After being beaten 4-0 by Brentford on Saturday, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has urged the club to buy “class players.” The embarrassing setback, in which United conceded all four goals in 35 minutes, was United’s second in a row to begin the new Premier League season, and Ten Hag chastised his players for “throwing away” his tactical plan.
David de Gea spoke confidently a few weeks ago about his ability to play out from the back, even saying he was irritated by the notion that he couldn’t and pledging to stay at Manchester United for life if he could.
His contract expires at the end of the season, and given that he is currently the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world, it would be insane for United to even consider initiating negotiations.
De Gea had a strong season last season, highlighting his abilities as a shot-stopper. But his error for Brentford’s first goal was about as bad as it gets, and despite his own protests, he simply can’t pass out from the back.
His ball into Christian Eriksen, which led to Brentford’s second goal, was rash and exhibited a sense of panic. He already has a lot to prove, with Dean Henderson waiting in the wings if he impresses at Nottingham Forest.
Erik ten Hag may take action sooner. A goalkeeper is still on United’s transfer wishlist this summer and based on this data, the manager may want to spend more money to locate someone who can compete with his No. 1.
Ten Hag’s tactical blunder
Ten Hag has made it very obvious how he intends to play as United manager, but this felt excessively and cavalierly set up the team.
Despite back-to-back losses in his first two plainly winnable games, there will be no rush to condemn United’s new manager, but his selection and set-up were certainly troubling.
Eriksen has rarely played as a holding midfielder in a 4-3-3 system, let alone as a holding midfielder in general. Despite his skill on the ball, which Ten Hag mentioned before the game, he has never been a defensive midfielder.
Eriksen couldn’t be blamed for everything, but he did put the team under strain. Eriksen wasn’t used to dealing with guys around him and needing to shield a defense while Brentford was in possession.
On one occasion, he took a reckless pass out and lost possession, leading Harry Maguire to foul and receive a yellow card. The absence of a defensive midfielder to obstruct passing lanes allowed the Bees to enjoy spells of territory and possession around the United box.
Eriksen cannot be blamed because he has never played in this position. Instead, Ten Hag must bear some of the blame. Individual mistakes were costly, but United could not help itself. This was a team chosen to have 75% possession and total control over some Eredivisie cannon fodder. Ten Hag can no longer function in that position, and the sooner he realizes this, the sooner he can try to turn this disaster around.
The defense is a shambles.
United had conceded four or more goals for the eighth time in the previous 32 Premier League games. That is the kind of defensive record you would associate with a squad on the decline.
United’s defensive woes haven’t improved under Ten Hag, and they’ve already given up a slew of cheap goals to two mid-table opponents.
United’s statistics make a rather depressing reading. This was the seventh defeat in ten league games dating back to last season, as well as the Premier League’s seventh consecutive away defeat.
The rot should have stopped with the appointment of a new manager, but United’s problems have merely carried over into the new season, and they’ve begun this season in the same horrible state in which they concluded the previous one.
Ten Hag’s annoyance
At halftime, Ten Hag was harsh in his decision-making, removing Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, and Fred and replacing them with Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia, and Scott McTominay.
It’s not a good look for him to have to take his £55 million center-back off after only one and a half games, and all his bluster and swagger, his height, and lack of physical strength will definitely be an issue. Ivan Toney trampled on him here.
Ten Hag was definitely dissatisfied with what he saw in the first half. When the second goal went in, he shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
He was lively during the halftime drinks break, but when Marcus Rashford’s injury forced the players to return to the touchline at 4-0, Ten Hag remained seated. He’d been glued to the dugout since the fourth inning, so you can imagine what he said at halftime.
A hectic week
Ten Hag has had the worst possible start to the season, with two dismal outcomes on the pitch sandwiched between a tumultuous week in the transfer market.
Frenkie de Jong may have just set fire to his passport while watching this game, therefore ending United’s prospects of signing him. Who knows what Adrien Rabiot’s mother thought of it all?
United now have a nine-day vacation until their next game, which will be against Liverpool at Old Trafford, whom they lost 9-0 on aggregate last season. It’s a horrible match for a team that is already bottom of the league and completely empty of confidence.