John Barnes believes Manchester United's players could suffer a dip in form under their new manager David Moyes in a similar way to the Liverpool squad when Graeme Souness took charge at Anfield 22 years ago.
Like Moyes, Souness replaced an iconic club figure in Kenny Dalglish following his shock resignation as Liverpool manager in February 1991 and was tasked with maintaining not only the club's pre-eminent standing in the country but also rejuvenating a championship-winning side. He did neither and, after a disastrous spell in charge, was sacked in January 1994.
Barnes believes a similar downfall could await United following Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to retire at the end of this season after 27 years in charge at Old Trafford, unless the squad maintains their high standards under Moyes.
"I went through this when Graeme Souness came in [to Liverpool] and we recognised that he might not be popular with the fans," said Barnes. "I would never accuse a player of not trying, but subconsciously you know that if you don't win the fans are going to boo the manager rather than you. As long as that's the case, you don't have to perform.
"If the players at Manchester United have integrity and respect for the club, they should say to themselves that they still have to perform. And if next year they don't do as well as they have this year and in previous years it will not be a reflection on the new manager, it will be a reflection on them."
Given the calibre of United's squad, Barnes, who won two league titles and two FA Cups during a 10-year spell at Anfield, believes they can continue their success and that Ferguson's departure does not necessarily mean the end of a golden era at Old Trafford. "Fergie retiring doesn't have to be a good day for everyone else," he said. "It could be but there is no reason for Manchester United not to continue in the same vein.
"It is a testing time, but the new manager coming in will have the ability and quality to do what Fergie has done because United are a good side. But it's also up to the fans to put pressure on the players to perform and not allow them to think 'if we don't win, it won't be our fault'. In modern football, managers bear the brunt of anything negative and while a lot of people will be hoping for that from United, there is no reason for it to happen."