United are screwed for as long as the Glazers stick around. But Joel and Avram weren’t phoning it in at Brentford. These players must go too…
A fish rots from the head down and so do Manchester United. We know the root of most of their problems stem from the boardroom and maybe the Red Devils are damned for as long as the Glazers’ name is above the door. But even if they were owned by a Taliban/Isis consortium, the players and staff at Old Trafford would have no excuse for what they served up at Brentford.
The first 45 minutes showed just how broken United are. Another new nadir for a team who, when you think they’ve hit rock bottom, manage to dig deeper still.
The 4-0 defeat to Brighton at the end of last season was desperately bad, as low as we thought they could go. By that trip to the AmEx, United’s players had downed tools for Ralf Rangnick and the board had long since stopped listening to him. It was a disgraceful display of arrogance and entitlement, traits which needed to be driven out of the dressing room this summer.
But despite the arrival of Erik ten Hag, United remain an utter disgrace.
Ten Hag will carry the can, and some of his decisions in his first two games warrant scrutiny. But the Red Devils’ malaise is bigger than the boss. No manager out there is capable of reviving the braindead bunch of surrender monkeys currently being paid huge sums to phone it in for Manchester United.
Now, surely, we can move away from the notion that this is a talented squad capable of better things under the right manager. Many of this mob have seen off multiple managers. Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Rangnick – the time has long since passed where we ought to have been looking more intently at the common denominator: the players.
They’re just not very good. Technically and tactically, collectively, they are falling further behind their former contemporaries. Not in the pay scale, obviously. But none of the aforementioned managers were able to play the style of football they would have wished to because the players are simply not capable of it.
It took Rangnick two games to suss that they could not press or play quickly enough to make a success of the formation he has used everywhere else he has been. Unless he’s as thick as the players staring blankly back at him, Ten Hag must have reached the same conclusion even more swiftly.
If that wasn’t his takeaway from his first match in charge, he can’t fail to have noticed it at Brentford, where United committed perhaps every conceivable mistake in going 4-0 down inside 35 minutes.
The first goal was bad. Horrific from David De Gea’s perspective, a technical error that would shame a schoolboy. But the second was a disaster. And De Gea was culpable once more.
Ten Hag wants United to play out from the back. He has drilled into them the movements they need to make. But the manager can’t think for his players. De Gea had to recognise that Christian Eriksen, being hunted down by Mathias Jensen, did not want the pass that, as instructed, he showed for.
The right choice, the only conceivable choice, for De Gea was a longer pass, towards his front players while the full-backs were so high up.
Eriksen forcibly made that point to his keeper as soon as Jensen rolled the ball into De Gea’s net but, as the Dane is no doubt discovering, the majority of his new team-mates are incapable of independent thought beyond self-preservation.
Some don’t want to make mistakes; many just don’t want the responsibility of making decisions.
Two more goals followed which allowed Brentford to highlight their superior speed and strength, after which the hosts showed some mercy to their broken visitors. Which was a shame for everyone not wearing the invisible green of United.
For those players, it was damage limitation for an hour. But you could forgive United supporters for half-hoping that Brentford turned the screw even tighter. Because an even bigger beating could have been a blessing. United’s board have become accustomed to ignoring 4-0 defeats and carrying on regardless. Being humped by six, seven, eight might have served the Red Devils better in the long run.
Of course, the four in De Gea’s net should be enough for Richard Arnold and John Murtough to recognise the scale of the disaster unfolding. They could use the two and a half weeks of the window that remain to fulfil the promises over recruitment that Ten Hag was doubtless made to tempt him to leave the stability of Ajax for a dumpster fire at Old Trafford. But they won’t.
They will hear every chairman and sporting director they call in the next fortnight add an even bigger Man Utd premium to the price they would normally ask for their players and decide the money is best spent on dividends instead. They will leave Ten Hag stuck with a group of players whose selfish instincts have almost certainly already kicked in. The manager would be wise to listen to his own.
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