Manchester United fans are angry and confused – they’re right to be

Manchester United is a confused, cursed and conflicted football club. Erik ten Hag’s team is out of shape, lacking confidence and ideas. Morale is low among players and staff. The results are almost as bad as the injury list.

Fans were hoping the situation would improve all season. Instead, the situation got worse.

The team that would have been considered a failure if they had not qualified for next season’s Champions League now risks missing out on European football, which would not be acceptable.

United are eighth in the Premier League, with two league wins in 10. Monday’s 4-0 defeat at Crystal Palace was the lowest of a season of consistent lows, even worse than United’s goal difference of less three after 35 matches, or the fall of Casemiro. form. The Brazilian made 1.44 successful interceptions per game last season; this quarter, that figure fell to 0.84. He lost 1.86 challenges per game last season compared to 2.73 this year.

Do you want more? He was dispossessed 0.59 times per game last season, 0.79 this one, and he won possession 4.61 times in 2022-23 compared to 2.52 in 2023-24. This is one of the reasons why you see a hole as wide as the Amazon in United’s midfield. It’s the river, not the broadcasters who next week will show a film celebrating the 1999 treble.

Casemiro is a shadow of his former self (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Wallowing in history is far better than committing to what lies ahead for United, at least in the short term. The final three league matches are against Arsenal and Newcastle United at Old Trafford, then Brighton away the week before the FA Cup final against Manchester City. A bad omen, because in six games against these opponents this season in the league and cup, United have lost all of them.

These are sobering moments at the end of a flat season that fell so far short of expectations that fans can’t believe what they’re seeing. Yet they continue to travel, filling each end with songs of support and defiance, as they did on Monday on the shallow rake of Selhurst Park’s Arthur Wait Stand. They are filling Old Trafford to capacity, even though they know the teams at the bottom of the table are likely to have more possession and more chances than someone finding a bag of unused lottery tickets.

Ten Hag gives a good interview and there are still a large number of fans – myself included – who want him to succeed at Old Trafford, to get his chance within the new structure. But it becomes more difficult when you look at your team. Few were surprised that Palace beat United for the second time this season. That was in September, but not now – not given Palace’s recent form and with Adam Wharton, a boy born 20 miles from Manchester, impressive.

The same was true the last time United traveled to London for a league match. Then, against Chelsea in March, Cole Palmer, a childhood United fan from Wythenshawe, Manchester, stole the show. They lost that one too. United have played seven league matches in London this season, winning one, drawing one and losing five. There are a number of horrible statistics you can apply to this season and Selhurst made them worse on Monday.

Monday looked bleak even before the match after Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire, last month’s two best players, were injured in the build-up to the match.

But 4-0? Palace haven’t beaten anyone by four goals all season. It was a despicable thing, we can’t wait for the end of the season, just like it was the case at Palace two years ago for Ralf Rangnick’s last match. Ten Hag was there that day, the latest supremely esteemed manager ready to jump on Manchester United’s bronco, and he impressed in his first run last season. On his second he was thrown and now seemed in serious danger of falling.

Erik ten Hag in the stands at Selhurst Park in 2022, for Ralf Rangnick’s final match in charge (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s hard. The change, with INEOS taking over, has been welcomed by most fans tired of life under the Glazers and the resulting underperformance, but it comes with uncertainty. There are coaches around Ten Hag who don’t know if they will have a job at the end of next month when their contract expires. They wouldn’t get the huge payouts that Ten Hag could expect.

Some non-football personnel are upset that traditional privileges are being repealed in the name of efficiency and a better culture. This won’t garner any sympathy from fans, but the fact that staff could take a partner to the FA Cup final on a paying day was seen as reward for a difficult season, often with horribly anti-social schedules – whatever something to show that you work, with pride, for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

INEOS is also expected to make improvements. He wants to name what they call “best in class operators” and the fans are right behind that after what seemed like a second-best approach for so long. Football will come first and that wasn’t always the case at staff meetings, when managers ignored the final hammer blows on the field to assure staff that business activity was brisk.

The main leaders of INEOS have practically left the group, with one notable exception: the manager. Previous United bosses have been fired for less despite being ranked higher than where the team currently resides this season, with Ten Hag averaging 1.54 points per game, a drop from 1.97 last season .

How United managers compare

Manager & PPG Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4

David Moyes


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Louis van Gaal



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Jose Mourinho




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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer





Erik Ten Hag



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Oddly enough, the response to the crisis now seems different than what happened with all of these managers. David Moyes was 34 games into the season, one less than Ten Hag today, when he lost his job after it was clear United would not qualify for the Champions League, the minimum requirement . With Van Gaal, everyone knew in February 2016 that he was leaving, and he left after winning the FA Cup in May. Jose Mourinho himself said he deserved to lose his job, and Solskjaer’s slide could not be stopped when he felt some players had stopped playing for him.

Ten Hag is different. He wants to stay and is convinced he will succeed. He offers serious mitigation measures amid criticism: he entered the game at Palace with his fifth and eighth choice centre-backs. Jonny Evans, who has played far more football than expected this season, trained for just two days after five weeks out and was faced with a fast, powerful and direct Palace side. Evans could have apologized; instead, he put himself first.

It wasn’t like there were many plan Bs: there were five players from the academy and two goalkeepers on his bench. The sound you hear is that of the barrel being scraped week after week.

Things are different for Ten Hag for several reasons. There is a weariness with the prospect of further managerial changes, a realization that it may not depend on the manager as much as it does on the way the club has been structured. He also did well in his debut season, winning a first trophy since 2017 and beating his main rivals. These two Europa League matches against Barcelona showed how good his team can be.

Names linked as a possible replacement do little to inspire fans, while this season it is admitted he has not had it easy, particularly with injuries and a year-long strategic review that has led some players to approach him and ask him what was going on. .

He inherited serious problems, such as the Mason Greenwood situation, Cristiano Ronaldo sending him mixed messages about whether he wanted to stay and abandoning his captain Harry Maguire. He handled every situation with discernment.

He made mistakes, like any human being. The more good Jadon Sancho does for Borussia Dortmund, the more United fans wonder why he couldn’t do the same in the red United shirt, and this is partly starting to reflect badly on the manager. Ten Hag is adamant that he gave the player as much support as he could and some members of his team have said privately that he went above and beyond what could be expected of a manager by establishing a personal relationship with a player.

Ten Hag could be more charismatic. It’s a shame he isn’t because there’s a good personality there, with a nice humorous line – but when do we judge him? In a press conference when he tries to get hooked on a line? After a bad match? He can hardly tell great anecdotes in these moments.

He’s stubborn too. He has his idea of ​​how his team should play and he will do everything possible to achieve it, but it’s difficult right now and the fans absolutely have the right to discuss whether or not he is right for the club. A close friend of mine abandoned him months ago and said he would happily accompany him to the Netherlands. If only Ten Hag had time to turn back the clock… instead he’s working hard to make United better amid the club’s worst injury crisis in modern times. What could any coach do?

United will finish this season with their lowest points total since 1989-90. It was a season where the team did not win a single league match against Luton on 18 November until Millwall on 10 February. This was under Sir Alex Ferguson. He survived, as did Ten Hag. I don’t think a final decision was made about him like it was for Van Gaal, Moyes or Mourinho, weeks or months before their departure.

How are United doing?

There is no easy answer. Getting players back as quickly as possible will help and several are expected to return before the FA Cup final. The changes initiated by INEOS should also start to make a difference, but excuse fans for being a little skeptical about that.

They’ve been going through this for over a decade now and they’re tired of seeing their rivals succeed where it matters most: on the field.

(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

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