CHANGES Cristiano Ronaldo returns, the partnership of ‘criminal’ Fred and Scott McTominay ends, and Donny van de Beek begins – Manchester United team to get the season back on track against Brentford.
In the first game, he came on as a second-half substitute but was still the most dangerous player in red, creating a chance for Marcus Rashford that should have gone in.
Rashford and Jadon Sancho both failed to make an impact in Ten Hag’s first competitive game, but after showing signs of life in the preseason, a personnel and formation change could provide the second wind both are looking for.
The Dutchman’s face was haunted by the 2-1 opening day loss at Old Trafford, knowing he doesn’t have many options after a quiet summer.
Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez, and Tyrell Malacia are the only players who have been brought in so far, and they all struggled against the Seagulls.
Martinez showed flashes of brilliance, but Brighton‘s aggressive approach clearly wore him down on occasion, while Eriksen was hampered from the start.
Ten Hag’s standout preseason performer was Anthony Martial, who looked rejuvenated in the center-forward position following his loan from Sevilla, but a knee injury kept him out of the game, with the manager opting to give Eriksen the role.
The experiment backfired with the Dane struggling to get involved, but once he dropped back, things started happening, and that will likely be the case next time out.
United travel to Eriksen’s former club Brentford on Saturday, and the creative midfielder will be hoping to have another big impact at the Community Stadium, this time in his natural role.
The move will be a likely necessity for Ten Hag, with midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay singled out by the likes of Paul Scholes for dreadful performances against Brighton.
“Scott McTominay was always trying to run with the ball, which was ridiculous,” Scholes said after the game. “The pitch’s quality in the middle was really bad.”
“The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough, but we’ve seen that with these two players for the last few years.”
“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] will have to go with just one, but even one is probably too many.”
“Fred constantly gives the ball away, and McTominay constantly tries to run with the ball and then gives it away.” Pass it on to your most talented players! It isn’t all that difficult. On a day like today, it’s criminal.”
Unfortunately for Ten Hag though, he will have to go with one of them due to squad imbalance but can refresh things by adding his former Ajax star Donny van de Beek to the fold.
Bruno Fernandes could well make way after a poor showing against Brighton in which he looked far from a Ten Hag player, and the same could be said for Luke Shaw.
Both struggled with the system and their roles, leaving room for Malacia to come in, and there could even be a return for the controversial Cristiano Ronaldo.