Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has been told the club’s problem are entirely down to him this season – and that he is using the takeover saga and the controversial Glazers’ ownership to hide behind his own failings.
The Red Devils finished third in Ten Hag’s first season in charge, while also winning the Carabao Cup, giving fans some belief that the good times could soon return for Manchester United. And while Ten Hag was given another hefty £175m to spend this summer – bringing in the likes of Mason Mount, Andre Onana and Rasmus Hojlund – the early optimism at Old Trafford has vanished in a flash with the club suffering their worst start to a season since 1986.
Incredibly, United have lost six of their opening 11 matches in all competitions – and in many of their five wins so far, they have also been far from convincing.
To add further worry to Ten Hag, it has since been suggested too that United are considering an approach for Carlo Ancelotti next summer amid claims the Italian is due to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season.
Publicly, though, United continue to back their manager and the feeling among those in power at Old Trafford is that events off the field, with issues around the Glazers’ ownership and their impending sale of 25% of the club to Sir Jim Ratcliffe seemingly proving an unwelcome distraction.
Erik ten Hag sack talk ramped up by Tim Sherwood
The Dutchman, however, insists his only focus remains on overturning their poor form that currently has the club a lowly 10th in the table.
However, Tim Sherwood, speaking on the No Tippy Tappy Football podcast, reckons Ten Hag has taken United backwards as a club and that he is hiding behind the club’s ownership issues as an excuse.
United face bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United on Saturday night with Ten Hag desperately needing a win to keep the wolves from his door.
Sherwood, however, is far from convinced, saying: “When people talk about the Glazers being the problem at Manchester United it’s almost like a get out of jail free card.
“It doesn’t matter about the owners or the chief executive. What matters is that their set of players got outplayed by a team towards the bottom of the league, and that has happened multiple times this season. That is down to the manager.”
Sherwood feels that with players of the likes of Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes at his disposal, Ten Hag can have no excuses and feels the form of Rashford for club v country is typical of the lack of confidence Ten Hag is breeding.
“You’re always going to win games when you have the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford at your disposal. But the manager’s job is to improve players and he’s not improving anyone. You only have to look at Rashford’s recent England performance compared to his club form to see that!”
Sherwood points accusing finger at ‘bang average’ Raphael Varane
Over the past 18 months, former United captain Harry Maguire has become something of a figure of fun and is often scapegoated by fans and the media alike when results don’t go the club’s way.
However, Sherwood feels bad for Maguire and is believes questions should also be asked of Raphael Varane.
The Real Madrid defender is undoubtedly world class but Sherwood feels that his questionable injury record means he too should be taken to task more than he does.
“One player that really annoys me is Raphael Varane,” Sherwood continued. “I think he is getting away with it. He is never fit and when he is fit he’s bang average. We all know he’s had a great career but at the same time everyone is happy to jump on the back of Harry Maguire whilst Varane just gets away with it.
“The ones who play more football are simply more durable and they can play week in week out, Varane seems to play once and then be injured again for two weeks. He seems to be picking his games, but when he plays he’s not that brilliant anyway.
“Ten Hag is not judging players equally and he’s just chucking people onto the pitch and hoping one of the superstars wins him the match. As soon as one of the superstars is fit he takes the likes of Hannibal [Mejbri] and [Scott] McTominay out of the team, and they end up losing football matches.”
After their trip to Bramall Lane, United face FC Copenhagen in another must-win game, this time in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.