LONDON — Erik ten Hag looked surprisingly calm as he witnessed his Manchester United side crumble to a humbling 4-0 defeat at Brentford.
It was like he expected it.
“I subbed three. I could have changed them all,” Erik ten Hag said afterwards as he looked darkly into the middle of the press conference room at Brentford.
[ MORE: Analysis as Brentford hammer Man United ]
Every team hits rock bottom at one point and the manner of this defeat amid the general negativity swirling around Old Trafford means that their next game against bitter rivals Liverpool (watch live, Monday Aug. 22 at 3pm ET online via Peacock Premium) sees huge pressure on the Dutch coach.
United are in chaos two games into his reign. Two.
What did Erik ten Hag say?
His most biting criticism was of the desire and hunger of his players. Erik ten Hag admitted that both Brighton and Brentford had more hunger than his players as he became the first Manchester United manager in 101 years to lose his first two league games in charge.
“We all have seen the game. I think Brentford was more hungry and we conceded goals to individual mistakes. You can have a plan but that puts the plan in the bin,” Erik ten Hag explained.
When asked about the lack of hunger and how he could turn it around, here was his response: “We have to do it. It is clear to analyze. It is not possible that an opponent is more hungry than you are.”
But they were and it hurt the United fans in the stand and everywhere around the world. This was simply not acceptable and simply rock bottom. You can have growing pains under a new manager but this wasn’t about that. It was about the will to change. The will to adapt. The will to believe in something bigger than yourself.
Erik ten Hag was also asked if he was surprised more players weren’t sold and moved on this summer after a horrendous finish to the 2021-22 campaign.
“Yeah but I don’t want to talk about that. I think about the performance today and that was poor. I want to think about that and how we can sort it,” Erik ten Hag.
And my word is there a lot for Erik ten Hag to sort out.
Who is to blame?
This isn’t on Erik ten Hag. He knows it. This is on the poor play of the players and the people who put them there in the first place.
Recruitment has been shocking this summer, and for many years, at United.
Erik ten Hag has now been left an almighty mess to sort out and he is adamant his possession-based tactics aren’t to blame.
“It had nothing to do with tactics. The first two goals is about dealing with the ball and decisions,” Erik ten Hag said, sharply.
The biggest decisions left for Erik ten Hag is who can he rely on? Cristiano Ronaldo stormed off the pitch after a poor display as he looked angry throughout as his plan to leave this summer failed. For now.
New signing Lisandro Martinez was hooked at half time along with Luke Shaw and Fred and Harry Maguire had another nightmare display, while David de Gea held his hand up for two shocking mistakes to help Brentford go 2-0 up.
In short, everybody at Manchester United but Erik ten Hag is to blame.
The big question: where do Manchester United go from here?
They hired a manager to play a certain style and they can’t sack him after a few months. They just can’t.
United put their faith in Erik ten Hag and they now have to back him in the transfer market and sit tight. Patience is needed and this shocking displays make the problems so much clearer.
But will the hierarchy be able to give Erik ten Hag the players he needs to sort it out? They have to. They simply have to.
Erik ten Hag is acting like someone who knows they might not happen and is already pushing the blame on the players, and others. What a mess.