It’s not been a smooth start at Old Trafford for Manchester United following a series of disappointing results since the start of the 2023/24 season.
The Reds Devils had a quite promising pre-season prior to the start of the season but they failed to transform that form into the campaign.
This has raised major concerns around the club especially with pressure being mounted on manager Erik ten Hag from the fans.
Many believe the Dutch gaffer hasn’t lived up to expectations, however some faithful are confident that things will get better.
It’s understandable that this is the first time the Ten Hag is managing a top “political” club like Man Utd but poor performances in his past few games will get him sacked if things doesn’t change.
Erik ten Hag received his first boos after the Brighton & Hove Albion clash last Saturday at the Old Trafford.
Having said that, my focus is to take a critical look at some areas retarding the success and improvement of the club:
Inability to press opponents
One major aspect of the game Manchester United really need to improve is how they press their opponents in games.
Their pressing is unimpressive and this leaves spaces behind for opponents to capitalize on it.
Let’s roll it back to the match against Brighton. In the first 10-15 mins in that game, United were pressing very well which made De Zerbi’s side uncomfortable for them to possess the ball more.
De Zerbi then asked Pascal Groß to drop a little deeper to receive balls and help the team beat the Manchester United press.
Fast forward, things changed on the field and Brighton were more confident as they took control of the game.
Pascal Groß dropping deep affected the Red Devils way of pressing which unlocked a lot of spaces for Brighton, especially on the left side of United’s set up.
United’s midfield offers little of defending, constant and counter pressing without the ball.
This may also be as a results of Casemiro being ineffective nowadays due to his age.
Last season, Casemiro was more energetic and mobile but his sudden decline is costing his side. He’s not also found the right balance with whoever he plays alongside in that double pivot role.
Lack of a proper deep-lying playmaker
One role top teams across Europe and in the world really pay keen interest in strengthening is the role of a deep lying-playmaker.
However, Manchester United seem not to find a caliber of player that fits that role after failing to sign Frenkie De Jong from Barcelona two seasons ago.
Erik ten Hag has spent more than £330million across three transfer windows but have failed in strengthening that role.
United need a deep lying-player who can pull the strings for them from deep areas in the midfield. A player who can help control the tempo of the game and help the side to create spaces in between lines when facing opponents that play with a low block system.
That type of progressive and possession-oriented holding midfield is really needed in United’s midfield.
The former Champions League winners have found themselves in a more complicated situation and a lot needs to be changed in the club in order for them to return back to where they belong.