As Bournemouth celebrated their 3-0 win and United’s players trudged off following an 11th defeat of the campaign, Ten Hag just stared into space, perhaps realising that, like many of Europe’s best coaches before him, turning around this fallen giant is beyond him.
In ordinary circumstances, a sixth defeat from 11 home games would have the coach in question fearing the sack. But for Ten Hag, his job, for the time being, is safe.
The only source of comfort was that Bayern Munich, Tuesday's opponents for their must-win final Champions League group clash, somehow contrived to be even worse on Saturday as they slumped to a shock 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt.
It works in Ten Hag’s favour that United, on and off the pitch, remain in a state of flux. While the players can produce high-octane attacking football one week and look shorn of ideas the next, delays over Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment being confirmed leaves a shroud of mystery hanging over boardroom matters.
It is understood the delay in the Manchester-born billionaire taking a 25 per cent stake in United, one that will give him control of football operations, is due to issues with lawyers, rather than either him or the Glazer family getting cold feet.
As we wait on the Ineos chair’s arrival, there is effectively nobody with the power to wield the axe. Interim chief executive Patrick Stewart is hardly going to flex his muscles and football director John Murtough is likely to be replaced when Ratcliffe comes in, which diminishes his authority.
Results have not been good enough, by any stretch, but there are areas of Ten Hag’s performance that have helped him retain the club’s backing. The powers that be are heartened by the cultural reset Ten Hag is attempting to oversee.
His handling of Cristiano Ronaldo’s misdemeanours and willingness to leave high-profile stars such as Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane out of the side if they are not conducting themselves in a way deemed acceptable has been welcomed, with discipline in the dressing room conspicuous by its absence in recent years.
Last season’s first trophy success in six years and the improved style of play has not been forgotten yet, while with several rivals faltering, United are by no means out of the race for Champions League qualification. Ten Hag is not, however, out of the woods yet.
"Results have not been good enough, by any stretch, but there are areas of Ten Hag’s performance that have helped him retain the club’s backing"
Bayern’s visit, when three points are a must to give United a chance of reaching the Champions League knockout stage, is the start of a run that could be the death knell for the Dutchman.
Lose a large chunk of these tough fixtures, with Ratcliffe having been sworn in, and the writing could be on the wall for Ten Hag. For now, however, he continues to struggle on.