Manchester United is a team with the proudest history in English football, winning the top flight on an incredible 20 occasions. Under the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils lifted the Premier League title 13 times, surpassing Liverpool as the most successful team in the country. At the peak of their powers under Ferguson, no team in England could touch United, displaying a ruthless streak under the Scot that was a driving force to glory. Ten years on, their fall has been dramatic, struggling to even break into the top four in the football tips for the 2022/23 season in the Premier League.
Since Ferguson's departure in 2013, the club has endured a period of decline, which reached its lowest ebb in the 2021/22 campaign. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Ralf Rangnick, United recorded their lowest points tally in Premier League history, mustering only 58 points from their 38 matches. United finished sixth in the table, their lowest since the 2013/14 season when David Moyes was overwhelmed by the task of replacing Ferguson in the dugout.
Even the experienced hands of Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, and Rangnick have not been able to rectify the issues that have plagued the club since the departure of Ferguson. Rather than heading back to the top, the problems at Old Trafford are somehow getting worse, despite spending almost £1bn in the transfer market following the retirement of Ferguson.
Erik ten Hag is the latest man to have suffered in the early days of his reign. United was considered slight outsiders in the race for the top four at the start of the current campaign and well off the pace for the title. However, their start to the campaign has been alarming, to say the least, with the players on the field devoid of all confidence in the new manager's strategy and ability to perform. United could be on course to break their record from last season, which includes conceding the most goals ever in a Premier League term by shipping 57.
United was cut open with ease by Brighton on the counter in their opening match of the season as Pascal Gross netted twice at Old Trafford. If that was bad, their performance against Brentford was downright humiliating. The Bees dominated Ten Hag’s side, putting four goals past them in the first half in a 4-0 defeat, inflicting one of the worst away results in the Red Devils' history in the Premier League.
When the fixtures were announced, United would have been hopeful of recording back-to-back wins in their opening two matches to start the reign of Ten Hag on the front foot. However, after two games, the club are bottom of the table and faced with the daunting prospect of their season being over before it has even entered the second month.
What Could Happen This Season
United’s lowest finish of the Premier League era was seventh in the 2013/14 season, and if they cannot bank on beating teams of the ilk of Brighton and Brentford, there are few guarantees for the club in the 2022/23 campaign. There is no chance of the Red Devils being relegated from the Premier League, and they will pick up enough points to ensure that is not a possibility, no matter how poorly the Red Devils have started the term.
There could be a parallel between Chelsea and their performance in the 2015/16 campaign. Just months removed from winning the Premier League, morale and confidence dropped at Stamford Bridge, prompting the sacking of Jose Mourinho with the club situated in the bottom half of the table. Guus Hiddink guided the Blues to 10th place, but it was a stunning turnaround and the lowest ebb of the Roman Abramovich era. Finishing 10th would be unthinkable for United, but other clubs around the Premier League will know they are weak and vulnerable, especially at the back. Goals at the other end of the field could be an issue with Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly wanting to leave Old Trafford.
There are a lot of problems brewing at United, and Ten Hag is finding out just how challenging life can be in the dugout post-Ferguson.
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