Three role players in Man U’s inconsistency

Supporters of Manchester United have endured a rollercoaster performance from their team so far this season. The club currently sits in 8th place on the English Premier League table and have reflected no signs of significant competition for few other teams above them.

Participating in arguably the most competitive football league and holding a status as one of the most valuable football clubs in the world, the demands for convincing results from fans and stakeholders have twinned itself with many United matches this season.

A disastrous UEFA Champions League campaign coupled with many other lags, irregularities and fluctuating results diminishing their abilities to contend for another league title since 2013 indicates that work needs to be done.

However, to proffer solution is to understand the requirements of the problem and the Red Devils are not oblivious to this aspect of football. Being the season which has come with huge expectations for a large percentage of supporters, what has led to United’s discrepancies?


Manager’s experience and man management skill

So far this season, United are one of the clubs to have endured the most criticisms. Either from fans, pundits, the media and sometimes intra-club. Of course, this isn’t a new experience for the club, having such a profile already proves its familiarity with the nature of the game it seeks to dominate.

The demands always exist and there’s a constant need to meet up with the standards which places managers in the dugout with the utmost objective of balancing the play.

At the heat of it this season is former Ajax boss, Erik Ten Haag who was employed in 2021 to help restore the glory days of the club and in a similar manner at Ajax, help the team overturn fortunes.

Since arriving at the helm of affairs at United, Ten Haag hasn’t had it easy with frequent condemnation about his managerial skills, relationship with big players and man management. Having failed to properly handle the exits of players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Mason Greenwood and imminent exit of Jadon Sancho, many pundits have begun to raise red flags.

Reinstating disbelief in the manager’s philosophies and his approach to matches may be a significant contributor to the team’s sloppy run of form. Former Arsenal defender, Paul Merson believes;

They try not to lose a match before they try to win it. I don’t understand. If teams are scoring goals then you’ve got to have a go. I think the manager’s got to be braver. He’s got the players to be braver.”

“It’s too negative – counter-attacking football. I do worry for Man United. The Sir Alex Ferguson days are long gone. They’re as far away from winning the league as you’ll ever see. I know everyone’s a long way off Manchester City but they’re a million miles off.”

Intra-club criticisms centres around the manager and his player’s reactions to unfavourable results. After losing 2 – 0 to Spurs in August 2023, Ten Haag’s frustration was evident in the medium at which he commented on his team’s performance;

“It’s unacceptable. They ran in the wrong moments, too late_ especially the front. They didn’t recover.”


Performance profiling

One thing that is recurrent in every big team in football today, is attaching a certain pattern of play expected of every member defending the club’s badge on the field of play. This has been an effective tool used by the media among other components to scrutinize players attitude to work.

Everyone expects a top team to show consistency and win as many trophies, embodying the image of Manchester City, sworn rivals of the Red Devils. Often times, players are called out and haunted by match errors, the press is often inquisitive about why a player failed to track back or square off a pass.

Pundits have also not been a source of support, sometimes, they’ve (United) been unlucky in games, other times, they’ve been far too questionable. However, one thing that prevails every time is ‘expectation’.

Expectations that must be met, objectives that must be fulfilled; as a club with a high level of financial strength, these objectives seem moderate. The unending debate about club ownership, takeover and sale of club may also surmount the pressure to do well in the coming years.

This will undoubtedly come with some needed decision making. After their opening UCL match defeat to Bayern Munich, Andre Onana requested to speak to the press;

“It’s a difficult situation for us, for me especially because I’m the one who let the team down. But the team were good, very good, but because of me we didn’t win the game.


An ignominious system of player analysis

One other thing which has been recently introduced into analysis involving the team is incessantly highlighting certain players mistakes and fans immediate distrust after subsequent match errors.

So far this season, Andre Onana, Diogo Dalot, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund _ before his first league goal_ among others have been recipients of these harsh treatments.

Unlike before, the persistent frustration of fans has now helped them develop a habit of singling out one or two players for criticisms over the years. With the likes of Harry Maguire, David De Gea, Paul Pogba, Jadon Sancho et cetera suffering from it in recent years.

After a 4 – 3 defeat to Copenhagen in the Champions League, Paul Scholes called out Diogo Dalot for being lackadaisical in his defending;

I’m not sure if the right-back’s good enough, [Diogo] Dalot, when it comes to the big games. I’m not sure his character is big enough to handle the big games… Going forward, he has to improve…”

Andre Onana has also been brandished with as many unfavourable remarks after some faulty performances and just like Maguire, he wants to change the fortunes.

Many fortunes need changing at United and supporters demand an immediate uprising in balancing the play, providing more regularity and stabilizing an incorrect club mentality.

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