Erik ten Hag is almost back to square one at Manchester United as his undercooked and ill-equipped squad flounder at the start of the new season. Some of that is on the manager…
By the time Ange Postecoglou starts his second season at Tottenham, assuming he sticks around that long, he has to hope his players have caught on quicker than Erik ten Hag’s.
The Manchester United manager’s sophomore season has started similarly to his first. Not as catastrophically in terms of results. But from their performances, it seems what they did pick up from the Dutchman, they have forgotten.
A year ago, they had the excuse that it was all new to them. The very basics of Ten Hag ball – pace, press, pass – had to be taught to the misfits he inherited from Ralf Rangnick, and the players he brought in had to be allowed some time to find their feet. United got better, sure. Good enough to secure a Champions League place. But here we are, a year on, and the Red Devils are looking lost again.
They opened their Premier League campaign with what Gary Neville described as the worst 1-0 he’d ever seen. He probably wasn’t exaggerating. Ten Hag, perhaps surprisingly, opted to give the same XI another chance to blow out the summer cobwebs and through the first half, they looked sharper – physically if not mentally.
For a brief spell, perhaps spurred on by the hosts’ full-backs struggling with moonlighting as midfielders, United even showed some swagger. Bruno Fernandes teed up Marcus Rashford, albeit in an offside position, with a Rabona cross. Rashford beat Micky van de Ven with a sumptuous nutmeg. Andre Onana played one of the passes of the season to put Alejandro Garnacho in behind a home defence