Saturday night saw yet another pathetic display from Manchester United, being utterly dominated at St James’ Park.
United have had some pretty horrendous showings this season, and this one was possibly the worst of the lot. Individually the players were poor, but above that, the instructions given to them did not help whatsoever.
Erik ten Hag once again followed the long ball hit-and-hope tactic that has been a feature in many games this season, and once again, it failed horribly. Doing so away at one of if not the most physical teams in English football, in one of the most hostile grounds in the league right now, was suicidal, and United were completely bullied.
The pitch looked a different size for the two teams, Newcastle always close together and well spaced, United always leaving chasms of grass for black and white shirts to drive through. It looked like 11 individuals who just so happened to be wearing the same badge.
Had United emphasised the control-oriented style that Ten Hag was hired for, United may still have lost the game against an intense Newcastle press, but fans would have preferred to see their team go out and actually have a go at playing some football.
It feels like right now the Manchester United manager is sacrificing his team’s future in order to get results right now. The problem is he’s not getting those results enough anyway, so he is throwing away his side’s future – and potentially his own job – for nothing.
If the Red Devils lost that game yesterday but put together a performance that showed fans something that could offer reasonable belief that this team will click in the coming weeks, then the outrage would not be even close to what it is right now. Some would even feel positive about the game.
Losing is never nice, but it hurts a lot less for fans when they can walk out of a game seeing that there is a process in place, that everyone is invested in, that will make games like this merely a lesson that makes the team stronger going forward.
Can anybody reasonably say that yesterday felt this way for Manchester United?
Erik ten Hag is not a bad football coach. He did an incredible job at every club he managed prior to Manchester United – producing really attractive football – and for large parts of last season, had Manchester United working very well as a unit.
This only makes what fans are seeing from him at United all the more baffling. Whilst the ownership and executive team at Old Trafford have not helped Ten Hag, he cannot be excused of blame. A lot of the decisions made have been his own, and they have been costly for all involved.
It is unlikely that the Dutchman loses his job before the Christmas period, barring exceptional circumstances, but if he does want to keep it then he needs to go back to what earned him the job in the first place. Even if it isn’t enough for him to survive, at least lay some kind of foundation for the future. Give the fans something to believe in, so that even if the team does lose, they do it right.
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