For the primary time as Manchester United supervisor, Erik ten Hag is beneath stress. At Previous Trafford on Tuesday night time, Turkish champions Galatasaray inflicted a sixth defeat of the season and United’s second in 4 days at house.
United’s file after 10 video games of the 2023-24 season is now worse than beneath Jose Mourinho and beneath Ole Gunnar Solskjaer within the seasons they have been sacked. Neither Mourinho nor Solskjaer might flip it round after disastrous begins, and the membership finally determined there was no different choice however to make a change.
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Mourinho was finally dismissed after 24 video games in December 2018, and Solskjaer after 17 video games in November 2021; it already looks like Ten Hag is on the high of the identical slippery slope. Sources near United have been insisting on Wednesday morning that Ten Hag’s job is protected and that the Dutchman is considered as their supervisor “for the long run,” however there isn’t any getting away from the truth that outcomes dictate every thing.
Mourinho signed a brand new contract in January 2018 — lower than a yr earlier than his departure — and Solskjaer agreed a brand new deal in July 2021, simply 4 months earlier than he was canned. It exhibits that on the subject of soccer, “long-term” may be an especially obscure phrase.
Crucially for Ten Hag, he nonetheless has the backing of the vast majority of match-going followers and though there have been boos following the defeats to Crystal Palace and Galatasaray, it was extra a response to the efficiency and the consequence than an act of mutiny aimed on the supervisor. The large query going through Ten Hag, nevertheless, is whether or not the gamers are nonetheless on his aspect.
Each Mourinho and Solskjaer discovered that, after troublesome begins of their last seasons, issues started to unravel in a short time. Mourinho had 4 wins and three defeats from his first 10 video games in 2018-19 and when he was sacked Dec. 18, his file was 10 wins and 7 defeats from 24 video games. The drop-off beneath Solskjaer was much more speedy, as 5 wins and three losses from the primary 10 video games in 2021-22 become seven wins and 7 losses by the point he was sacked Nov. 21 after 17 matches.
Skilled managers and coaches will typically say that the tenacity with which a workforce defends is normally a superb indicator of the will inside the dressing room, and it will likely be an enormous purple flag for Ten Hag that his workforce is experiencing the identical defensive issues that contributed to the downfall of his predecessors.
In Mourinho’s final full season in cost in 2017-18, United had the second-best defensive file within the Premier League and probably the most clear sheets. By the top of his reign, nevertheless, that stability had disappeared, and in Mourinho’s last 10 video games in cost, United conceded 15 objectives. It was an analogous story for Solskjaer, who watched his workforce ship 22 objectives in his last 10 video games as supervisor, together with 4 at Leicester and Watford and 5 at house to Liverpool.
Worryingly for Ten Hag, United have conceded 18 objectives in 10 video games in all competitions this season, their most at this stage since 1966. Ten Hag can level to accidents to key gamers comparable to Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martínez as a mitigating issue, however among the defending in opposition to Galatasaray bordered on calamity.
The customer’s first aim got here after a hopeful ball was punted towards Wilfried Zaha, and the previous Crystal Palace winger outmuscled Diogo Dalot on the sting of the penalty space. Each Sofyan Amrabat, enjoying as a makeshift left-back, and Victor Lindelöf made errors for the second aim, whereas the third got here from one other Amrabat error compounded by Lindelof and Raphaël Varane being so sluggish to react to what’s basically a headed clearance from Davinson Sánchez.
To make issues worse, André Onana, the £47.2m summer season signing from Inter, is enduring a disastrous begin to his United profession. After letting in a howler of a aim within the 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich, his sloppy cross out in opposition to Galatasaray prompted Casemiro to get despatched off — the third time the Brazilian midfielder has been proven a purple card in simply 61 video games since his transfer from Actual Madrid.
United twice led in opposition to Galatasaray, however conceded an equaliser six minutes after Rasmus Hojlund’s first aim and simply 4 minutes after his second. It is a acquainted sample: Bayern scored 4 minutes after United’s first aim on the Allianz Area and two minutes after their second. Arsenal scored twice in 5 minutes in a 3-1 win on the Emirates in September, and Nottingham Forest received two in 4 minutes at Previous Trafford in August. Bayern’s first two objectives in Munich got here within the area of simply 4 minutes.
This is not a workforce that offers effectively with setbacks and even final season, they conceded three in 10 minutes within the 6-3 defeat to Manchester Metropolis and three in 19 minutes within the 7-0 humiliation at Liverpool.
Sources near Ten Hag have informed ESPN that he does not really feel he may be as harsh in his criticism of the gamers as he’d like as a result of there are issues concerning the psychological fragility of the squad. He has additionally raised the difficulty of getting the suitable physique language when setbacks occur in video games, and is more and more annoyed that his message is not getting by to explicit members of his squad.
Regardless of tight monetary honest play restrictions, there are already options Ten Hag will push to signal a brand new central defender in January, however for now, his job is to set off some form of response with the gamers he is received when Brentford go to Previous Trafford on Saturday.
When the stress was on Mourinho and Solskjaer, they could not flip issues round and finally paid the value with their jobs. United stay resolute of their perception that Ten Hag continues to be the suitable man, however his destiny will likely be determined by outcomes and, as those that have gone earlier than have discovered, a descent into catastrophe at United generally is a exhausting factor to cease.