Erik ten Hag, the beleaguered manager of Manchester United, is facing mounting pressure to address the defensive frailties of his team as they prepare for their upcoming clash with Burnley. The Red Devils have experienced a tumultuous period, losing four of their last five matches across various competitions. Recent tensions within the squad have surfaced, particularly following their 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Critics have accused the Dutch manager of favoritism within the team, as certain players receive preferential treatment while others face criticism. This turmoil has coincided with a disappointing run of form, leaving Manchester United languishing in 13th place in the Premier League standings.
With only Wolverhampton Wanderers and their forthcoming opponents Burnley possessing a worse defensive record in the league, Manchester United has conceded a staggering 10 goals in their first five games. Their defensive struggles continued as they conceded an additional four goals to Bayern Munich during the midweek fixture. In response, Ten Hag has issued a stern warning to his players, emphasizing the necessity of improvement in their defensive performance.
Ten Hag stated, “It’s about 11 players who do their job. I always tell my players we attack with 11 and defend with 11. When one or two are not doing their job, it’s like a pack of cards. So that is not only one or two players.”
This defensive decline marks a stark contrast to the previous season when David de Gea secured the Premier League Golden Glove award with 17 clean sheets. However, the Spanish goalkeeper currently finds himself without a club, contemplating retirement, as Andre Onana was brought in from Inter Milan for £47.2 million during the summer transfer window to replace him.
When questioned during a press conference about the reason for this drastic defensive decline, Ten Hag responded bluntly, saying, “No. When you are in a period like we are in, you are asking yourself these questions. My job is to get them to do the job. We have shown that we can do it.”
He continued, “Last year we had the most clean sheets in the Premier League because we defended very well as a team. We have to get back to those standards. I am pushing the team and demanding from the team. So why are they not doing it? I try to find out, I try to get and give solutions, and try to motivate the players to do the job.”
Ten Hag’s defensive challenges have been exacerbated by injuries, with Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka likely to be absent from the trip to Turf Moor. However, there is a glimmer of hope as Raphael Varane has returned to training, potentially bolstering the defense.