Let’s take a closer look at the various problems plaguing Manchester United for a very long time now.
Roy Keane, when questioned about Manchester United’s troubles following a disappointing 3-0 loss to City, asked, “Where do you begin and where do you finish?”
Let’s start by looking at Manchester United’s recent performance.
This season, United has faced a tough start, losing 5 out of their 10 league matches. This is their poorest beginning since the 1986/87 season.
One thing that’s easy to grasp about this United team is their current lack of confidence.
Manchester United’s attacking style lacks consistency. Their recent league victories don’t provide much reassurance either. Notably, they were 2-0 down against Forest but won when Forest had 10 players. The win over Wolves relied on a refereeing/VAR mistake. Sheffield United’s defeat came from a late Diogo Dalot goal, and Brentford were leading after 90 minutes. The only convincing win this season was a 1-0 victory over Burnley.
Marcus Rashford is going through a rough patch, with just one goal in 13 club games this season.
As for Bruno Fernandes’ captaincy, it was criticized by Keane amongst other past critics, but the big question is, who else can step up as a leader in the United squad?
Replacing Ten Hag would only worsen an already troubled situation. Yet, there’s a crucial question emerging about the United manager: have any players actually gotten better under his leadership? He must find positive answers quickly to silence the critics.
As Gary Neville pointed out during the derby loss, the squad lacks balance. Let’s look at the midfield, where United has three attacking central midfielders in Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, and Mason Mount, all wanting to play as number 10s, but there’s a noticeable lack of defensive support. What was the reasoning behind spending £60 million on Mount?
* Let’s talk about recruitment in football. Are clubs signing players for the team or to please the manager? In the case of Ten Hag, eight of the players he’s brought in either came from or have connections to the Eredivisie, which isn’t considered a top football league. Gary Neville expressed his concerns, saying, “They’ve let another manager influence recruitment decisions, and that’s not how great clubs should be runned.”
United is still uncertain about their top-choice lineup. They’ve made mid-game changes in four out of ten league matches this season, showing a lack of stability both on and off the field.
In the words of Jonathan Northcroft about X: “Antony doesn’t seem ready to start, often appears unhappy on the bench, and when he does come on, he tends to make reckless tackles and childish mistakes, risking a red card. He’s Manchester United’s second most expensive signing.”
Additionally, United’s situation is made more challenging when they’re compared to their successful city rivals under Pep Guardiola’s management.
Who’s really in charge of the manager, and where are they? Sir Alex Ferguson, who spent 26 years at the club, noted that his bosses were mainly Martin Edwards and David Gill. However, after Gill’s departure, there has been a noticeable lack of leadership at Old Trafford for the past 10 years. While injuries have affected the team this season, that’s where a strong squad should come into play.
Looking at Manchester United’s upcoming matches, the situation may worsen before improving. In early December, they face a tough schedule with games against Newcastle, Chelsea, Bayern, and Liverpool in quick succession.
Rasmus Hojlund shows great potential, but he’s currently inexperienced and leading a major club. It’s unfair to highlight his lack of goals in seven league matches at this stage.
The current United team is one of the least physically imposing in recent memory.
United’s remarkable streak of 12 consecutive home draws in the FA and Carabao Cups, a British record with odds of 4,096/1, will eventually come to an end. Their last away cup match was a 3-1 loss to Leicester in March 2021.
Regarding Andre Onana’s performance against City, there’s uncertainty about whether he’s the right choice for United or an improvement over David De Gea. As Jamie Carragher put it, United tends to play a style of football that’s considered as “underdog football.” Carragher criticized their attempt to play from the back, highlighting their reliance on counter-attacks and long balls, which sets them apart from other top teams.
* Manchester United is struggling to score goals this season. In 10 Premier League games, they’ve only managed to score 11 goals, which is much lower than other teams in higher league positions who have scored at least double that. It’s worth noting that Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire, who were chosen to defend against Erling Haaland, played together at Leicester City five years ago when Claude Puel was their manager. This raises questions about United’s significant transfer spending of £1.6 billion since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Jadon Sancho, who was purchased for a hefty sum of over £70 million just two summers ago, is now in a difficult situation and unlikely to play for the club again. This is due to a social media incident where he criticized Ten Hag. The winger, who was the second most expensive English player when he joined in July 2021, will likely be sold for a reduced price in January.
As for the stadium, it’s no longer considered state-of-the-art and is far from being top-tier. The persistent issue of a leaky roof has come to symbolize United’s decline under the current ownership. Despite hosting Euro 96 semi-finals, Old Trafford hasn’t even made it onto the shortlist of stadiums for Euro 2028.
Last but certainly not least, the ownership situation and the negative atmosphere associated with the Glazers’ era have deeply affected Old Trafford. As Gary Neville pointed out, there’s little hope for change while uncertainty looms at the top of the club. Even though United has been up for sale for nearly a year, the saga continues with no resolution in sight.