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Red Devils’ Decline: A Closer Look

Manchester United’s Fading Form: A Deep Dive into the Red Devils’ Troubles

In the realm of English football, where history is as revered as the game itself, the storied tapestry of Manchester United is facing a new, unwanted embroidery. The once indomitable titans of the Premier League find themselves entangled in a web of underachievement, the strands of which extend through every facet of their current season.

Manchester United’s Struggles Laid Bare

The Red Devils’ form has plummeted with an alarming 2-0 defeat to West Ham, marking a 13th loss in all competitions and setting a grim record of their worst start to a season since the distant echoes of 1930. The Hammers’ victory confined United to a mere single win in seven outings across all competitions, planting them precariously in the eighth spot in the league standings.

The sentiment in the United camp is one of candid concern. Paul Scholes, a midfield maestro of yesteryear, observed that his former team is wrestling with “big problems,” while the man at the helm, Erik ten Hag, admits to underperformance. Echoing the mood, Alan Shearer articulated on BBC Match of the Day, “It is embarrassing for Man Utd. They have scored 18 goals this season, only Sheffield United have scored fewer.” The perplexity is palpable as Ten Hag’s “plan” remains a mystery to many, including Shearer, who believes “there is something drastically wrong.”

A Closer Look at United’s Dismal Numbers

Diving into the numbers unveils a stark reality for United’s faithful. With 13 defeats in the last 26 matches, the team has matched last season’s loss count, albeit in half the games. The year 2023 has been particularly punishing, with 20 defeats – a high not seen since 1989. Not since the pre-war days of 1930 has United been this bereft of victories before Christmas, a year that saw them finish at the rock bottom of the top flight.

Their attacking edge seems blunted, managing a paltry 18 goals in 18 top-tier games, and failing to find the net in seven. This offensive impotence is almost unprecedented, with only the seasons of 1973-74, 1972-73, and the distant 1893-94 drawing parallels in futility. Furthermore, it’s the first time since the November of 1992, under Sir Alex Ferguson’s watch, that they’ve drawn blanks in four consecutive matches across all competitions.

Ten Hag’s Tactical Tumult and Squad Suffering

Despite snatching a point from Liverpool, United’s subsequent performance has thrust Ten Hag back under the microscope. Injuries have undoubtedly taken their toll, with key players like Casemiro and Harry Maguire sidelined, and Christian Eriksen only fit enough for a brief appearance.

The absence of seasoned defenders forced Ten Hag to rely on youth and experience, pairing 19-year-old Willy Kambwala with 35-year-old Jonny Evans at the heart of the defense. Ten Hag remains stoic, urging calm and unity, asserting that the team will improve with the return of the injured, “We have to be calm, stick together, stick to the plan, we have to do it together.”

Yet, the lack of goals and the creative spark is alarming. Ten Hag’s forwards are misfiring, and the goal drought is worrisome. The Dutchman reflected on the year’s highs and lows, “In 2023, we won a cup, we played the FA Cup final, we were third in the league. There were highlights, but we were over-performing, but in this moment we are underperforming.”

Player Perspectives and Pundit Analysis

Defender Luke Shaw was unsparing in his assessment, “We keep losing games, losing points, and we’re making it very hard for ourselves… it’s tough to think what’s going on.” The need for introspection is clear as Shaw calls for a collective soul-searching to overcome what seems to be a crisis of confidence.

The pundits have not held back either. Scholes lamented on TNT Sports about the lack of creativity and the team’s reliance on a “very patched-up team.” Joe Cole highlighted the imbalance in the squad and the forwards’ starvation for service, while Ally McCoist pointed out the unacceptability of such a high defeat count for a club of United’s stature.

Rebuilding the Red Devils: A Path Forward

As Manchester United grapples with its form, the pathway to resurgence lies in the unity Ten Hag speaks of. The team must harness the spirit that saw them go head-to-head with the league’s pinnacle, not long ago. It’s about recapturing that over-performing zest while addressing the undercurrents causing their current underperformance.

The challenge ahead for United is not just tactical or physical; it’s psychological. A storied club’s legacy

Alex Johnston
Alex Johnston
Disciple of Bergkamp
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