Ten Hag given baptism of fire to Man Utd’s new reality
Erik ten Hag expressed his surprise at seeing Manchester United capitulate to a 4-0 defeat at Brentford that leaves the Red Devils bottom of the Premier League for the first time in 30 years.
But after just two games in charge, the Dutchman is getting a crash course in United’s new reality.
The 20-time English champions have now lost seven consecutive away league games for the first time since 1936.
That run included similar thrashings at Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton. Indeed United have conceded four or more goals seven times in the Premier League since the start of last season.
Any hope of a new dawn under the former Ajax boss has been blown apart by the same failings on and off the pitch that have persisted during a decade of decline at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag’s predecessor Ralf Rangnick signed off from his miserable caretaker spell last season by stating the United squad needed “open heart surgery” and up to 10 new players after labouring to a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League.
Two games into the new season, only three new faces have arrived in the form of Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen.
The United squad is arguably even weaker than last season with Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata having left for free, while goalkeeper Dean Henderson has joined Nottingham Forest on loan.
United’s transfer window has instead been dominated by two moves that have not happened.
Despite Barcelona’s desperation to sell, Frenkie de Jong has resisted the chance to reunite with his former Ajax boss.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is keen to cut short his second spell at Old Trafford but cannot find a Champions League contender willing to pay up for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The club’s owners, the American Glazer family, are again at the forefront of the fans’ fury.
Protests ahead of the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton last weekend forced the club shop to be closed before kick-off.
More demonstrations are planned for United’s next match at home to Liverpool, a fixture that was postponed in May 2021 when supporters stormed the Old Trafford pitch in protest at plans for a European Super League.
“The time has come for the Glazer family to sell the football club,” said former United captain Gary Neville.
“The people above him should have known that was an unacceptable situation to hand Erik ten Hag that squad.”
The lack of a coordinated transfer strategy at the club was exposed this week as United reportedly pulled out of a move for 33-year-old Bologna forward Marko Arnautovic due to a fan backlash.
Interest in another target, Adrien Rabiot, was heavily criticised by former United midfielder Lou Macari on the club’s own in-house television channel.
All the while Ten Hag is left to turn around a sinking ship with the squad he largely inherited.
“I asked them to play with belief and take responsibility for your performance and that is what we didn’t do,” he said.
“It seems like what happened in the past, last season, comes into this season and we have to change that quickly.”
United have needed change for the past nine years since legendary former boss Alex Ferguson retired.
Ten Hag is the sixth manager to take the United job since then.
But unless there is a more fundamental restructure in the running of the club, United seem doomed to repeating the same mistakes as they hit new lows.