Steve McClaren has highlighted the importance of Scott McTominay and Fred after they helped Manchester United to a 3-1 win over Everton.
United went into the clash at Goodison Park, with major question marks surrounding the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Reports had claimed that another defeat could have seen Solskjaer sacked, but after conceding first, they roared back to win 3-1.
After going with a diamond in their previous Premier League outing against Arsenal, Solskjaer reverted to a 4-2-3-1, with Scott McTominay and Fred tasked with protecting the back-four.
Harry Maguire and the rest of Solskjaer's defenders have come in for intense criticism this season, particularly after the abysmal showing against Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League.
But with the exception of the early Bernard goal, United had few issues as they responded to two straight defeats in the best possible way.
McClaren was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford and believes their problems this season have stemmed from a lack of work-rate and intensity.
“I’ve seen them a lot this season and, for me, it’s all about work rate,” McClaren told talkSPORT. “Not on the ball, they’ve got that, but off the ball. Win the ball back quickly.
“Talk about the back four being exposed, why do they get exposed? Because they are not working hard enough in front. It starts at the front, in terms of winning the ball back.”
The former England boss heaped praise on Fred and McTominay, claiming they helped United's back-four not get "exposed" against the Toffees.
He added: “You look at Liverpool and Man City and the intensity of the game from the front to the back. I think that was the key.
“McTominay and Fred, when they’ve played in there and protected the back four, especially the two centre-backs who have been exposed. They are exposed against top quality players and conceded goals.”
United’s win mean they go into the international break with a portion of the pressure eased, but in order for them to keep winning games, McClaren has highlighted the importance of consistency in their performances.
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“It was attitude, work rate and determination, and all 11 players were willing to work for the shirt.
“To be fair it’s what you want to see, and what supporters want to see. Seeing that after the game.
“The key now is to have a breather and have a break, and come back from the internationals fit. And start playing consistently like that and win games consistently.”
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