Erik ten Hag went with what he knew from Manchester United’s pre-season, and after failure against Brighton, it’s time for a re-think.
The brutal 2-1 opening day loss at Old Trafford left the Dutchman with a rather haunted look on his face, knowing he hasn’t got many options after a quiet summer.
Only three players have been bought in so far in the shape of Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia, and like their new teammates, they all struggled against the Seagulls.
Argentina international Martinez showed moments of class but Brighton’s aggressive approach clearly got to him on occasion, while Eriksen was hamstrung from the start.
Ten Hag’s top performer in preseason was Anthony Martial who looked revitalised in the centre-forward berth after his Sevilla loan, but a knee problem ruled him out of the match, with the manager opting to give Eriksen the role.
The experiment backfired with the Dane struggling to get involved, but once he dropped back, things started happening, and that will likely be the case next time out.
United travel to Eriksen’s former club Brentford on Saturday, and the creative midfielder will be hoping to have another big impact at the Community Stadium, this time in his natural role.
The move will be a likely necessity for Ten Hag, with midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay singled out by the likes of Paul Scholes for dreadful performances against Brighton.
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“Scott McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, ridiculous,” Scholes said post-match. “The quality in the middle of the pitch was really poor.
“The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough but we’ve seen that for the last few years with these two players.
“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] is going to have to go with just one of them but even one of them is probably too many.
“Fred gives the ball away all the time and McTominay is trying to run with the ball constantly and then gives it away. Pass it to your best players! It’s not that difficult. It’s criminal on a day like today.”
Unfortunately for Ten Hag though, he will have to go with one of them due to squad imbalance, but can refresh things by adding his former Ajax star Donny van de Beek to the fold.
Bruno Fernandes could well make way after a poor showing against Brighton in which he looked far from a Ten Hag player, and the same could be said for Luke Shaw.
Both struggled with the system and their roles, leaving room for Malacia to come in, and there could even be a return for the controversial Cristiano Ronaldo.
The wantaway star was a second half substitute in the opening game, but was still the most dangerous player in red, fashioning a chance for Marcus Rashford which should have gone in.
Rashford and Jadon Sancho both failed to have any impact in Ten Hag’s first competitive game, but after glimpses in pre-season, a personnel and formation refresh may bring the second wind both are crying out for.
How Man United could look against Brentford
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