those fear factors are as prominent and as strong as they should be right now, and I think that’s where the manager comes in. He has to create that.
“If for you look at the two best teams in the country, if not Europe, right now in Liverpool and Man City, please do not tell me that any of those players could walk off that pitch and have it that anybody could point a finger at them – that actually you might not be working hard enough or your desire doesn’t look the same or your application doesn’t look the same.
“Because they know that first and foremost that manager will have them by the scruff of the neck or they’ll be just out of the team completely. There’s consequences.
“At the moment I feel that’s the big thing at Man United. It doesn’t seem to feel to me that there’s consequences in place for players.”
Improving the culture is among a number of areas that Ten Hag and those above the incoming United boss need to look at during this summer rebuild.
“I don’t think just employing a manager is going to change the whole course of where Man United are at right now,” Ferdinand added.
“I think there’s other elements around him that are going to have to be either changed or upgraded, or people given the power and empowered to actually go and execute.
“But up to now, all those elements haven’t been brought together and are working and functioning in the way it needs to for a club to be elite.
“I think the new manager’s got some big, big decisions and the job in hand is huge.
“But I think probably the two pressing ones for me are creating the right culture at the football club and making sure that the recruitment area is looked after.
“Yes, coaching and improving players when they get in the door, but recruiting the right people and players is a big one too.”
Ferdinand was speaking as part of his involvement with WeAre8 – a new hate-free digital advertising and social content platform that gives users back their social media freedoms.
“I met the founder Sue Fennessy, who is really, really impressive, and within five minutes I was sold,” the former defender, who is a major WeAre8 investment partner, said.
“I’ve been looking for somewhere where you could be on social media and didn’t have to deal with all of the hate-filled discriminative behaviour that goes on.
“But added to that there was other layers that was the actual driver as well.
“The ability to help with climate change through small actions within the app and the ability to put money into people’s pockets was the big driver for me as well and economically empower people.
“You do that by watching two minutes of adverts a day and I just couldn’t get my head around that. You watch two minutes and I can actually be paid to do that now. The script has been flipped.”
:: WeAre8 is a hate-free social app that inspires people with great content and gets money into their pockets every time they watch an ad, and where they join millions of people to change the world in just two minutes a day. WeAre8 exists to bring power back to people and the planet. To learn more, visit www.weare8.com or install the WeAre8 app