MARTIN KEOWN: Erik ten Hag’s defenders could be lambs to the slaughter against Liverpool

MARTIN KEOWN: Erik ten Hag’s defenders could be lambs to the slaughter against Liverpool

MARTIN KEOWN: If David de Gea is as naïve this week as he was at Brentford, United will be PUNCHED… Liverpool are the most petrifying pressurer in world football and Erik ten Hag’s defenders could be lambs to the slaughter

  • Erik ten Hag must become a strong leader to solve Manchester United’s crisis
  • United produced their most embarrassing performance against Brentford
  • They will suffer again if they play the same tactic against Liverpool on Monday

Erik ten Hag has just experienced his longest week in football. He returned to training ground within 24 hours of that 4-0 loss to Brentford, the most embarrassing and inept performance by a Manchester United team in living memory.

I have no problem with Ten Hag putting their players through a Sunday race session. He felt they didn’t do enough to deserve a day off and it will take incredibly strong leadership from United’s new boss to resolve this crisis.

United have had six different managers since Sir Alex Ferguson. There are six different philosophies to adapt and believe. When that happens you can forget the basics, and there was evidence of that at Brentford last weekend.

Erik ten Hag must show incredibly strong leadership to turn United's fortunes around

Erik ten Hag must show incredibly strong leadership to turn United’s fortunes around

Club captain Harry Maguire was part of a United defense that was embarrassed by Brentford

Club captain Harry Maguire was part of a United defense that was embarrassed by Brentford

David De Gea has played under all six managers since Ferguson and is experienced enough to know not to give Christian Eriksen a marked ball on the edge of the area.

But in his blind pursuit to stick to the last letter of the law laid down by his new boss and pass out from behind, he played into the hands of the opposition.

There were too many passengers in the United team in these situations, too many pretending to want the ball when they didn’t, too many poor decisions being made.

An example was when Harry Maguire had the ball and was looking for options. He had no one but Eriksen. All the others had disappeared into the distance. Trailing 1-0, United lost the ball and nearly conceded another goal, with Maguire forced to commit a foul.

United sit bottom of the Premier League table after conceding six goals in two games.

United sit bottom of the Premier League table after conceding six goals in two games.

It was extremely naive of the United players to ignore these warning signs and continue to give Brentford chances to gain possession high up the pitch.

There was no confidence or authority in United’s passing and the home team’s players and supporters could feel that they were always a moment away from winning the ball back.

Ten Hag must change his game plan for Liverpool's visit on Monday

Ten Hag must change his game plan for Liverpool’s visit on Monday

Try these tactics against Liverpool, the most petrifying press in world football, and United’s defenders will be like lambs to the slaughter again. Winning the ball close to the opponent’s goal is his specialty.

Jurgen Klopp’s entire team pushes so hard that you’ll see the back four, led by their commander-in-chief Virgil van Dijk, on the halfway line. That condenses the space in the opposition half, where Liverpool’s three forwards can stifle their opponents.

United players must be brave in their passing, but they must also be prepared to dodge the press by looking longer if necessary, regardless of the coach’s instructions.

It’s all about management in the game and the players didn’t take it upon themselves to stop making these same mistakes over and over again at Brentford. He was yelling at the lack of leadership on the field.

For too long, there has been a lack of desire and determination in United’s players, so much so that they are in danger of becoming Premier League villains.

That is in stark contrast to the collective energy at Liverpool: there you will find a group that totally believes in their boss’s tactics and a club that has incredible unity between players, managers and fans.

United had that in the past but have a long way to go to get it back. In the meantime, I hope to see changes from Ten Hag. Raphael Varane should replace Lisandro Martinez, while Scott McTominay can give them more physicality, particularly from set pieces.

Brentford tore United to pieces by unhinging Ten Hag's Reds in their recent 4-0 thrashing

Brentford tore United to pieces by unhinging Ten Hag’s Reds in their recent 4-0 thrashing

As the Premier League celebrates its 30th anniversary, United can proudly say that they have won 13 of those titles against Liverpool. It’s an amazing institution built on winning and Old Trafford used to be the toughest day away from home in Europe.

Never mind a penalty, you’d be lucky to get a free kick in that cauldron! Ten Hag needs the stadium to overflow on Monday night. United have made the worst possible start to this Premier League season, losing to Brighton and then Brentford.

But Liverpool have only managed two draws. The United players need to believe that they will capitalize on their opponents’ unusually slow start and win this game.

If they do, they can jump over Liverpool and suddenly all that unwanted noise about a club in crisis won’t be so deafening.

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