sport news Manchester United: How low can Erik ten Hag's side go after disastrous defeat ... trends now
Erik ten Hag may have inherited a sinking ship at Manchester United, but you cannot drill another hole and expect to remain dry amid the tidal wave of criticism. Here at Brentford, his side truly did plunge to new depths of gutless incompetence.
Two matches is too soon to judge a manager, of course, but you can form an opinion. On the evidence so far, the Dutchman looks like adding to the club’s myriad problems, as opposed to finding a solution.
He tried to influence his players during the first-half drinks break — by which point United trailed 2-0 — but their response was to concede another two within 10 minutes. They had taken plenty of water on board, but seemingly none of Ten Hag’s instruction.
Erik ten Hag has failed to get any improvement out of his players since he arrived at the club
Cristiano Ronaldo cut a disconsolate figure as Man United were thrashed on Saturday
Cristiano Ronaldo, detached at the back of the rabble in their bile-green jerseys, spent the interlude with a towel around his neck, but the metaphorical equivalent had long since been thrown. Ten Hag was lost, helpless in halting the surrender.
It is too easy, then, for pundits and former players, such as Gary Neville, to kick all of their annoyance towards the hierarchy. Yes, the Glazers are inept owners and this fractured incarnation of United is a consequence of their flawed decision-making.
But that does not give the manager a free pass. The Glazers are not responsible for organising and motivating the players, that is the job of Ten Hag. And, within the confines of successive 90 minutes now, his players have been disorganised and demotivated.
The fact he is only two games in is a reason for concern, not immunity from censure. Two games? The players should be running through a brick wall for a new manager, not hiding behind it.
Remember all of that nonsense from the summer about Ten Hag’s immediate impact? The players, we were told, were even turning up for training at 9am and some were staying until 5pm. Welcome to the real world, lads.
United looked bright in pre-season but have been brought crashing back down to earth
But already you detect a disconnect between the players and Ten Hag, who stood expressionless as they walked past him at full-time. There was zero interaction in either direction.
As the team bus waited, Ten Hag was not exactly keeping his players free from its wheels in the nearby media suite.
‘Rubbish’ he called them. He was not done, bucking managerial convention with an eye-opening, ‘The team has to take the responsibility’.
He later accepted some of the blame, but it is clear he believes many of the issues pre-date his arrival. While that does not excuse some of his tactical choices and a general feeling of unease around the 52-year-old’s suitability, he is also right. They are a sorry bunch and that much was evident in the hour after the game.
As Christian Eriksen sloped wearily from the dressing room towards the stadium exit, he declined the invitation to share his thoughts with the press. Tellingly, he did offer: ‘Not today. It was a terrible day.’ And this from a man who knows a thing or two about bad days.
Christian Eriksen opted against speaking to the media after losing to his former club
In fact, not a single United player would take questions from the national media. At least Eriksen refused politely, unlike some, whose petulant grunts captured perfectly their absence of personality on the pitch.
A word on Eriksen, who was used as a false nine in the opening day defeat by Brighton and shunted into a false four here. False in the sense that he is not, and never will be, a deep-lying midfielder screening a defence. But it felt needless — naive, if we’re being kind — when Ten Hag substituted the former Brentford playmaker with