sport news GRAEME SOUNESS: Erik ten Hag is covering his own back ALREADY trends now
It seemed all measured and correct. Now, after a couple of bad results, he sounds to me like someone who has gone into self-preservation mode.
Very quickly his tone is negative: he’s not getting much help, he’s not got the players he wanted, the players have to take responsibility. It’s like, ‘I’m looking after my own backside here’.
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag should not be laying the blame elsewhere
I would be concerned by that. You don’t get a free pass. When you’re out spending money — and the three signings so far have been his picks — that free pass shrinks in the wash. Time is not your friend.
It is too strong and too early to say the job is beyond Ten Hag, but he has come from Ajax, the biggest club in the Netherlands, and is now manager of arguably the biggest club in the world. It is a different ball game, different expectation, different pressure.
To be fair to him, he has walked into a club that is rudderless on and off the pitch. But he and his staff have a job to do. It would worry me how badly they did that job during the 4-0 defeat at Brentford last Saturday.
He has Steve McClaren as his assistant, and that is an important role. I worked abroad and felt it was imperative to have someone with knowledge of the league telling me what the challenge was in the next game. What are we going in to? I didn’t know. You get to know your players pretty quickly because you work with them, but you need help in terms of the opposition.
The Red Devils have endured their worst start to a Premier League season since 1992-93
Manchester United were embarrassed 4-0 by Brentford in the second game of the campaign
Last Saturday, United were way wide of the mark with selection and approach. You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to know what is coming — but United didn’t. Brentford are an in-your-face team who will test you in all aspects of a football match. McClaren, and others around Ten Hag, should have given him better advice.
I mean, 5ft 9in Lisandro Martinez at centre back? Ivan Toney must have looked at him in the warm-up and thought, ‘I’m gonna have a good day today’. And he did. I fear Martinez will struggle in the Premier League because of his size. But he’s Ten Hag’s big signing from Ajax and he won’t abandon him.
I have read that Martinez can also play as a holding midfield player, and he may end up there, especially as United are screaming out for quality in that area. At least he looks combative.
Ten Hag played Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes in his midfield last Saturday, thinking it’s a game of football going to Brentford. As if Thomas Frank tells his players, ‘It’s Man United today, let’s have a jolly nice game of football’.
Brentford rattled United’s cage good and proper. So yes, I would worry about what information Ten Hag is getting from his backroom team.
Harry Maguire's future is under scrutiny and Chelsea could recruit the defender
But alarm bells are going off all around the club. Cristiano Ronaldo has given up on them, by the look of it. He came out with a statement last year saying the young players there don’t listen. He should be the perfect role model, yet he is saying, ‘This club ain’t for me’.
That is a damning indictment of Manchester United.
I watched my Sky Sports colleagues Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp disagree over who is to blame for the current mess — but they were both right. Gary was focused on the Glazers, Jamie on the players and the manager.
Of course, the Glazers are ultimately culpable. They allowed Ed Woodward to continue to make the big calls on recruitment and other football business.
Erik ten Hag's reign started with a 2-1 defeat to Brighton on the opening weekend of the