Erik ten Hag has been told that he is putting himself in increasing danger of the sack at Manchester United by persisting with Andre Onana in goal, with the big summer signing from Inter Milan guilty of more horrendous mistakes in their 3-3 Champions League draw with Galatasaray.
The Red Devils appear to have stumbled from one bad result to another over the course of this season, having failed to find any sort of consistency at both home and in Europe. It is Manchester United‘s struggles in the Champions League that have caused the biggest concern and with just one win and three losses from their five games to date, they are extremely fortunate to still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stages.
However, they will need to see off a dominant Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in their final game on December 12 and hope the other result in their group, between FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray, ends in a draw, to have any chance of progress.
If that seems like too big an ask, then it most probably is. And the fact that they have conceded an alarming 14 goals in their five UCL games to date this season tells you all you need to know about their struggles.
Having tossed away a 2-0 and 3-1 lead on Wednesday to draw 3-3 with Galatasaray – just weeks after twice throwing away the lead against FC Copenhagen – is a case in point.
This United side has an extremely soft centre. And at the heart of their struggles is the hugely inconsistent and extremely frustrating Onana.
The goalkeeper was bought for £43.9m from Inter Milan over the summer, making him one of the costliest stoppers of all time.
Onana destroyed by journalist as Ten Hag is warned of Man Utd sack
During that costly draw in Istanbul, which should, so easily have resulted in United celebrating three points, Onana was once again at fault.
The players and manager around him will, no doubt, claim it is a team game and that, as side, they win together and lose together.
However, there is no getting away from the fact that Onana is starting to cost them badly. And TNT Sport pundit Paul Scholes did not hold back in his brutal assessment of the keeper, claiming “he makes simple saves look really, really difficult”.
It’s hard to disagree with Scholes after yet another high-profile Onana clanger.
And now the Daily Mirror journalist Mark Jones has labelled the 27-year-old a “liability” and suggests the player alone is the “biggest threat” to Ten Hag being removed from his position as Man Utd manager.
He writes: ‘Make no mistake, Manchester United didn’t win at Galatasaray because of Andre Onana.
‘Everyone makes mistakes of course, but he makes a lot of them, and we have to be entering a point where Ten Hag will be judged on the displays – or lack of them – of the £47m goalkeeper whom he signed to replace last season’s Premier League golden glove winner. Like his teammates, Onana has let his manager down as well.
‘Yes the keeper can often look gifted with his feet, but he’s got gloves on his hands and he isn’t using them very well. The second Hakim Ziyech free-kick – after he basically waved goodbye to the first – was particularly weird as he somehow seemed to dive through and then past it, only emerging from the turf to look back and see it drop over the line.’
Man Utd held back by Onana blunders
Jones continued his vilification of Onana by suggesting that, if he continues to make such bloopers, he could ultimately cost Ten Hag his job.
The manager has come under intense pressure this season, amid reports he is facing the chop and with an obvious replacement already in Man Utd’s sights.
And while talk around the sack has eased in recent weeks, an early exit from the Champions League will heap pressure right back on him again.
‘Other goalkeepers might find themselves questioned over Galatasaray’s third too, and being beaten from such range by Kerem Akturkoglu at his near post, but we’ve seen Onana make so many more basic errors than that mere technical one that it won’t register in his hall of shame this season,’ Jones continued.
‘He needs to get a lot better quickly if United are to get anywhere under Ten Hag, because right now he is the one holding them back, and [Harry] Maguire isn’t the only one who’ll know that.’
Ten Hag on possibility of changing Man Utd keepers
Unfortunately for United, they don’t exactly have an experienced back-up ready to take Onana’s place and take some of the pressure off his shoulders.
Their No 2 this season is young Turkish stopper Altay Bayindir, himself a €5m (£4.3m) summer signing from Fenerbahce.
And while he lacks experience, some United fans are already calling on Ten Hag to call him in place of Onana claiming he can’t do any worse.
Ten Hag, however, remains wary of such a call and has suggested Bayindir may have to bide his time.
“We are very happy with our keeper group, with Andre, with Altay and also Tom [Heaton]. A very good keeper group. As a group they do really well, they have good performances and they have to push each other,” Ten Hag said.
“So we are very pleased with Altay, he gets used to the Premier League, he gets used to European football – which is tough when you’re coming from Turkey. But we are very pleased with that process, he’s doing very well. He has to be patient, but if he works well, if he keeps his progress, he will get his chances and then he has to take this.”
Ten Hag was at pains though to suggest that Tuesday’s draw was nobody’s fault but his own.
“We are going in the right direction, so I know we will be successful in the long-term, but if you want to stay in the Champions League you need to win these games,” he added.
“It’s not about individuals. Of course, individual errors in football can make a difference and you take responsibility for it, but it’s always about the team.”
Such has been United’s struggles in goal that is no surprise to see them being linked with a Lazio goalkeeper as a big-money replacement for Onana.