What Manchester United need to do to get their season back on track after troubled start
Manchester United have endured a brutal start to the season, losing three Premier League games out of five and also facing a 3-4 defeat to Bayern this week.
Manchester United have had a turbulent start to the season, grappling with a string of underwhelming results that have left them reeling at 13th place in the Premier League. In addition to just two wins and three losses in their first five matches in the league, the team has conceded more goals than any other Premier League side across all competitions. The most recent setback came earlier this week when they suffered a 3-4 defeat to Bayern Munich in their opening Champions League encounter.
The club's troubles extend beyond the pitch, as reports suggest that there are off-field issues plaguing the team. The relationship between Jadon Sancho and manager Erik ten Hag appears strained, with Sancho being dropped from the side earlier this month due to issues related to discipline. He continues remains absent from the squad. Additionally, Antony is unavailable following allegations of domestic violence made by his girlfriend.
Also read: Man Utd players 'still seething' over David de Gea's unceremonious ouster as Onana endures troubled start: Report
On the footballing front, there have been glimpses of promise, but inconsistency has been a recurring issue. Manchester United often seem to lose their footing once they concede early goals. Injuries have compounded their problems, with key players like Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw sidelined, and Mason Mount suffering an injury in only his second match of the season.
As Manchester United seek to regain their form and get the season back on track, several key adjustments may be in order. We take a look at few of the things United need to do to stop the rot.
Take early chances
In their recent matches, Manchester United displayed a pattern of missed opportunities and struggles to capitalize on strong starts. Against Brighton, Rashford missed early opportunities while Christian Eriksen failed to convert a golden chance at the Allianz Arena.
This trend mirrors United's form from the previous year, where they couldn't make the most of promising beginnings in matches. It didn't help the side that it faced serious issues with the forward line, as Wout Weghorst was a misfit and Martial struggled with fitness.
However, the situation is gradually improving as Rasmus Hojlund has recovered from injury and found the net in his last two appearances, scoring in Munich after a disallowed goal against Brighton. Manchester United has been prone to crumbling when they encounter setbacks in matches, but there's optimism that if they can secure the first goal, their fortunes may start to change.
Rashford has, on many occasions, demonstrated his versatility on the left wing for Manchester United. In the absence of Rasmus Hojlund due to injuries, Rashford was thrust into the role of striker, given Anthony Martial's lack of match fitness. However, even when Hojlund returned to the starting lineup against Brighton, Rashford continued to frequently interchange positions after starting on the left.
Despite creating chances and even having a goal-scoring opportunity, Rashford's positioning interchanging was evident and United struggled to maintain their momentum after conceding the first goal in that match.
Similarly, the combination of Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount, both possessing similar playing styles, may not be the most effective midfield pairing, as evidenced in their season opener against Wolves. Mount is a versatile player, and it could potentially benefit United's attack if he were deployed in a different role, perhaps on the right flank , once he returns from injury.
Learn, and move on
It's been a rocky start for Onana at United, with a staggering 14 goals conceded in just five matches, including a glaring error that led to Bayern's opening goal. In a noteworthy move, Onana has requested an interview on national TV to publicly acknowledge his mistake following the Champions League encounter.
However, he should take solace in the fact that he's not the first player in United's storied history to encounter a challenging beginning, and he certainly won't be the last. In fact, he can find inspiration in his immediate predecessor, David De Gea.
The legendary former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had once offered insights into De Gea's journey, explaining how the Spanish goalkeeper managed to regain his footing after early setbacks. "He got a grip of the situation," Ferguson emphasized, "He did not let the mistakes get to him, and now he is playing with confidence, which is a great factor for any goalkeeper."
Onana would do well to heed this advice as he faces the upcoming fixtures. The crucial point highlighted by Ferguson revolves around De Gea's ability to shake off errors and bounce back. Onana must not allow a single mistake to weigh him down or hinder his performance through the fear of making another.
Keep faith in Ten Hag
Football can be an unforgiving world, especially for managers. The tolerance for failure seems to diminish with each passing season, and although the swords haven't been unsheathed yet, it's evident that if such results persist, Erik ten Hag's position as United's manager could come under scrutiny.
Ten Hag's situation is further complicated by his differences with players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and, more recently, Jadon Sancho. United has a history of parting ways with managers rather than players in such circumstances. Managers like Louis van Gaal were dismissed after falling out with certain players, as was Jose Mourinho following his publicized feud with Paul Pogba.
For Ten Hag, the key lies in regrouping his squad. While there's no shame in losing to teams like Arsenal, Tottenham, and Bayern, it didn't help that all three fixtures occurred within a span of just 10 days. Fortunately, the upcoming set of fixtures appears to be more manageable, providing Ten Hag with an opportunity to steer the campaign back on track.