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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Man United face their biggest tests of the Ten Hag era on and off the pitch

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Wolves manager Gary O’Neil could have counted more positives than Erik Ten Hag on Monday evening but a positive result was not among them. Ten Hag could count on one hand the pluses from Manchester United’s evening. The win was one, Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s gameness was another, so was Andre Onana’s debut until he clumsily clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic. Maybe Raphael Varane’s matchwinning contribution. Beyond that, there was little upbeat to write him about. The clean sheet was as fortuitous as the win and Wolves let United off the hook. It was not the statement win United could have done with and they need one this month. The visit of Nottingham Forest is sandwiched between testing trips to north London against Tottenham and Arsenal before the September internationals. United then resume the season against Brighton, victors over United in their last three league fixtures. Also read: Wan-Bissaka has started this season as he ended last season United need positivity beyond the team’s performances and results. The club have delayed their Mason Greenwood announcement, with female players and supporters targeted in the fallout. The strategic review is now bordering on nine months as the Glazers continue to irk those on Wall Street and Sir Matt Busby Way. Protests at Old Trafford are becoming as much of a part of the matchday ritual as going to Lou Macari’s chippy. Some senior figures still have their heads in the sand over the fan perception of the Glazers. Supporters do not care if Joel Glazer is a “brilliant person” – as he was recently described by one subordinate. He does not engage with supporters and shafted them with his endorsement of the Super League. One staff member at Old Trafford protested that supporters “don’t see a side” of Joel Glazer. They do not see anything of him. He has not attended a match in almost four-and-a-half years. The supporters Glazer has engaged with on the fans’ advisory board have to sign non-disclosure agreements and his only appearance on the fans’ forum was in May 2021, when the dust from the Super League’s wreckage had still not settled. Glazer and his co-conspirators tried to pull up the drawbridge, so United supporters stormed the castle on that May day when the fixture with Liverpool was postponed. That treachery is unforgivable, hence the banners raised outside and inside the stadium on almost every matchday. The only football games Joel Glazer attends are in the NFL United have consciously welcomed kinder coverage from the more obsequious sections of the traditional and modern media. Despite some chastening thrashings over the last year, there were ample signs the good times are returning and United had a day of glory at Wembley in the League Cup final. There has been little firefighting during the Ten Hag era but Greenwood and the Glazers are two clouds that hover overhead and the team’s performance level has to be elevated to a lofty height to stave off disharmony. Ten Hag claimed United were ready for Wolves but they did not look it. Perceptions can alter suddenly but before the Wolves win uncertainty still lingered over too many of the manager’s signings. Antony is a €100million work in progress, Mason Mount has underwhelmed and, compared with his peers Bellingham, Rice and Caicedo, is an underwhelming addition. Rasmus Hojlund is injured and so is Tyrell Malacia, the first through the door last summer. Antony and Malacia cannot be considered successful signings yet None of the four loanees were an outright success: Martin Dubravka was recalled early, Jack Butland never played, Wout Weghorst was worse than Odion Ighalo and Marcel Sabitzer moved permanently – to Borussia Dortmund. Ten Hag was the most important recruit in the last 18 months and his body of work has been excellent so far. Lisandro Martinez was a bargain, Casemiro was the catalyst and Alejandro Garnacho is being developed into a quintessential United winger. United hardly overachieved last year after a summer of record investment but punched above their weight to finish third in the Premier League table. Supporters expect and hope for more this season. Ten Hag is operating under difficult circumstances but he has had enviable and unparalleled backing as the United manager. That’s another positive.Story SavedYou can find this story in  My Bookmarks.Or by navigating to the user icon in the top right.

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