Erik ten Hag you have three weeks to save Manchester United’s season. Sound ridiculous after only 90 twinkles of Premier League action, indeed if that was a dire 2- 1 home defeat by Brighton on Sunday – their first ever home loss against those opponents in 113 times?
Of course it does, but this is the striking verity that faces the new director. And it clearly doesn’t help that Ten Hag’s capability to rebuild an embarrassingly medium team is materially affected by two branches of the superintendent the brainpower of football director, John Murtough, and the desire of the Glazer family to splurge a serious quantum of cash.
The cession on Sunday was as if there has not been four months- plus since Ten Hag’s appointment as director to overhaul the team, as if last season didn’t end with the 1- 0 defeat at Crystal Palace on 22 May and Ralf Rangnick’s term as interim head trainer concluding with United in sixth, 35 sleeping points behind the titleholders Manchester City. Brighton’s visit was akin to match No 39 in an ongoing sorry crusade and the rearmost low point in the club’spost-Sir Alex Ferguson period. The substantiation is searing nothing much has changed since the canine days of last term.
When Ten Hag was appointed on 21 April, the gun was fired on a fresh reclamation drive. The high target was Frenkie de Jong. Murtough and the Glazers had a relative age to subscribe the Barcelona playmaker or walk down at a judicious juncture if, say, due industriousness set up that he may be reticent to join, or there was an outstanding issue of£ 17m in remitted stipend.
But, no. rather Ten Hag, Murtough and the Glazers continued with the pursuit of De Jong – a “ game of poker ”, as characterised by one club superintendent – up to and beyond the debacle on Sunday with him still a Barcelona player and the chance chance of subscribing him abating to single numbers.
There have been some signings Christian Eriksen( free), Lisandro Martínez(£48.3 m) and Tyrell Malacia(£ 13m). But with only Eriksen and Martínez starting against Brighton, the platoon that took to the Old Trafford pitch on Sunday had an each- too familiar, banal sense.
Where De Jong would have lined up, there was rather the functional pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay in a platoon without Raphaël Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo, the ultimate coming on as a alternate- half cover. It was a lineup pockmarked with mediocrity.
David de Gea can stop shots admirably but is a liability under the high ball and his questionable capability to fashion long- range passes like Ederson was illuminated by one agrarian hoof straight out of play. Diogo Dalot, the right- reverse, can wobble , as was the case when nearly allowing a thing to be scored 15 seconds into the contest. Harry Maguire, retained as captain by Ten Hag, was caught out of position, as he too frequently is. And if Luke Shaw is of the needful capability to be a starter for United, Marcus Rashford is veritably important in the last ‑ chance taproom in that regard.
Can Ten Hag actually ameliorate any or all of the below? On the substantiation of Sunday, the answer is no. But it’s his job to do so. Just as Murtough’s is to produce feasible druthers
to the want ‑ down Ronaldo beyond Marko Arnautovic or line up Adrien Rabiot as an volition to De Jong. The Juventus midfielder’s history of ill- discipline makes him a antique choice for the martinet ‑ like Ten Hag.
One test is this would Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp go for the same players as United are presently doing? If the answer is a negative also they shouldn’t be considered, or what’s the point in trying to contend with the stylish two brigades in the land?
But, then, we come to the question of the possessors are they really serious about challenging the City- Liverpool ascendance ? It’s nearly a decade since United were last titleholders and with only three glories won in that time, the answer is surely “ no ”. There’s the mountain of debt loaded on the club by the possessors – nearly£ 500m as of the end of last time – and there’s the series of failed directors since Ferguson, plus the roll call of middling signings of which those Ten Hag has inherited are simply the rearmost crop. All of this has to be nominated, politely, as mismanagement.
When Sheikh Mansour bought City 14 times ago the club was converted by the labor force and structure his power put in place. The result six titles, two FA Mugs and six League Mugs. When Fenway Sports Group came possessors of Liverpool in 2010, the same passed, clear and decisive advancements in labor force and structure performing in success a first title for 30 times plus the titleholders League, Club World Cup, FA and League Mugs. Malcolm Glazer acquired United in 2005 but he inherited the genius Ferguson who had formerly been in place for 19 times. When the Scot left the decline began the cession to Brighton was the club in exemplification.
There are three weeks left of the transfer window and United desperately need to act in the request. But for Ten Hag to truly prosper, the structural fault lines that run deep at the club also need addressing, and nearly clearly via a change of power. That’s commodity the Dutchman can not affect.