After Wednesday’s 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Manchester United are in danger of having their season unraveled before the end of September.
Erik ten Hag has now seen a run of three defeats in a row following Premier League defeats to Arsenal and Brighton, with United also beaten by Tottenham in the second week of the season.
Injuries have plagued Ten Hag’s squad, with Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw missing from an increasingly shaky defense and new signing Mason Mount denied the chance to make an early mark at Old Trafford.
A number of off-field issues have also hampered United, with Antony currently on leave from the club and Jadon Sancho forced to train with the youth team after a public row with his manager.
Here the experts from MailSport talk about what is going wrong for Ten Hag and his side.
The pressure on Erik ten Hag is starting to increase after a series of three defeats in a row for Manchester United
Ten Hag has faced a number of problems this season, including a growing injury list and a series of off-field incidents.
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MAIN PROBLEM: Encrypted attacking identity.
SOLUTION: They have become a counter-attacking team almost by accident. They cannot dominate the ball, so find it difficult to dictate the rhythm and direction of matches. The midfield is not athletic enough and the back four are not comfortable enough in possession. Andre Onana wants to pass the ball, but can use the ball at his feet better than some before him.
MAIN PROBLEM: Leaky defense.
SOLUTION: Erik ten Hag has spoken about the importance of United’s defense as a team, but they urgently need to restore their most effective back four by getting Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka fit again. The defense is leaking goals – they’ve let in 14 in six games so far this season – and that’s when the team’s fragile confidence starts to crumble.
MAIN PROBLEM: Response to adversity.
SOLUTION: United failed to rally after the disallowed goal at Arsenal and never really looked like they would fight back after that in defeats to Brighton and Bayern Munich. The scoreline in Germany flattered them and Casemiro’s goal to make it 3-2 felt like an accident. Injuries provide some relief, but the collective application – and a lack of real leadership – needs to be addressed quickly.
MAIN PROBLEM: No defensive leadership.
SOLUTION: The fact that only Burnley and Wolves have conceded more goals than United in the first five games should sound the alarm. Andre Onana said after the defeat at Bayern that he was not good enough, but that it concerns the defensive unit as a whole. Erik ten Hag cannot bring Raphael Varane back quickly enough now that the Frenchman has the leadership that others lack.
MAIN PROBLEM: Where’s the pace and power?
SOLUTION: United’s defense and midfield are outrun and overwhelmed. Christian Eriksen, a number 10 who plays as a midfielder, is bullied, leaving an aging Casemiro stranded. Erik ten Hag has no choice but to bring back Raphael Varane and Sofyan Amrabat against Burnley as they will help strengthen the soft underbelly of their side.
IT’S ALL GOING OFF!