Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville labelled centre-halves Phil Jones and Chris Smalling "a disaster" after Sunday’s shock defeat by Newcastle.
Jose Mourinho’s side are clinging onto second in the Premier League and boast the best defensive record but Neville says that is in spite of the England stars.
Neville, speaking on Match of the Day 2, picked apart the pair’s performance at St James’ Park which saw Newcastle cling on to victory after negligent defending allowed Matt Ritchie to guide the winner home.
Mourinho said Rafa Benitez’s Toon had the "gods of football" on their side for the three points but United’s backline did their bit to help out.
"They have got the best defensive record because they have the best goalkeeper in the world in David De Gea and [Nemanja] Matic out in front who protects them really well," Neville said.
"But the last two away games [against Tottenham and Newcastle], Smalling and Jones have been a disaster.
"Against Dele Alli and Harry Kane, they got bullied."
Neville says errors aren’t letting Smalling and Jones down, it’s their lack of decisiveness.
"Against Newcastle did they make many mistakes, no, but they created a nervousness and a tension," the now England Women’s boss said.
"They were making decision that were strange. They were making decisions all day where you were thinking, ‘what are you doing?’
"They brought these two as the best young centre backs in England."
Replays showed Smalling got away with a clear penalty against Gayle in the corner of the box, tackling with his wrong foot, while the pair’s passing and support play for keeper De Gea was poor.
And to cap it all off, a "clear dive" from Smalling that earned the England defender a booking that led to the free-kick Newcastle scored from.
For the goal, it was Paul Pogba who was punished with immediate substitution after he allowed Florian Lejeune a free header which found Gayle, who knocked the ball back for unmarked Ritchie to score.
Mourinho earlier praised Rafa Benitez’s side for “fighting like animals” to hang on to the win.
Mourinho, whose side have kept a league best 15 clean sheets this season, said: “Were Newcastle lucky yes they were.
"Yes they were. But sometimes you attract that with your state of find and they fought for their lives and that is a beautiful thing in football.
"Sir Bobby Robson told me after some defeats don’t be so sad and think of the happiness of the other guys.
"I know Benitez is very happy with three points and the Gods of football were with them.
“I have that smile but I am disappointed. We did more than enough to leave without a defeat.
Asked if he was disappointed with the defending, Mourinho added: “Yes. It is not a dangerous free kick. Players were in position. But we miss the challenge in the air.
“I remember with my memory a Newcastle play jumping and two of my players looking at him and staying on the floor.
“It is more logical to complain about missing a challenge in the air and missing the second ball. I have to be disappointed.
“We train work organise. Players have their individual jobs. The players have their responsibilities. You know who lost the challenge in the air. It is difficult to be in a position to criticise my player.
“Newcastle fought like animals. Animals is a good word. It’s a compliment. They gave everything they had. They fought like animals.
“It didn’t happen for us today. They have the best feeling of all. They fought for their points and had probably had just a point in mind.
“We made a mistake but then they gave their lives to keep a clean sheet. We could’ve been here for 10 hours and not scored a goal.
“They got from us a defensive mistake and, from a lateral free-kick, they scored."