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Pundits Double Down on Manchester United

Manchester United’s Struggle Under Grey Skies: A Season of Disappointment

Old Trafford Reflects the Gloom

As the skies above Old Trafford darkened ominously on Sunday, so too did the prospects of Manchester United in their clash against Arsenal. The weather, shifting from clear to stormy in mere moments, served as an unwelcome metaphor for United’s turbulent season. Under Erik ten Hag’s leadership, a campaign that promised a resurgence has instead veered into frustration, encapsulating a year where their aspirations of challenging at the top have faded.

Ten Hag’s Tactical Turmoil

Erik ten Hag, once poised as the architect of United’s revival, has found his strategies wanting against the Premier League’s elite. The match against Arsenal was emblematic of this, with United not just playing for points but playing for pride, striving to disrupt Arsenal’s title hopes. Yet, despite their efforts, they fell short, exemplified by Leandro Trossard’s decisive strike. This loss underscores a broader theme of the season: underperformance when it matters most.

“This is one of the worst Manchester United sides ever,”

lamented Robbie Savage, a former midfielder, as he observed the team’s futile attempts to level the score. His critique is harsh but reflects a sentiment felt by many observers and fans alike.

Leadership and Legacy in Question

The match also brought forth candid reflections from Roy Keane, the club’s former captain. “The disappointment for me, particularly the last half an hour, was Manchester United,” he said, his disappointment palpable during his commentary on Sky Sports. Keane’s critique extended to the squad’s lack of resolve, noting, “Against that team today, I bet Arsenal couldn’t believe how bad United were.”

Manchester, England, 2nd October 2022. Former players Gary Neville, Micah Richards and Roy Keane during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture credit should read: Andrew Yates / Sportimage EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. SPI-1914-0008

In his pre-match notes, Ten Hag had implored his team to demonstrate the fighting spirit conspicuously absent in their previous outing—a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. However, Keane observed no such spirit, pointing out the team’s disarray in the crucial moments: “You look at that last half an hour – the decision making, nobody digging anybody out, people making mistakes and falling over, and everyone just walking away, nobody putting demands on each other.”

Future Uncertain as Challenges Mount

Despite a narrow loss to a formidable Arsenal, it’s the broader statistics that alarm: 14 defeats in the league, potential absence from European competitions next year, and an unsettling 82 goals conceded across all competitions—the highest since the 1970-71 season.

Questions loom over Ten Hag’s future, especially with the presence of new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe at the match, stirring speculation about potential managerial changes. “Every manager can always do better,” Ten Hag admitted post-game, alluding to the challenges wrought by injuries and unavailability that have plagued his tenure. “It is like swimming with your hands on your back and you have to keep your head above the water level,” he described, painting a vivid picture of the struggle.

Despite these setbacks, there remains a glimmer of hope with the upcoming FA Cup final against Manchester City. For Ten Hag and Manchester United, it represents an opportunity to salvage some pride from a season that has largely disappointed. Yet, as Ten Hag himself acknowledges, a significant uplift in performance and spirit will be crucial.

As the season draws to a close, the real test for Manchester United and Erik ten Hag will not just be their final games, but how they address the myriad issues exposed this year. Only time will tell if Ten Hag can turn the tide or if the storm that has gathered over Old Trafford presages more turbulent times.

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