Manchester United lost 4-3 against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday and one incident during the game suggested that the club’s transfer failures are continuing to impact the team.
Despite a close scoreline suggesting an improved performance, it was more of the same from Erik ten Hag’s side. They started the game well before capitulating after the first goal from the German side.
After Rasmus Hojlund rescued hope with a smart finish early in the second half, United received yet another VAR sucker punch after a penalty was given for handball against Christian Eriksen. And, of course, Harry Kane slotted it away with ease to restore Bayern’s two-goal lead.
After that, Ten Hag would’ve been looking for his bench for inspiration. What he saw would’ve not been so inspiring. Three goalkeepers and Jonny Evans took up half of the slots. Scott McTominay was the first player to come on the pitch.
The Scotland international has been praised in recent weeks for his appearances during Euro 2024 qualifiers where he has scored six goals.
He was given a chance against Brighton from the start and was uncharacteristically lazy out of possession. However, perhaps the wide midfielder role in a diamond midfield is an unforgiving situation to be in against Roberto De Zerbi’s side.
But, in this game, it was a similar approach. McTominay looked slow out of possession and one phase of play summed up his cameo.
After a poor second touch in an advanced area, the midfielder was pickpocketed by Dayot Upamecano. There was absolutely no desire from McTominay to win the ball back despite coming onto the pitch just 10 minutes earlier. In fairness, there was also no desire by the other United attackers.
But why McTominay? He has always been a figure who generates contrasting opinions but most can agree that he is a hard worker.
Yet, after months of being rumoured with a move away from Old Trafford, nothing materialising, and the club then signing two more midfielders, what has he got to fight for? Sofyan Amrabat, Mason Mount, Christian Eriksen, and even Kobbie Mainoo will all be preferred choices for Ten Hag. Hannibal Mejbri could also be too.
United could have got around £30 million for McTominay with several clubs interested. That money might’ve helped sign a central defender, or even added midfield depth. Instead, the midfielder will almost certainly leave for less than that in January, or in the summer.
Whilst the clip above shows a lack of desire and is frustrating to watch. It is also simply an example of the negatives of being unable to sell players. United are bad at it.
Harry Maguire is still at the club. Fortunately for him, United were unable to sign a defender because his move to West Ham collapsed. It is likely that he gets his chances in the defence this season. McTominay, however, will shortly have multiple players ahead of him in the pecking order when injury-struck players return.
Similar incidents seemed to have happened in recent years, with Jesse Lingard’s eventual exit being the worst example. Ten Hag is trying to keep standards high but this delayed reset from being unable to sell on players is not helping, among many other things.
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