Manchester United. Win, lose. Qualify, exit. Does it matter any extra?


Possibly probably the most worrying factor from Erik ten Hag’s perspective must be that now we have reached that acquainted a part of a Manchester United disaster the place they’ve turned the nook so many occasions, they’re now going round in circles.

Within the area of seven days, United went from an abject and apathetic efficiency at St James’ Park, to a galvanising win on Wednesday night time that was stuffed with urgency, power and togetherness, solely to then spherical off a tumultuous week with probably the most humbling defeats at Previous Trafford in latest reminiscence.

In the identical method that Chelsea — a giant scalp in detached kind — got here at simply the correct time for a morale-boosting victory, Ten Hag and his gamers may have carried out with out this assembly with a aspect who’re beginning to hit their stride beneath Andoni Iraola. Bournemouth had been by no means going to be simple opponents in apply, no matter was anticipated on paper.

What no one foresaw was a deserved 3-0 defeat, one of many worst outcomes of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson period. It occurred to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Ferguson’s anointed successor, David Moyes, admitting that United wanted to enhance in “numerous areas, together with passing, creating possibilities and defending”. No change there, then.


The Moyes tweet, 10 years on: Did United enhance their ‘passing, creating possibilities, defending’?

Ten Hag watches on forlornly (Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth by way of Getty Pictures)

But when something, the story of the final decade at United is that the extra issues change, the extra they keep the identical. And because the last whistle sounded, Ten Hag stood inventory nonetheless on the touchline, sporting the identical expression of frustration, anger and incredulity that now we have seen on the entire others to comply with Ferguson.

Round an hour later, Ten Hag bounded via the door to Previous Trafford’s press convention room with a contained fury. One of many first phrases to his first reply was “aggravated”.

“We’re actually inconsistent,” he mentioned. “We now have the talents to do it, however it’s a must to do it each recreation and each third day.” On that very same topic, he added: “I feel, as a squad, we aren’t adequate to be constant and now we have to work as a squad to enhance that.”

United have gotten inconsistency all the way down to an artform. This season’s 11 wins have been nearly completely balanced out by 11 defeats. The one and solely draw of the marketing campaign — the 3-3 with Galatasaray in Istanbul — implies that even victory over Bayern Munich on Tuesday night time might not be sufficient to qualify for the Champions League knock-out levels.

Manchester United 0-3 Bournemouth — Learn Dan Sheldon and Ahmed Walid’s evaluation

However even when United beat Bayern and qualify, would that then be a turning level? Or extra possible would it not be one other non permanent optimistic bump on this acquainted boom-and-bust cycle that has been happening since August?

Sure, it might imply €9.6million (£8.2m; $10.3m) value in prize cash, plus extra in matchday and broadcasting revenues, however what in United’s latest historical past ensures that cash will likely be put to good use?

As for on the pitch, can a aspect of United’s inconsistency and a membership that has reached the quarter-finals twice within the final 10 years have expectations of a significant run via the competitors, not to mention successful it? You could possibly say avoiding elimination now would merely be delaying the inevitable.

Which may be an excessively pessimistic studying, however it’s an comprehensible one provided that one other defeat by no means feels far-off proper now. United’s longest successful streak this season is the same as their longest shedding streak at three video games. Any respite for Ten Hag has been temporary. The subsequent disaster level has at all times simply been across the nook. We now have been right here earlier than, too.

The top of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign was like one thing from the theatre of the absurd, as a dysfunctional crew of gifted people plumbed new depths however by no means fairly performed badly sufficient to power the change that was wanted. That aspect repeatedly pulled performances out of nothing to carry their supervisor again from the brink till instantly they didn’t.

It was the same story as Jose Mourinho spiralled the drain. There was the odd signal of life within the previous canine but — coming from 2-0 all the way down to beat Newcastle United, bettering Juventus in Turin, bludgeoning a well beyond Younger Boys with Marouane Fellaini taking part in like a proto-Scott McTominay.

It was all for nothing, although, with the toxicity behind the scenes finally proving an excessive amount of. This week carries some uncanny parallels with these last days of Mourinho, who was finally sacked two days after a 3-1 defeat away to Liverpool in December 2018.

Mourinho was sacked after defeat at Anfield in 2018 (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Pictures)

Ten Hag will go to Anfield on Sunday, a day wanting the fifth anniversary of Mourinho’s dismissal. If United lose, he’ll solely be one level higher off than the Portuguese was after the identical variety of video games that season.

There’s a key distinction, although, and it’s one which just about renders even defeats as humbling as this to Bournemouth as borderline irrelevant. In spite of everything, even when it was determined that outcomes are unhealthy sufficient to power a change of supervisor, it isn’t totally clear who at Previous Trafford would have the facility to make that decision.

Since Ferguson’s retirement, the ultimate say on such choices has been with co-chairman Joel Glazer. However management of sporting operations will quickly change palms to INEOS, as soon as the related paperwork on Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25 per cent minority funding is accomplished, some six to eight weeks after it’s introduced.

Till then, it’s unclear how a lot can change. The Athletic has beforehand reported that some near the membership really feel no main choices will likely be taken earlier than Ratcliffe’s toes are formally beneath the desk and till then, the Glazers don’t need to trigger any upheaval.

Questions have even been raised as as to if United can at the moment afford to sack Ten Hag contemplating the compensation funds that may be required in each a dismissal and the hiring of a substitute.

And so, whereas no United win at the moment appears like a turning level, no defeat appears like a loss of life knell both. On this state of one thing approaching purgatory, Ten Hag may discover he has sufficient time on his palms to give you a long-lasting answer. However it is not going to be straightforward. And for probably the most half, United’s try to seek out consistency on the pitch will not be helped by the uncertainty off it.

(High picture: Danehouse Images Ltd/Getty Pictures)


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