MANCHESTER, England — A number of groups have gotten the higher of Manchester United already this season, and it is simple to see why. Tottenham Hotspur are revitalised underneath Ange Postecoglou, Arsenal are real title challengers, Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton & Hove Albion are some of the well-coached groups within the Premier League and Bayern Munich are Champions League contenders. Nevertheless, Saturday’s defeat — 1-0 at residence to Crystal Palace — is sort of inexplicable.
Of all of the setbacks Erik ten Hag’s crew have suffered this season, that is the most important pink flag of the lot. And they’re now operating out of excuses.
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Palace arrived at Previous Trafford having gained simply three of their earlier 14 Premier League away video games and but nonetheless discovered a technique to inflict a fifth defeat of the marketing campaign on United and a fourth within the league. The loss marks United’s worst begin to a league season for 34 years, and any hope of constructing on Ten Hag’s optimistic first yr as a supervisor already seems to be in tatters.
With time operating out, substitute Harry Maguire pinged an aimless move off the legs of Alejandro Garnacho and out for a Palace throw-in — a neat bow on a United efficiency missing any construction or cohesion. As the ultimate whistle sounded on the guests’ 1-0 win and their 76-year-old supervisor Roy Hodgson jogged onto the pitch within the Manchester rain to congratulate his gamers, boos sounded round Previous Trafford.
“I perceive,” Ten Hag mentioned when requested concerning the response. “Once we performed at residence or away and we play Crystal Palace, we have now to win. With all respect, I do know each recreation within the Premier League could be very troublesome, it’s a must to play your greatest, and I perceive followers anticipating a win and we did not win, we misplaced.”
This was purported to be the purpose at which United’s season started to show round. Again-to-back wins over Burnley and Palace (within the Carabao Cup on Tuesday) was the proper begin to a sort run of fixtures that features seven at residence earlier than Nov. 1, however Previous Trafford is now not the fortress it was final season. Brighton inflicted a primary residence league defeat in additional than a yr after they gained 3-1, however Palace repeated the trick simply two weeks later, and there will probably be loads of nervousness amongst followers who flip up right here for the sport in opposition to Galatasaray on Tuesday and in opposition to Brentford within the Premier League 4 days later.
“We have now misplaced two video games in a row within the Premier League [at home] and we have now to do higher, that’s positively the case,” Ten Hag mentioned. “We have now to point out it in our physique language that Previous Trafford is a fortress and you’ll’t get something right here and the one factor you possibly can go away with is a loss.
“I believe I am unable to blame the gamers and say they did not run. They gave every little thing, however within the remaining half, in each containers, we did not do nicely.”
The concern for Ten Hag is that nothing appears to be going proper. United did not rating sufficient targets final season however seemingly compensated by preserving clear sheets. To date this season, they’ve managed simply three in 9 video games in all competitions, whereas the issues on the different finish stay the identical.
Marcus Rashford, who acquired 30 targets final season, has managed only one this time period — the identical quantity as £72 million summer season signing Rasmus Hojlund. Rashford was substituted with United nonetheless desperately looking for an equaliser, having already been outshone by 19-year-old Garnacho, who got here off the bench after an hour.
“I believe [Rashford] can do higher and I’m certain it’ll come,” Ten Hag added. “He works exhausting and that’s what he’s doing. He’ll web and it’ll come, however it’s not going to be computerized. The crew has to take a position lots round him. Right now, the decision-making was not ok.”
Ten Hag continues to be with out key defenders Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and the Dutchman may really feel aggrieved that referee Chris Kavanagh did not spot a handball in opposition to Joel Ward within the second half in opposition to Palace, however any greater than a passing point out would solely paper over the cracks which are operating by United’s season.
We have been right here earlier than. In latest historical past, each earlier managers Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffered disastrous begins, could not cease the rot, and paid the value with their jobs. Ten Hag faces an identical downside and has to get a tune out of his gamers rapidly or — inevitably — it is going to be his head on the block.
He might be pleased that, after the full-time boos subsided, he was applauded down the tunnel by the followers within the Stretford Finish who had stayed till the tip. Ten Hag nonetheless retains the help of nearly all of supporters and membership bosses who’re making an attempt to interrupt a cycle of sacking managers when the going will get robust. However outcomes will not be allowed to dip ceaselessly, and the time for excuses is over.