Following their 3-0 Manchester derby defeat at the hands of Manchester City, members of Manchester United’s first team are said to be questioning Erik ten Hag’s tactics.
The Red Devils welcomed their long-time rivals to Old Trafford for Sunday’s Premier League showdown after three consecutive victories against Brentford, Sheffield United, and Copenhagen, but none of those triumphs were convincing.
Ten Hag’s side needed injury-time heroics from Scott McTominay to beat the Bees and a Diogo Dalot stunner to beat the Blades before depending on a last-minute penalty stop from Andre Onana to defeat Copenhagen in the Champions League.
Man United took the lead against Manchester City at the Theatre of Dreams, but a brilliant first five minutes faded into insignificance as Erling Haaland scored from the spot after Rasmus Hojlund was adjudged to have dragged Rodri back.
It took a fantastic stop from Onana to deny Haaland his second goal before halftime, but the Norwegian headed home early in the second half before teeing up Phil Foden to complete an Old Trafford thrashing.
Man United had just 39% of the ball in front of their own fans throughout the game, while also coming up with only a third of Man City’s total shots, shooting seven compared to the champions’ 21.
According to The Sun, some players are becoming concerned about Ten Hag’s tactical setup after being “dumbfounded” by some of the Dutchman’s personnel decisions.
The former Ajax manager controversially picked Victor Lindelof, a center-half by trade, at left-back over Sergio Reguilon, and omitted Raphael Varane from the starting lineup in favor of Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans.
Despite the presence of Antony and Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes was forced into a wide position to accommodate all of Christian Eriksen, Sofyan Amrabat, and McTominay.
Ten Hag was booed by the home crowd when he replaced Hojlund with Garnacho in the 73rd minute, as the £72m summer transfer from Atalanta BC still waits for his first Premier League goal.
When Ten Hag arrived at Manchester, the Old Trafford supporters expected him to bring his former style of play from his time at Ajax, where he was an unstoppable attacking force.
Ten Hag, however, declared after the game that he would “never” be able to recreate those tactics with Man United owing to having different players at his disposal, as his side fell to a fifth defeat in their first ten Premier League games for the first time since 1986.
Despite Man United’s dismal start to the season, Ten Hag is regarded to have the full support of the club’s board, having earned enough credit with a good initial season.
The Dutchman led his side to EFL Cup victory and a third-place finish in the Premier League in 2022-23, and he is under contract at Man United until the conclusion of the 2024-25 season, with an option for another year.
Man United will now focus on Wednesday’s EFL Cup fourth-round clash with Newcastle United, a rematch of last season’s final, before traveling to Fulham in the early Premier League kickoff on Saturday.