By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens

Paul Scholes has criticised the decision to make Juan Mata captain as Manchester United were torn apart at Liverpool on Thursday.

The United legend claims stand-in skipper Mata “looked like a 10-year-old at times” as the visitors were overpowered by the home side in the first leg of their Europa League showdown.

Goals from Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino gave Liverpool a 2-0 advantage going into the second leg at Old Trafford next Thursday to make Jurgen Klopp’s team firm favourites to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

Scholes, who won 11 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies during his time at Old Trafford, believes Louis van Gaal’s team lacks genuine leadership on the pitch.

With Wayne Rooney out for another month with knee ligament damage, Mata was handed the armband at Anfield but Scholes was unimpressed.

“How is Juan Mata captain?” Scholes told BT Sport. “He’s a good player and he’s had a good month. But to be captain of Manchester United?

“I don’t think there are many real leaders in there. Chris Smalling? The goalkeeper? They, possibly, could be captain but are they real Manchester United captains?”

Paul Scholes has been one of Manchester United's leading critics this season

Juan problem: Scholes was unimpressed at Mata being captain

However, Scholes did strike one note of optimism as he assessed how United are going to gain a foothold in the Europa League clash.

“They need to get the players into the game. [Anthony] Martial and Mata were ineffective here. They got bullied. Mata looked like a 10-year-old at times.

“Memphis? You just don’t know what you are going to get from him.

“But you need to get the ball to these players to see what they can do. They will have more time to do that at Old Trafford.”