It has been a dismal start to the season – the club’s worst since 1989 – for manager Erik ten Hag, with disastrous performances on the pitch and numerous problems off it. So how do you fix Manchester United?
Here, talkSPORT examines five solutions, starting with the takeover project, which has dragged on for almost a year.
Sell the club
The most damning aspect of Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Brighton, who named a starting XI that cost less than £17million in transfer fees, is that no one was the least surprised people. In fact, it would have been even more shocking if United had won!
The former champions have been dubbed a club in crisis after a chaotic start to the season, but the biggest problem remains Joel and Avram Glazer’s continued hesitation to sell their shares.
United fans rejoiced when the Grim brothers announced at the World Cup in November that they were open to investment, or even a complete sale of the club. Eventually it emerged that the parasitic regime, which used their property as a mere means of lining its own pockets while racking up colossal debts of hundreds of millions of pounds, was on a cycle.
Sadly, ten months later, United are still under Glazer’s rule, with the Qatari consortium and boyhood United fan Sir Jim Ratcliffe left in the dark over their respective takeover offers.
This uncertainty and lack of leadership at the top of the food chain has undoubtedly affected all areas of the club, with Ten Hag and general manager Richard Arnold left to light fire after fire.
United’s handling of the Mason Greenwood affair was nothing short of shocking, but that’s hardly a surprise after the owners washed their hands of all responsibility and left it to the much-maligned Arnold to decide Greenwood’s fate and to deal with any negative reactions that may arise at the club.
talkSPORT’s Simon Jordan likes to use the phrase “best in class” when discussing board decisions. With numerous expensive and questionable recruiting calls over the past decade, a stadium that was once the pride of the country falling into disrepair and a tired training facility, the Glazers inherited a five-star hotel and turned into a rickety B’n’. b.
“Stand by your manager”
It was on a rainy afternoon at Old Trafford in May 2013 that Sir Alex Ferguson addressed the crowd with this infamous rallying cry in an unsubtle attempt to encourage them to support his hand-picked successor. shutter, David Moyes.
United, already crowned champions for the 20th time, had just beaten Swansea 2-1 in Ferguson’s final home game, but his message fell on deaf ears and Moyes’ reign lasted just ten months before being fired.
Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all tried and failed to follow in Ferguson’s illustrious footsteps and win the title again, while the short-lived tenure of “Wreck-It” Ralf Ragnick has was simply a disaster.
Given the success Arsenal have had in ignoring fans’ calls to sack Mikel Arteta, you wonder if United would have been better off simply sticking with Moyes as Fergie implored. In doing so, the situation would probably have been no worse than that which followed the decade of malaise that followed.
Like many of his predecessors, Ten Hag enjoyed an early honeymoon period in leading United to EFL Cup success last season, restoring them to the top four and guiding them to an FA Cup final.
After losing three of the opening five games for the first time in the Premier League era, that honeymoon came to an abrupt end, leading non-United fans and pundits to turn up the pressure on Ten Hag . Many of those who previously applauded his iron fist rule are now using it as a stick to beat him in the wake of Jadon Sancho’s spat, even though Sancho has a history when it comes to not being a model professional.
Crucially, the majority of United fans, particularly Old Trafford regulars, are “on their manager’s side”.
History has proven that the problems of this once proud club run much deeper than the man in the dugout. Firing another boss and tearing down all the building blocks that Ten Hag has put in place to try to change what he called a “no-good culture,” especially after giving him control of hiring, would bring more pain than gain.
Get Rasmus Hojlund fit and shooting
It’s been difficult to take too many positives from United’s dismal start to the season, but the early promise shown by the new holder of the iconic number 11 jersey is something fans can hold on to.
While £72 million for a 20-year-old with a modest goalscoring record to his name raised eyebrows – particularly given the links with his manager’s agent – Hojlund’s brief appearance in the defeat at Arsenal when he immediately showed he was ready for the physical challenge of the Premier League. His disallowed goal against Brighton is also proof that he could quickly become a key man.
The boos that greeted his replacement this weekend were both audible and reflected the fact that United supporters have already taken the great Dane to their hearts.
The reality is that by the time he gave way Hojlund looked like he had run his course and, due to his lack of precision in the match, Brighton’s uncompromising captain Lewis Dunk had his measure .
The focus now must be on getting the young player up to speed because, let’s be honest, who else should United lead their line? If Anthony Martial is the answer, then the question is a painful listen.
Finding the Right Midfield Shape
This area of the team was a cause for concern from the first minute of the season opener against Wolves, when United had the chance to win.
By attempting to play both summer signing Mason Mount and captain Bruno Fernandes in advanced midfield roles, Ten Hag completely upset the balance of the team and left Casemiro totally exposed as Wolves invaded their hosts in the middle of the park.
Mount’s injury suffered in the second game at Tottenham saw Casemiro largely partnered with Christian Eriksen, but the Brazil international has been miles off the pace and Eriksen also appears to be struggling to move around the pitch.
Against Brighton, Ten Hag gave Scott McTominay, who was in fine form for Scotland, a rare start for United as part of a midfield diamond, but that didn’t work either as Brighton simply used his opponents’ narrow setup to utilize space out wide. . This hasn’t been helped by Marcus Rashford’s reluctance to go back properly, something that needs to be eradicated.
This lack of natural width hasn’t been helped by Ten Hag banishing Sancho and Antony’s leave, but in 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho and 21-year-old Facundo Pellistri he has two natural, if inexperienced, wide men. At least one of them MUST start against Burnley live on talkSPORT on Saturday.
The balance will naturally be improved by the addition of Sofyan Amrabat on loan, a player Ten Hag had desperately wanted to sign all summer before the hierarchy finally sealed the deal on transfer deadline day, having unnecessarily delayed the transfer.
Return to the pride of defending
Remember Manchester United’s tense 1-0 win over Leicester at the start of last season and you may remember Diogo Dalot bumping chests with Lisandro Martinez after turning the ball over for a corner.
Martinez himself had shown a similarly emotional reaction after winning a tackle in United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool a few weeks earlier, giving Ten Hag their first victory.
These were deliberate displays of public pride designed to show new character and resilience within the team.
That resilience was already in a downward spiral at the end of last season when United almost limped into the top four, but we fast forward to the here and now and United’s players’ reaction to the sloppy goals they concede could not not be bigger. contrasting, with slumped shoulders and the air of resignation of those wearing red shirts.
This lack of responsibility and accountability has become a worrying trend, perhaps born out of discontent during a particularly intense pre-season campaign in the United States during which talkSPORT learned that Ten Hag was giving very little, if any , downtime for his troops.
United’s players appear mentally and physically tired, which in itself is a major concern at the start of a season in which they hope to be seriously competitive on four fronts.
Somehow, Ten Hag must get his players to display the same positive attitude and determination that helped him achieve success in his debut campaign, because the simple truth is that they have developed a soft stomach and became easy to cope with, especially outdoors. their country where their record is simply dismal.
Burnley vs Manchester United is live on talkSPORT at 8pm on Saturday September 23
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