The English Premier League season kicked off for Manchester United on Sunday 7th August, as they hosted Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford. It was to be new manager Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge, and there was hope that Man Utd could get off to a good start here.
That hope lasted a good 30 minutes, as Pascal Gross put Brighton ahead before the same man made it 2-0 in 39 minutes.
Two down at the break, Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge wasn’t going quite to plan. For many fans and neutrals, this type of performance from Man Utd was expected, and it didn’t come as a surprise that this group of players underperformed yet again.
The game finished 2-1, with Man Utd pulling one back near the 70th minute through an own goal, but beyond that, there wasn’t a belief or a desire to go and get an equaliser. Brighton ran out fully deserved winners, and Erik ten Hag will have hopefully learned a lot about his players.
Away To Brentford & A Big Loss
Up next – an away trip to Brentford.
A chance to bounce back and to show that this team has gotten Erik ten Hag’s message over the last 6 weeks and is ready to put in a good performance. That wasn’t to be the case at all.
Brentford started the better, pressing United high, but it was a mistake that gifted Brentford the lead as David de Gea failed to stop a tame shot from outside the box, and the ball slipped through his hands and into the net for Josh Dasilva to open the scoring on the 10th minute.
It got worse for Man Utd and David de Gea, as his short pass put Christian Eriksen under pressure, allowing Brentford to pounce on the midfielder, causing yet another mistake, and another goal as Mathias Jensen put The Bees 2-0 ahead just before the 20th minute.
It wasn’t going to plan for Man Utd, and in the 30th minute, a header back across goal saw Ben Mee comfortably beat new signing Lisandro Martinez in the air to make it 3-0. Just a few minutes later, Brentford went 4-0 ahead. This time, they caught Man Utd on the counter-attack, and a terrific ball from Ivan Toney set up Bryan Mbeumo, remarkably making it 4-0 in 35 minutes.
Erik ten Hag made three changes at half-time, but nothing changed in terms of how Man Utd played or the outcome. The second half saw few chances from either side, and Brentford controlled the game comfortably, as the match finished 4-0.
Was it the right team selection for Man Utd?
Erik ten Hag’s selections in the first two games have to come into question. He stated at the very start of his tenure at Man Utd that Harry Maguire will continue as captain, which is a baffling choice, considering the players that they have at the club.
With Maguire captain, it means he’ll be in the side over Raphael Varane, one of the best central defenders in recent times. Varane did come on in the second half of the Brentford game for Lisandro Martinez, but Martinez is still likely to play in the upcoming games as they’ve just paid 55 million for his services.
At left-back, another new signing in Tyrell Malacia was brought in, but ten Hag has continued to keep Luke Shaw in that position, another player who has underperformed over the last 12 months.
Midfield Players On Form Or Not
In midfield, he decided to play the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay in the first game and changed it up in the second by playing Christian Eriksen deeper in place of McTominay, which didn’t work out.
Fred and McTominay have long been overdue for a massive change as neither player is a defensive midfielder. Fred has shown glimpses that he can play, but McTominay doesn’t offer a lot of promise and is usually good for a late challenge, which could have seen him sent off in both games.
The position has been neglected for far too long, and it has cost United a lot of games and points.
Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford continue to keep their place in the squad, despite not showing anything for far too long now. In Rashford’s case, it could be due to Man Utd being short on players in this position, but Bruno hasn’t shown any sort of form since he signed his new contract at the club.
Only Ronaldo Up Front
Up front, they have Cristiano Ronaldo, a player that doesn’t want to be at the club, and some will argue that he should be let go, while others will want to keep the player.
He’s the only goalscorer they have at the club, scoring 18 goals last season in the Premier League, while Antony Martial will be the other option in that area.
Can they beat Liverpool?
They play Liverpool next, at Old Trafford on the 22nd of August, and hopefully, Erik ten Hag has learned that certain players need to be dropped from this team.
There are far too many that coast by game to game, and they keep their place in the starting 11. They have the talent and the quality, but they lack the grit and desire that is needed.
You can’t just turn up and expect to get points based on the quality of the players in the team. Currently, Man Utd are the easiest team to play against in the league.
It’s been a strange transfer window so far for Man Utd, with most of it spent chasing Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona. That deal doesn’t seem to be happening after months of speculation.
Another midfielder that was close was Adrien Rabiot. A fee was agreed with Juventus, but the player couldn’t agree on contract terms with Man Utd, who ultimately walked away from the deal.
Antony from Ajax is another player that Man Utd has been after for a long time, but they didn’t make a move until later. That deal seemed dead in the water, but due to the situation of the club at the moment, there is a chance that they could return for Antony.
Casemiro from Real Madrid is a player that Man Utd are currently in for and a player that Man Utd are willing to make one of the best-paid players in the Premier League. It’ll be a hard deal to do, but one that could be possible.
What will happen now is they’ll be linked to every player under the sun, with a few panic buys that will be brought in. Players that wouldn’t have been on the list of Erik ten Hag’s transfer targets, but players that could prove to be needed massively.
Ridiculous amounts of money will be thrown at players to come to play for the Manchester United team that is struggling.
Where will Manchester Utd finish in the League?
Manchester United’s start to the season has left a lot of questions. From desire, to tactics, to the manager’s team selections. Reaching the Champions League is what Erik ten Hag’s goal will be, to finish in the top 4.
Is there still a chance of that? Yes, but it has to change quickly.
They’re expected to lose to Liverpool, a team who hasn’t started great themselves, but if they surprise people there, it could be what kick-starts the team. It could also go very wrong against Liverpool, as it has done in recent fixtures.
Another way to reach the Champions League next season is by winning the Europa League, a competition they’ll be competing in this season.
The goal should be to win every trophy, but it’s a tough ask to get this team, especially where they’re at right now, to win any trophy, and they’re far off from doing so.
Will it end for Erik ten Hag?
Erik ten Hag’s start hasn’t gone as planned. A lot of the blame can’t fall on his head though, as I’m sure he was promised this player and that player. Players that he wanted to bring into the team, that ultimately, they’ve failed to get.
On the pitch though, he sets out the game plan and the team, and that is where a lot of questions have to be aimed at the manager. He’s been let down by the players in both games so far that he’s chosen, and changes will have to be made for the Liverpool game.
He will have learnt a lot from the first two games, and the Liverpool game is maybe one that he can stamp his authority on by making big changes when it’s desperately needed.
He still needs to get bodies in the door, but it has to be the correct position and players of quality that will also show fight. For too long now, certain players tend to always play, despite the lack of good performance from them, and that is something Erik ten Hag has to change.
Of course, being a new manager, it will take time to get the team playing how he wants them to play, but time is something a manager doesn’t often get. If performances and results don’t improve quickly, it could all fall on him.