Ten Hag's Man Utd failings making Solskjaer look like Sir Alex

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • 14 Aug 2022 13:36 BST
  • 3 min read
FT Desk 14 Aug 2022 13:36 BST 3 min read
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Cristiano Ronaldo during happier times at Man Utd.

Erik ten Hag's competitive Manchester United record reads: two games played, two defeats, six goals conceded and just one - an own-goal - scored. Maybe Ole Gunner Solskjaer wasn't so bad after all?

It may be exceptionally early in Ten Hag's reign, but crude results are not the only currency by which early judgements will be being made.

The Dutchman called for new signings after Saturday's 4-0 humbling by Brentford, but three of the players involved - Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia - were identified and signed by him, for a cool €84 million.

Martinez was hooked at half-time after an abject opening 45 minutes that saw United fall behind to goals from Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee and Bryan Mbeumo; Eriksen seemed unnerved by the home crowd's booing, and can't Ten Hag win with existing players anyway?

Contrast his start to Solskjaer's, which came in December 2018 when the Norwegian replaced Jose Mourinho as coach. His tactical acumen was then and is now questioned, but he lifted spirits, his first two games returning two wins - over Cardiff and Huddersfield - with eight goals scored and just two conceded.

Premier League finishes

More importantly, he led United to third place in his first full season and then second in 2020/21. The wheels may have come off last term, but Cristiano Ronaldo's team-high 18 goals masked a negative overall influence following his return from Juventus.

United find themselves rock-bottom of the table right now, with largely the same squad. Ronaldo snubbed Ten Hag on leaving the Gtech Community Stadium at full-time on Saturday, and the coach has since rescinded a planned day off for the players.

"Erik ten Hag tore into his Manchester United players and then cancelled their day off following the humiliating 4-0 defeat to Brentford," report the Times.

"The squad were due to have a day off today, but ten Hag was so furious with his players' performances that he told them to report to Carrington this morning for an extra training session."

"Somewhere in Norway Ole G is sitting. Maybe fishing. Watching the sunset," tweeted Jan Age Fjortoft. "And probably thinking to himself: - How did I manage to be second in the Premier League with those players? I must be a magician."

There is still a lot of football to be played this season, but some of those players might already be wishing that Solskjaer had never been allowed to leave.

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