GRAEME SOUNESS channelled his inner Jeremy Paxman during the post-match analysis of Manchester City’s win over rivals United yesterday.
The former Liverpool midfielder, 65, was determined to get an answer out of Sky Sports colleague Gary Neville and repeatedly asked the same question over and over again.
Souness asked Neville four times whether Jose Mourinho was getting the best out of his players.
Neville could not make up his mind. Firstly, he said: “I don’t know.”
But the next time he was asked, the former Manchester United defender said: “No, I don’t think it’s acceptable in any way shape or form.”
On the third occasion, he deflected the question by returning a question of his own at Souness and fourthly he returned to his original answer, saying: “I’ll answer it the same again, I don’t know.”
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The exchange resembled Paxman’s famous interview with former Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1997.
Then, the Newsnight presenter grilled Howard over the controversial dismissal of the head of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis, two years earlier.
Paxman asked: “Did you threaten to overrule him?” 12 times without a satisfactory answer and the exchange went down in history.
But yesterday, it was Souness interrogating Neville for an answer.
And following the 3-1 derby defeat at the Etihad, he vented his frustration once again.
Souness said: “Think about what United offered today in attack: zilch, zero, nothing.
“What did they offer? It was very disappointing and if you’re a United supporter that must have been such a hard watch.”
Neville also admitted that there is certainly room for improvement, identifying three key areas Mourinho must sort out if United are to mount a title challenge.
The former defender, 43, said: “United’s aim has to be to win the title. But to win it you have to think about the areas on the pitch.
“They can’t keep a clean sheet at the back. The midfield can’t pass the ball forward. The front three don’t have the precision of Liverpool or Man City.
“So in each part United are behind the other teams so to think about comparing them is unfair because they are nowhere near them.”
Graeme Souness' Jeremy Paxman impression in full
Neville: There is not just one piece of the jigsaw or one answer at Manchester United here, where they can say this is what we need and all of sudden they are going to win the league. The jigsaw is half empty, but the problem is at the moment when you’re looking at it, you’re not quite sure what pieces are missing and that’s something the board, the owners, the senior recruiters, the coach, they have got to sit down and say how do we build a title winning team. You build a title winning team Graeme by keeping clean sheets.
Souness: Listen it’s a simple question as the manager, any manager going into a football club have to ask themselves are they getting the best out of the group of players at Manchester United. Yes or no, it’s a simple question. What is it?
Neville: I don’t know.
Souness: You don’t know and you’ve watched that football game today. As a Man United supporter you think that’s acceptable?
Neville: No, I don’t think it’s acceptable in any way shape or form.
Souness: So I will come back to the question again, do you feel he’s getting the best out of the players?
Neville: Graeme, I’ll ask you the question, who would he have put in midfield today out of the players that he’s got that would have improved it?
Souness: No, that’s getting into the specifics. You look at the players that play for Manchester United and their group of players. Think of Sanchez for argument’s sake. Is he playing anything like he was at Arsenal? The answer is no, a big no. Think of, is Rashford playing like he should, is Lukaku, is Pogba. So I think the answer is a no they are not getting the best out of those group of players.
Neville: But Graeme I’ve been watching these players under Louis Van Gaal, I saw Martial play under Louis Van Gaal or I saw Herrera play, they’re not much better. They’re not much better.
Souness: Come back to my question. I feel like its question time, are they getting the best out of those group of players?
Neville: I’ll answer it the same again, I don’t know. Because I’ve seen them under Louis Van Gaal a lot of these players, hang on, I saw them and I didn’t like what I saw and he was a coach. At this moment in time, Manchester United don’t look like they can win a game proactively. They finished second last season, the best since Sir Alex Ferguson finished. I’m not defending Jose Mourinho, could the manager get more out of them? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know if the players are good enough, Graeme, I haven’t got a clue.
Souness: They have been top players at other clubs.
Neville: Do you think they’re good enough, Graeme? Have they? Martial hasn’t been a top player at another club.
Souness: Most people would say Sanchez was, he can perform much better.
Neville: Let’s go through them one by one.
Souness: I think Lukaku has done better.
Neville: Lukaku hasn’t been a top player at Everton.
Souness: I think he was showing more at Everton than what he is at United.
Neville: He went missing in every big game at Everton.
Souness: I think Martial, there is a real player in Martial.
Neville: So do I.
Souness: And I think Rashford is better than what he is showing.
Neville: Look if you asked me: “Is Ashley Young playing the best he could play?” Yeah. “Is this the Chris Smalling we have seen for the last few years?” yeah. Lindelof is playing better than he has ever played. De Gea’s not, De Gea’s not. Matic, Graeme to be fair I look at it and it’s so confusing when you watch Manchester United it’s so confusing because, what would you change? If you were going in there as the manager tomorrow what would you change?
Souness: I would ask the players for starters, the midfielder players to start playing one or two touch, I think you don’t want to be a striker in that team.
Neville: Do you think they can play one or touch Herrera and Fellaini?
Souness: Well I would be demanding it.
Neville: Fellaini can’t play one or two touch in midfield.
Souness: Well I wouldn’t play Fellaini.