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 beneath Ange Postecoglou, Arsenal are real title challengers, Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton & Hove Albion are one of the well-coached groups within the Premier League and Bayern Munich are Champions League contenders. Nonetheless, Saturday’s defeat — 1-0 at dwelling to Crystal Palace — is nearly inexplicable.
Of all of the setbacks Erik ten Hag’s workforce have suffered this season, that is the largest purple flag of the lot. And they’re now working out of excuses.
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Palace arrived at Outdated Trafford having gained simply three of their earlier 14 Premier League away video games and but nonetheless discovered a technique to inflict a fifth defeat of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 constructive first yr as a supervisor already seems to be in tatters.
With time working out, substitute Harry Maguire pinged an aimless cross 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supervisor Roy Hodgson jogged onto the pitch within the Manchester rain to congratulate his gamers, boos sounded round Outdated Trafford.
“I perceive,” Ten Hag mentioned when requested concerning the response. “After we performed at dwelling or away and we play Crystal Palace, we now have to win. With all respect, I do know each sport within the Premier League may be very tough, you need to play your greatest, and I perceive followers anticipating a win and we did not win, we misplaced.”
This was imagined 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on Tuesday) was the proper begin to a sort run of fixtures that features seven at dwelling earlier than Nov. 1, however Outdated Trafford is now not the fortress it was final season. Brighton inflicted a primary dwelling league defeat in additional than a yr after they gained 3-1, however Palace repeated the trick simply two weeks later, and there might be loads of anxiousness amongst followers who flip up right here for the sport towards Galatasaray on Tuesday and towards 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 now have to do higher, that’s positively the case,” Ten Hag mentioned. “We have now to indicate it in our physique language that Outdated Trafford is a fortress and you may’t get something right here and the one factor you possibly can go away with is a loss.
“I believe I can not blame the gamers and say they did not run. They gave every thing, however within the ultimate half, in each bins, 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 holding clear sheets. Up to now 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 received 30 targets final season, has managed only one this time period — the identical quantity as £72 million summer time signing Rasmus Hojlund. Rashford was substituted with United nonetheless desperately trying to find 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 onerous and that’s what he’s doing. He’ll internet and it’ll come, however it’s not going to be computerized. The workforce has to speculate loads round him. In the present day, the decision-making was not ok.”
Ten Hag remains to be with out key defenders Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and the Dutchman would possibly really feel aggrieved that referee Chris Kavanagh did not spot a handball towards Joel Ward within the second half towards Palace, however any greater than a passing point out would solely paper over the cracks which can be working via United’s season.
We have been right here earlier than. In current historical past, each earlier managers Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffered disastrous begins, could not cease the rot, and paid the worth with their jobs. Ten Hag faces an analogous drawback 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 completely happy 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 the vast majority of supporters and membership bosses who’re making an attempt to interrupt a cycle of sacking managers when the going will get powerful. However outcomes will not be allowed to dip perpetually, and the time for excuses is over.
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