Gary Neville and Roy Keane agree with ‘big calls’ ahead of Man Utd v Liverpool

There were some notable absentees in Erik ten Hag’s starting eleven.

Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Roy Keane have backed the ‘big calls’ made by Erik ten Hag ahead of Monday night’s home clash with bitter rivals Liverpool.

The former Ajax manager has dropped club captain Harry Maguire and handed a recall to Raphael Varane as he partners Lisandro Martinez in the heart of the back-four.

Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen retain their places in midfielder but there is a recall for Scott McTominay as he replaced Fred.

There was no place for Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting line-up, with Marcus Rashford leading the line and Jason Sancho and Anthony Elanga supporting from the wide areas.

The absence of Maguire and Ronaldo has caused much discussion in the build-up to the eagerly anticipated clash - but former United defender Neville believes the change in personnel will not mean a change in approach from Ten Hag.

“He’s not changed [his approach] at all tonight,” he told Sky Sports. “He’s brought Varane in, he’s stuck with Fernandes and Eriksen in midfield.

“He’s gone with Elanga, Sancho and Rashford up front, so the idea he might have been more pragmatic, a bit more defensive, a bit more physical, that’s not happened.

“He’s going to play out from the back, he’s going to do everything he did last week against Brentford but hope for the best.

“This is what he believes in, he just wants his players to do it better, he wants them to run harder but he wants them to do the things he wants better: playing from the back and choosing better options.”

Former United captain Keane reflected on a poor start to the season and insisted Ten Hag had been ‘forced’ into the changes as he searches for the first competitive win of his Old Trafford reign.

“The performances haven’t been good enough so he’s had to make some big calls. That’s what a manager’s job is, particularly at a big club.  You’ve got big players, the personality of Ronaldo, that’s a big problem.

“Go back to pre-season, Harry Maguire is not playing well, defensively they’re giving up goals, so there is no surprise.

“You look at the spine of the team, not just the start of the season, but last year, it’s not been good enough, so he’s been forced into these changes.”