This Saturday, Man United will host Brighton at Old Trafford in a rematch of Erik ten Hag’s debut match in command of the Reds.
Erik ten Hag will spend this weekend going back to the beginning.
The last and only club to defeat the Dutchman’s Reds at home in a Premier League match will welcome Brighton to Old Trafford. On that particular day, United trailed by two goals at the half before bouncing back but ultimately lost. Ten Hag had a lot of time to reflect on the performance because it was far from flawless.
The problems were painfully clear in some cases: How should Cristiano Ronaldo be handled? Christian Eriksen is a fake nine, so why is that? – while some were subtler: Are United having mental health problems? Can the players execute the game plan laid out by the manager?
Some of those day-one dramas have been resolved by Ten Hag, but others still exist. The Portuguese star’s second stint was prematurely curtailed by his harsh handling of Ronaldo, and Rasmus Hojlund’s arrival gives the Dutchman the type of player he wants to lead his line.
Ten Hag has been able to further define his team and raise the quality thanks to United’s summer transfer activity. More talented athletes than Fred and Scott McTominay are Mason Mount and Sofyan Amrabat. When Brighton last paid Old Trafford a visit, even Donny Van den Beek came off the bench for the last period; however, with how far down the pecking order he is currently, it is difficult to imagine him playing that many minutes throughout the season.
Andre Onana, who looks the part and can undoubtedly help United improve the Reds’ ability to build from the back, has been upgraded to goal for the team. With Harry Maguire being sent to the sidelines, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are a seasoned and dominant first-choice center-back duo.
But there is still concern that Brighton could do it again on Saturday after exposing United’s frailties last August. The Reds had a weak spot last season, gave up terrible goals, and on opening day 13 months ago showed the first indications of a troubling mentality that would hinder their season when they faced the league’s top teams.
Many of the queries are still open. This season, United has failed to impress. They gave up after trailing to Tottenham, overcame Wolves with luck, and had to come back after falling behind Nottingham Forest by two goals in a matter of seconds. They contributed to the game against Arsenal last time out and, on another day, might have won it, but in the end, they lacked talent and unity.