The statistics are damning on Erik ten Hag and Manchester United

United faced more shots than any other side 2024 – Shutterstock/Michael Zemanek

It is almost 20 months since Erik ten Hag canceled a scheduled day off and joined his Manchester United players on a 13.8km run in the sun around the club’s training ground.

United had been thumped 4-0 at Brentford the day before in Ten Hag’s first away game as a Premier League manager and this was the squad’s punishment: they were forced to cover the distance their opponents were more embarrassed about. Brentford, he said, were hungrier across the pitch.

For Ten Hag, the manner of the capitulation as much as the scale of the victory was a stark reflection of the challenge he faced at Old Trafford, but these were very early days in the Dutchman’s reign. It always took him a while to make his mark. This was no overnight solution.

But what was the excuse against Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday evening, deep into his second season in charge?

The scoreline may not show that much but in many ways this was worse than that 4-0 humiliation. There were only three survivors from that day – Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. This was Team Ten Hag. It has been a long time since he imposed his ideals, his plan.

In the second half, he brought in more than £350 million worth of substitutes, all of whom he signed Harry Maguire. Injuries? Brentford, without almost all of their first choice back four, were the only ones who could really complain in that regard.

Back in August 2022, Brentford brought their shooting boots and scored four times in 25 minutes in the first half from all 13 shots they attempted. They had 22 touches in the United box that day.

The only difference at the weekend was that Thomas Frank’s side lost in the procession. Otherwise, they were more dominant than they were in the 4-0. To start with, they managed almost four times as many contacts in the United box, an unconscionably high number.

In fact, those 84 touches were the most in the Premier League for almost four years since Manchester City managed 87 in a 5-0 win against Norwich City. Ivan Toney’s 14 touches in the United penalty area were just one less than the entire Ten Hag side managed in the Brentford box.

Brentford’s 31 shots were more than they have managed in a single game in five years. They hit the woodwork four times.

United never got to grips with Brentford’s shape and were regularly cut, passive in and out of possession, second-rate balls and lost in attack.

It was another one of those performances that made you wonder again what Ten Hag does on the training pitch day in and day out. A very expensive group of individuals without the first idea of ​​what to do with each other.

By contrast, Brentford was the definition of cohesion. Each player knew their role and understood the responsibilities of their teammates. On top of that, they wanted it more.

Yes, 20 months after Ten Hag complained about his players’ lack of hunger, he once again had to watch them promote and reflect on Brentford. Hungrier, sharper, faster, better. And this is a team that has won just two of their last 16 Premier League games.

It would have been a bit of a travesty for Brentford if Kristoffer Ajer hadn’t grabbed a 99th-minute equalizer after Mason Mount looked set to help United pull off the final blow and take the lead. But that contained United’s brittle heart. Steve McClaren, the Ten Hag assistant, was seen pointing two fingers to his temple and asking the players to concentrate after Mount’s goal only to watch the team erupt.

Ineos’ performance in the 2-1 home win against Fulham five weeks ago was well received and the word was that this latest anemic display against Brentford had once again gone badly for Sir Jim’s camp. Ratcliffe. Even if Ten Hag fends off execution from United’s new dynasty and remains in charge at the start of next season, it’s clear that this type of football is unsustainable in the long term.

United look a bag of nerves playing out from the back and Ten Hag seems to want to continue asking his team to defend in a low block at the same time as high pressure, and the result is a vacuum The opponents had a constant presence in the middle of the field. cultivating every season. The Hags’ ten-man side are at their best when games descend into chaos, as was the case in their dramatic 4-3 FA Cup win over Liverpool, but there is no longevity there. Control feels as fuzzy as ever.

United have faced more shots in the Premier League this season (498) than Manchester City and Arsenal combined (482). Only three sides have faced more shots than United this term, and two of them are in the relegation zone. In fact, United faced more shots (197) in 2024 than any other club in the Premier League.

Ten Hag can defend it all he wants, and talk about facing low-grade chances, but this is not how big clubs with one day Premier League and Champions League ambitions can to win again really work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *