Former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre believes a change in mentality will be Erik Ten Hag’s most pressing priority as he attempts to transform the Reds’ fortunes.

"The most important thing for me is to make sure the attitude is right and that the commitment from the players is 100%. It doesn’t matter if you play City or Liverpool, or Southampton or Brighton.

"Whether you are at the beginning of the season, or the end. That’s what the fans want. There were too many games last season when the team gave up so this change in attitude is very important."

It is a damning assessment of a squad that too often flattered to deceive last term, eventually finishing a distant 13 points off the top four.

Yet, if the arrival of the Dutch coach signals a new start for United, with lots of optimism to accompany it, the French star has his doubts.

Not with Ten Hag, who he clearly rates, but with the media, and fans and – most crucially of all – the club’s hierarchy, giving the 52-year-old sufficient time to complete the job.

"In this moment, being patient in football won’t get you trophies. Those days are over. These days you sign your contract as a manger and you hope for the best, keeping your job for as long as possible.

"In England, the average time for a manger to keep their job is 14 months so that reality will catch you up at some point. You start in credit, and you want to increase your credit, then keep your job for as long as you can."

All of which suggests that Ten Hag had better get a move on, improving players and getting the club’s recruitment right and in both of these areas Silvestre has so far been impressed by what he’s seen.


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Anthony Martial, for example, has looked a different player in pre-season but now he must extend that early form into the Premier League season and prove his doubters wrong.

"Anthony has been a bit of an enigma after his first season, when he burst onto the scene, and now he hopefully has the maturity and a better understanding of what is being asked of him.

"The qualities are certainly there and if he can get the manager’s confidence, he can become a big part of United’s rebuilding. It’s up to him and hopefully it can happen."

Then there’s Marcus Rashford, whose two goals inside of a week against Melbourne and Crystal Palace hint at a player refocusing his aim after a sustained lapse in form.

With a World Cup place to fight for, does Silvestre anticipate an upturn in output from the forward in the weeks and months to come?

"It’s an important season for Marcus, for sure. He’s got responsibilities on and off the field and hopefully he can focus on the game and perform like he’s supposed to.

Manchester United Marcus Rashford by Mikael Silvestre

"Because we know his qualities. There is no question about that. But he’s been lacking in confidence and that’s been damaging his game."

As for new signings, the five-time Premier League winner has been somewhat bemused by Lisandro Martinez’s 5ft 8 stature gaining so many column inches, with some claiming the £55m purchase from Ajax is too short for the top-flight.

Still nursing wounds from the direct football that was commonplace throughout the 2000s, Silvestre doesn’t agree.

"There have been famous players as tall as Martinez. Roberto Ayala at Valencia. Ivan Cordoba at Inter. There haven’t been many but if you have a good spring and good timing you can bridge that lack of height.

"Also, football in England has changed. It’s less aerial from teams and not like back when I was playing.

"Then I would face Peter Crouch or Niall Quinn, with teams launching long balls for Emile Heskey. Duncan Ferguson! It’s different now and so it’s not so problematic at it used to be."

Silvestre won everything that could be won across his nine years at Old Trafford before moving to North London to join an Arsenal side in flux.

More than a decade on, it could be argued that the Gunners are still in transition, though their ex-centre-back has been greatly encouraged of late, witnessing what he believes are significant strides being taken under Mikel Arteta.

"There have been new signings and we will see about the defence. But Arsenal going forward, I like their movement and combinations. The flair they’ve been showing.

"The question is whether they can do that in the Premier League and show it consistently because that was lacking last season.

"It’s still a young group of players with not much experience in terms of games, and it’s still a young manager too. But they look to be on the right track."

Regarding those signings, the defender who won 40 caps for France bristles at the notion that Spurs have enjoyed a better transfer window so far, or indeed that Tottenham should be considered as favourites to again secure a top four berth.

For him, the Gunners remains a huge draw for any available talent.

"The name always sounds good in a player’s ears because Arsenal is an institution. It was a massive club and still is in terms of recognition.

"The last few years they have been winning the FA Cup so it’s not like they haven’t been winning anything at all. It’s London. It’s the Emirates. It’s still an attractive club."


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