Manchester United let their fans down again with a below-par performance in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday.
While a three-match winning streak in the build-up inspired slight confidence around Erik ten Hag’s camp, Manchester City gave his side a harsh reality check, running out 3-0 victors.
It could’ve been worse, but the heavily criticised Andre Onana seems to be finding his feet in the Premier League following a bumpy start.
After thwarting a crucial stoppage-time penalty to hand Man Utd an all-important 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen in midweek Champions League action, the Cameroonian impressed again at the weekend.
He pulled off two marvellous saves to deny Erling Braut Haaland on either side of half-time, making an outrageous diving stop to parry his point-blank header before bettering the Norwegian in a one-v-one.
Although Onana justified his fee, the other summer arrivals did more to frustrate the Old Trafford faithful than help the team cope with the best side in the division.
Even during his first stint at Man Utd, Evans wasn’t among the fastest defenders in the Premier League. Let’s face it, he wasn’t in the top 20.
So why did the Red Devils decide to bring him back to the club after eight years and at age 35? He wasn’t getting faster or stronger, plus ten Hag has already had four centre-backs on his roster.
On top of that, the Dutchman played him from the start against the deadliest attack in the league while leaving the pacey Sergio Reguilon on the bench, only to move Victor Lindelof to the left.
Ten Hag’s tactical alterations backfired as United couldn’t deal with Man City’s pace at the back.
Let’s not forget that United spent most of the summer trying to broker his arrival from Fiorentina.
Once it became clear Frankie de Jong was out of reach, Amrabat emerged as the only option for a deep-lying midfielder’s position, thanks to his 2022 World Cup exploits alone.
Yesterday, he spent most of the game committing fouls and arguing with the referee rather than actually contributing to Man Utd’s cause.
In his defence, it was only the second time Ten Hag played him in his favourite position.
Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and James Maddison were on Man Utd’s shortlist for two years, but they decided not to go anywhere near them during the summer.
They cut corners with the homegrown Chelsea star, taking advantage of his expiring contract to address their shortcomings in the midfield.
Or so they thought. A few months into a new life in Manchester, the 24-year-old is still trying to find his place under the sun. Mount’s potential is unquestionable, but he has no function in Ten Hag’s set-up.
He cannot play deep in the midfield and is not a winger. It means the only way for him to showcase his skills is to take Bruno Fernandes’ place behind the striker, which won’t happen.
Yesterday was the perfect example of Mount’s struggle to fit into Ten Hag’s system. He never gained a foothold in the game and looked lost on the pitch.
Man Utd maintaining Hojlund was their first-choice target in the summer sounds stretched, knowing Harry Kane had been the club’s dream signing for years.
And while the ex-Tottenham Hotspur talisman looks to be on his way to rewriting the history books in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, the Red Devils seem stuck with the former Atalanta prodigy.
Hojlund has the physical attributes and mentality to become a top-class striker in the future. However, time is not a commodity United can afford after spending a decade outside the Premier League title picture.
Ten Hag must tolerate the Danish youngster’s sluggish start not just because he has no alternative but also because Man Utd splashed out £64 million to capture the 20-year-old’s signature.
It’s not the kind of money you would want to spend on a benchwarmer.
As long as the Glazers continue to run the club’s transfer policy, acquiring second-string targets and overpaying underachieving so-called talents will continue to be a trend.
Denying a manager the freedom to pursue signings they deem fit for their plans is a suicidal policy, and it’s unacceptable for a club of Man Utd’s stature.
A takeover cannot come soon enough!
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