October 7, 2022


MOTD2 analysis

New season, same old Manchester United – and little indication of what will happen next.

The result was poor and the performance disappointing but, for United fans, the worst for Sunday Defeated 2-1 by Brighton was that there was little sign of the change coming under Erik ten Hag.

You have to be careful not to get carried away when analyzing any side on the opening weekend of the season, especially when it’s a manager’s first game with his new team.

I strongly believe that even the best managers with the best ideas take time to successfully implement them in the Premier League.

But in United’s scenario, fans would normally want to see what their new boss is up to and get an idea of ​​the kind of style of play he wants to implement.

If things don’t go right away on the court, you’re more forgiving, but you’ll wait to see some signs of how it will all come together when it all goes to bed.

However, there weren’t many of those signs at Old Trafford. Instead, he felt there were a lot of crossed wires in Ten Hag’s first game in charge.

This was supposed to be a fresh start for United, but the goals they conceded against the Seagulls were a reminder of why they were so bad last season, when they were too easy to play and gave the opposition too much space.

But even without thinking about what went wrong every time Pascal Gross scored, overall there didn’t seem to be a clear idea of ​​what United were trying to do.

United began to doubt themselves

Of course, you have to give Brighton credit here too. Graham Potter’s side are a good side who are comfortable with the way they play and they pressed United extremely well.

There were moments early in the game when United tried to play from the back but quickly lost confidence when they lost the ball.

They began to doubt themselves and began to go far despite not having a centre-forward to beat.

I’m sure Ten Hag wanted them to play more but they lost their way and going back made things even worse.

At 2-0 down they were left with a mountain to climb and although they fared much better in the second half when Christian Eriksen dropped deeper and picked up the ball, it’s hard to argue that they deserved anything from the game.

Do United need a link – and a new striker too?

You could understand why Ten Hag are trying so hard to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona.

He obviously wants someone at the base of his midfield who is comfortable taking the ball from defenders and connecting play.

Graphic showing Man Utd vs Brighton starting line-up: De Gea, Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw, Fernandes, Fred, McTominay, Rashford, Eriksen, Sancho
Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez were the only new signings to start for United against Brighton

Depending on what happens with Cristiano Ronaldo, who is not fully fit but came off the bench in the second half on Sunday, they may also need a new striker.

Whatever United have, they need a focal point for their attack, and they didn’t have that against Brighton.

So there could be a few new faces arriving at Old Trafford before the end of the transfer window, but let’s not forget that the Ten Hag is still learning about his current squad.

Ten Haag must find out who he trusts

Ten Haag will have learned more about his players during those 90 minutes on Sunday than in the 40 days he worked with them previously.

There are several ways in which pre-season games are completely different to playing a competitive game in the Premier League. Coping with stress is just one of them.

If, say, you have a manager like Ten Hag who wants to build from the back, then you will do so with much more confidence in a friendly, because you know that mistakes don’t really matter.

When you play a misplaced pass in your own half in front of 70,000 of your own fans at Old Trafford, it’s very different. It takes a lot more courage to keep doing it.

So while Ten Hag will have seen things from his squad over the summer, he is only now starting to see the true character of his players now the season has really started.

He’ll need some time to work out who he really trusts and who he doesn’t – let alone sleep on any new signings that happen later this month.

Ten Haag needs time – and his own signings

Everyone wants an overnight improvement, especially United fans who have been hungry for success for a long time, but the reality is that is not going to happen at Old Trafford.

Snapshot of how the top of the Premier League finished last season: 1st Man City, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Tottenham, 5th Arsenal & 6th Man Utd
Manchester United’s points tally last season was their lowest since the start of the Premier League era in 1992

Nine of the United side that started against Brighton were at the club last season when their results were poor, so you can’t really expect a big or instant change in fortunes with so many of the same personnel.

There was a lack of intelligence in United’s game against Brighton, but also a strange lack of energy at times, which I couldn’t deal with because some of them are playing for their future.

So while this wasn’t the ideal start for Ten Haag, it just made it all the more clear that he should be able to bring in more new signings.

You have to give Ten Haag time to implement his ideas and let him bring in some of his own players to make it work.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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