Erik ten Hag identifies five reasons behind Manchester United’s miserable start

Erik ten Hag believes injuries, the form of individuals and a new partnership in the centre of defence are the reasons behind Manchester United’s miserable start to the season after losing both of their opening games.

United sit one place off the bottom of the Premier League table ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Monday night after being deservedly beaten by both Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford in Ten Hag’s first games in charge.

The former Ajax head coach’s first months in his new job have proved challenging, with as many issues mounting off-the-pitch as on it, even when setting aside unrest among the supporters with the Glazer family’s ownership.

Although United agreed a £60m deal with Real Madrid for Casemiro last week, Ten Hag has had to wait for the holding midfielder he believes the squad lacks, and looks set to go without his first-choice target Frenkie de Jong despite a summer-long pursuit.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s future remains uncertain. The wantaway, five-time Ballon d’Or winner missed United’s pre-season tour due to family reasons, delaying his return to training, while Ten Hag’s alternative at centre-forward Anthony Martial suffered a hamstring injury.

And after conceding six goals in their opening two games, Ten Hag believes the form of David de Gea and the unfamiliarity of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez’s partnership has contributed to United’s defensive mishaps.

Ten Hag cited all of these as reasons, in part, for United’s poor start while previewing Liverpool’s visit during his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“We had a good basic pre-season, [then] our nine Martial injured, ‘Ronny’ not fit, the six holding midfield position not there. The first game we had two centre-halves who have not played together and also the goalie was not the best period.

“There is a clear reason why but I know we will fix that and also the results will be better,” he insisted. “That showed already in pre-season.”

Ten Hag admitted that he has not been especially surprised by United’s poor start, despite the cautious optimism of many at the club during the summer.

“I made that conclusion already that it could be [a poor start],” he said. “But you also see the potential of this team in pre-season, so now we have to work together to get the good performances back on the pitch.

Ten Hag also suggested that he had seen a lack of leadership from his players in the pair of defeats but refused to single out under-fire captain Harry Maguire, instead revealing that he expects a core group of players to set an example.

“When the attitude is no good from the team, often the leaders are not there because they are the ones who give the example and go in front. That is a point we have to work on.

“I work always with a group of leaders, not one in particular. I spoke with the leaders about this issue. It doesn’t have to be senior players but we have a core group who have to be the example and take the responsibility.”

Leave a Comment