Manchester United’s disastrous season continued with a 3-0 home defeat to Newcastle United on Wednesday and problems are mounting at Old Trafford. Manager Erik ten Hag said after their Carabao Cup exit that he was “a fighter” but was under pressure after eight defeats from 15 games to start the 2023-24 campaign.
Ten Hague and United have had to deal with a number of injuries to key players, as well as background noise over a potential takeover, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe acquiring a reported 25% of the club and working with the Glazers. Yet after some curious strategic decisions and questionable transfers there is growing debate over whether he is the right man for the job.
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As the situation at United reaches a fever pitch, here’s a look at the club’s biggest issues.
Uncertainty has surrounded Old Trafford since the Glazer family announced in November 2022 that they would consider “strategic options”, including accepting outside investment or, potentially, agreeing to an outright sale. The prospect of the Glazers making good disappeared when Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani withdrew from the race in October. 14, citing the Glazers’ “unrealistic” valuation, and the possibility that British billionaire Ratcliffe would eventually take a 25% stake.
Ratcliffe and his INEOS consortium want to take control of the football side of the business and although Ten Hague have ruled out a potential rise as the cause of ongoing problems, director of football John Murtaugh will be vulnerable to any changes to the org chart. Most fans can find all their complaints at the Glazers, but as things stand, they are in the lead.
Ten Haag has been on the job for 18 months and is under pressure for the first time. He has credit in the bank after a successful first season — United qualified for the Champions League, finishing third in 2022-23 — but while most fans still support him, many are questioning some of his decisions. Ten Haag said the decision to leave out veteran defenders Raphael Varane and Sergio Reguilon for the Manchester derby was “tactical” — United lost 3-0 — and twice in the space of a few months he has been barred from replacing new forwards. Rasmus Hjlund.
The biggest problem for many fans is that there still doesn’t seem to be a defined style of play. Before losing to City and Newcastle, United won three games in a row against Brentford, Sheffield United and FC Copenhagen, but all three victories came down to random moments of skill such as Diogo Dalot’s wonder strike against Sheffield United and Andre Onana’s penalty save in stoppage time. Time against Copenhagen. That’s unsustainable and, 15 games into the season, you could argue that United only have one comfortable win over Crystal Palace’s reserves in the Carabao Cup in September.
Despite concerns over ownership, United have still spent £400m on signing new players since Ten Hague’s arrival in the summer of 2022 and there are questions about how those funds have been used. Murtaugh has come in for criticism for his role, but so has Ten Hague, whose fingerprints are all over transfer policy.
Of the 16 players who came under Ten Haag, four (goalkeeper Andre Onana, forward Anthony, defender Lisandro Martinez and forward Sofian Amrabat) worked with him at former clubs, while another four (defender Tyrell Malasia, forward Wout Weghorst and midfielder Christian Eriksen) and Mason Mt. ) are either Dutch or have links to the Dutch Eredivisie. It was telling that Anthony (United’s second-most expensive signing from Ajax at £82m) and Mount (from Chelsea at £55m in the summer) were both left on the bench for Sunday’s derby loss to Man City.
Anthony’s signing for such a huge fee is particularly surprising, and the Brazilian winger doesn’t even come close to justifying the money.
United’s decision-makers still have faith in ten Haag, and that will only change if results don’t improve and he loses the dressing room. Some players have concerns about his high-intensity training sessions between matches, and not everyone agrees with the severity of Jadon Sancho’s punishment for publicly calling out his manager; However, for the most part, the squad remains on the sidelines.
One of Ten Hague’s biggest problems is that key players are underperforming. Marcus Rashford looks a shadow of the player who scored 30 goals last season, while Casemiro and Varane – proven Champions League winners at Real Madrid – struggle for form. Injuries haven’t helped — at one point Ten Hague were missing 16 first-team players — but it’s starting to look like the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign, as results begin to spiral and the Norwegian manager can’t do anything. to stem the tide
Lawrence: Man United lose to Newcastle’s ‘C Team’
Gabe and Jules react to Manchester United’s 3-0 loss to Newcastle in the Carabao Cup.
United’s poor form is nothing new; Indeed, Ten Hague may find it in the Carabao Cup final in February. Until the win against Newcastle at Wembley that day, United had played 40 matches, won 29 and lost six for a win percentage of 72.5%. In the eight months since then, they have played 37 games, won 20 and lost 13, and their winning percentage has dropped to 54%.
The danger for Ten Haag is that Champions League qualification is generally considered the minimum requirement for any United manager, but only once in the past decade has a side managed to finish in the top four after losing five of their first 10 league games. It was Tottenham in 2021-22 when Antonio Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo in November.
Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are all playing well, but Ten Hague could still get a reprieve for the new Champions League format. There will be more teams in the 2024-25 competition, and the Premier League has five qualifiers instead of four.