Fans fighting, poor recruitment – one game said a lot about the state of Man United

A startled-looking Erik ten Hag said he has a ‘hell of a job’ at Manchester United when reality set in after an opening day loss to Brighton.

A promising pre-season for the Dutchman raised hopes that a new era was dawning, but all it took was two simple goals from Pascal Gross to show little has changed.

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Ten Hag arrived with big expectations

But reality quickly set in with a sub par performance

But reality quickly set in with a sub par performance

Ten Hag appeared to be a reset button of sorts for a club wandering in the wilderness since Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2013 departure, offering an identity, vision and belief that understandably brought some comparisons to rivals managers Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

But just 39 minutes into the new season, hopes of a quick transformation have instantly come crashing down, with Ten Hag now well aware of what’s ahead.

“It is a hell of a job,” he said post-match. “We have to work really hard, analyse and then move forward,” he said. “Today was a good start and then after that we dropped down a level in belief and we made mistakes that the opponent punished.

“I knew it could happen but I think we should have done better – that is clear, but I know also it will not come overnight.”

Ten Hag will undoubtedly get time, but as talkSPORT’s new host Graeme Souness explained, that isn’t always a positive thing.

“The manager had a good career at Ajax but managing Ajax and managing Man U are worlds apart,” the former Liverpool captain said.

And new talkSPORT host Souness wasn’t impressed

And new talkSPORT host Souness wasn’t impressed

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Ten Hag’s impressive spell at Ajax saw him craft two different sides capable of competing in the latter stages of the Champions League

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Ten Hag’s impressive spell at Ajax saw him craft two different sides capable of competing in the latter stages of the Champions League

“Ajax have always been a top team in Holland, always will be, if they don’t win they finish second, coming to Man United at a very difficult period in their history, the word patience, give him time, but when you’re a manager time is not your friend, you’re looking to make an immediate impact.”

Souness also criticised the club’s transfer policy and cited top players wasting their undoubted talent.

“In United’s case, they’ve not really recruited any game changers,” he added.

“When you are talking about ‘we are going to miss [Anthony] Martial’, how many opportunities is that young man going to get to be a Manchester United player?

“He’s proven already to me he’s not for Man United. He can’t deal with the pressure of playing at Man United.”

Jadon Sancho looked revitalised in preseason but was anonymous against Brighton

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Jadon Sancho looked revitalised in preseason but was anonymous against Brighton

Ten Hag’s first real big signing, Martinez from Ajax, was caught out for the first goal

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Ten Hag’s first real big signing, Martinez from Ajax, was caught out for the first goal

A 4-0 pre-season demolition of rivals Liverpool was encouraging, but Ten Hag has had little to work with outside of his own training methods, only landing three players in the summer in the shape of Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez.

Rivals for the Champions League have seen far more substantial incomings, and talkSPORT’s Alex Crook thinks United’s new manager has already been let down.

He said: “The only club that hasn’t really backed their manager are Manchester United, and until that happens, until there’s at least three, maybe four new signings coming through the door Ten Hag is basically at a loss.”

Even United’s mascot was left disappointed

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Even United’s mascot was left disappointed

Crook says the empire at Old Trafford is crumbling and unless the Glazers invest significant money, United have got no chance of getting into the top four.

“Erik ten Hag is a good coach, he’s got no chance of being a success. It’s not on Ten Hag, it’s not on [Cristiano] Ronaldo, it’s not even on Fred and [Scott] McTominay, it’s not Fred’s fault he’s rubbish, it’s the owners.”

Fred and McTominay have again been singled-out for criticism

Fred and McTominay have again been singled-out for criticism

Fans were involved in an altercation as tensions boiled over during the disappointing home defeat

Twitter

Fans were involved in an altercation as tensions boiled over during the disappointing home defeat

Fans were even seen fighting at Old Trafford as things got off to a torrid start, and club legend Gary Neville agreed with Crook, but went even further, telling the Glazers it’s time to go.

“It will have been a shock to him [Ten Hag] after a promising pre-season,” the former defender said.

“But anyone who has watched those Manchester United players he has been handed will recognise that is a familiar performance and the people above him should have known that was an unacceptable situation to hand Erik ten Hag that squad.

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“I don’t think any Manchester United fan or pundit that has watched this team over the last 12 months, with the same players playing in the same positions, expected anything different that what we saw.

Neville was once again left in disbelief by his former club

Neville was once again left in disbelief by his former club

The recruitment, and ultimately the owners, were singled out by the former captain

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The recruitment, and ultimately the owners, were singled out by the former captain

“Ten Hag will be disappointed because he saw positive signs in pre-season but the reality has hit home.

“I am concerned about every element of the recruitment. The reliance on buying Dutch players means the recruitment department aren’t being trusted as the manager is going to Holland to get players he knows. A market which isn’t always the most precise market for the Premier League – there have been some good players but it doesn’t have a great hit rate. I’m concerned about that.

“The coach needs time so I won’t have a go at him. And there comes a time where I won’t even have a go at the players anymore. If you have a business and the people in that business can’t do the job for you then you remove them from the business.

“It’s abuse to keep them in the job for longer as they don’t enjoy it either. The reality is those players need replacing or supported more by better players.

Neville is another fan angry that Ten Hag hasn’t been backed

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Neville is another fan angry that Ten Hag hasn’t been backed

Captain Maguire was looking glum after an opening loss

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Captain Maguire was looking glum after an opening loss

“There is a little bit of despair that the coach, an outstanding coach, has not been given the tools he needs so he can start the season with a revitalised squad.

“There is a feeling that if they get Frenkie de Jong it will be a successful window. It won’t be. They needed a lot more than De Jong.

“The time has come for the Glazer family to sell the football club. It’s now.”

Neville’s former teammate Paul Scholes was just as shocked, and explained exactly what went wrong in the 2-1 defeat.

“It was a shocking start for Man United and the first half was shambolic really,” he said. “The signs were there right from the first few minutes that this was going to be bad.

Scholes saw defeat coming from the off and explained exactly what went wrong

Scholes saw defeat coming from the off and explained exactly what went wrong

“Scott McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, ridiculous. The quality in the middle of the pitch was really poor,” adding the midfielder was lucky not to be sent off.

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“The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough but we’ve seen that for the last few years with these two players.

“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] is going to have to go with just one of them but even one of them is probably too many.

“Fred gives the ball away all the time and McTominay is trying to run with the ball constantly and then gives it away. Pass it to your best players! It’s not that difficult. It’s criminal on a day like today.”

Still reeling from the performance, Scholes later took to Instagram to again hit out at the displays in midfield.

United’s current midfielders could learn a thing or two from one of the club’s greats

@paulscholesaaa

United’s current midfielders could learn a thing or two from one of the club’s greats

He wrote: “Thoughts for the week ‘MDF’ [midfield] it’s all about body shape when receiving the ball, too many times facing their own goal and can only play one way…

“Get on the ‘half turn’ for f*** sake and bring your more talented players into the game…

Sadly the result has taken any credit away from Brighton, a well-run, patient and sensible reminder for United just how far off the standard they currently are.

But with a similarly impressive club up next in the shape of Brentford, it could become even clearer that everything United are clearly lacking is just a pre-requisite for a successful modern side.

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