What is happening over at Old Trafford? The 2021-2022 season wasn’t too bad with Man Utd finishing third and winning the EFL Cup, but it was a clunky affair.
Man Utd lost 10 of their 35 Premier League fixtures, the second-highest number of defeats in a single season since the 12 losses suffered in 2013-14. But we’re not here to dwell on that, we’re looking ahead to the future.
Unfortunately, it’s not looking too rosy if the recent form is anything to go by. The bookies are inclined to agree too, here is where we’re at:
Like, ‘Ouch’. And just to rub salt in the wound their City mates just four miles down the road are odds-on favourites to win. Double ‘Ouch’.
I’m guessing Man Utd fans must be wondering if the wind is blowing in a different direction, or what their City mates are having for their tea. So, is there a way to recover the season?
First, all eyes are on manager Erik Ten Hag. He’s only been in the job for a year, yet he’s the first manager to oversee his team losing three games in a row since Ole Gunner Solskjaer.
But it’s not all bad. So, before you dedicate your Saturday afternoons to slingo online and re-runs of Wheeler Dealers, bear this in mind.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer may have lost three games in a row, but he also had the second-best win record of United’s post-Ferguson managers. He won 91 of his 168 across all competitions, which is a better percentage return than Mourinho, Moyes, or van Gaal.
Still, that doesn’t mean that everything is automatically going to be just great for Ten Hag just because something happened in the recent past. So, again, is there a way for Man Utd to recover the season?
As it stands, we have two factors riling against one another: players and tactics. Arguably it was charismatic squad building that saw Man Utd finishing third last season and a lack of tactics that also saw Man Utd finishing third last season…
This season the tactics are more evident, but the squad don’t seem comfortable applying them. These tactical changes involve more direct attacking and a higher press, but the players don’t seem able to get the job done.
This is a sort of reversal of last season’s fortunes when iffy tactics were countered by a cohesive squad. The main issue now is with the midfield, a higher press seems to have thrown them into mild disarray allowing the opposition to wander through, almost unchallenged.
We’re going to avoid singling out specific incidents in favour of a holistic whole because it’s way too early in the season for that. But we will mention Gary O Neil.
Sure, Wolverhampton Wanderers lost 0-1 to Man Utd in the first fixture of the season. But throughout the game, O Neil’s team were happily dribbling through the Man Utd midfield as if it didn’t exist.
Ten Hag’s desire to press high and attack quickly isn’t helping matters either. Casemiro and Erikson don’t appear able to keep up the desired pace, while Mason is still settling in.
But Man Utd were tight against Arsenal and could’ve beaten Spurs and, lest we forget, we’re only at the beginning of the season.
The boss seems to be in a conciliatory mood too. Following the loss at Arsenal, Ten Hag said, “I will not say it was perfect, definitely room for improvement, but if we see compactness, pressing, moving with the ball, make the counters, in possession very calm, we never give Arsenal the opportunity to press us. There were a lot of positives, it is logical at this stage of the season there is room for improvement.”
Let’s also end on a positive note by looking at this outside the penalty box, if you’ll forgive the re-jigged pun. If we spent every match watching Man Utd win every single game they played, you’d know the outcome every time, and you’d be bored rigid.
Football is a 24/7 passion, it’s not just about the Saturday afternoons. It’s for times like these, when there’s that chance (as we’ve seen time and time again) that everything will snap into a cohesive whole.
Also, the season is in its infancy, we’ve barely begun. There is a new, competent, captain at the table and some fresh faces in the squad, and to use the hackneyed phrase, it’s all to play for.
Despite the bookies, Man Utd could just as easily rise to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The game is far from over, folks. So stand proud, stand Manchester United!