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Manchester United's likely incoming boss Erik ten Hag has his work cut out for him – if he did not already know the size of the task before him.
The Ajax boss is the hot favourite to take over at Old Trafford at the end of the season when interim coach Ralf Rangnick will step aside. And the Red Devils were dealt a huge blow in the Premier League when they were beaten by Liverpool at Anfield.
Luis Diaz scored after five minutes before Mohamed Salah doubled the lead shortly after but they did not stop there in the second half. Sadio Mane scored a beautifully clincal strike before Salah got his second to make it another thrashing – much like the 5-0 mauling earlier in the season.
So, what will Ten Hag have to sort out when and if he arrives this summer?
Back three a mess
Many have scoffed at teams that use a back three as being too defensive but United here have exposed that as a myth. This was another disjointed defensive shape despite the added man and that was made evident just five minutes in.
Harry Maguire went to close Sadio Mane down while Diogo Dalot was out of position, meaning a simple ball put Mohamed Salah through who had the simple task of rolling the ball to Luis Diaz to tuck home. A back three can be very effective against the biggest and best teams – when you know what you are doing.
Eyebrows were raised an hour before kick-off when Jones was named in the starting XI and for good reason in the end. This was just his second start in the Premier League this season and even he might have been lamenting that decision from Rangnick.
The defender was put into a three-man defence that had little chemistry to face arguably the most electrifying attack in world football. Was this a gamble? Yes. Did it end well? Absolutely not.
Liverpool players were in so much control that it would be an utter lie to say that United were chasing shadows – because they did not even bother to do that. The pressing was completely lifeless and the visitors looked happy just to be on the same pitch.
Roy Keane was seething in the Sky Sports studio and it is not hard to see why – this was the complete opposite to how he would have played. No bite, no aggression and no one actually cared by the look of things – they just want the season to end.
Paul Pogba decision backfires
With Scott McTominay and Fred out injured, it meant that Pogba was given a chance to shine in midfield just days after he was heavily booed by his own fans as he cupped an ear to them against Norwich. It did last long when he trudged off after eight minutes.
Gary Neville immediately remarked that this was probably the last time United fans will see the Frenchman and it is hard to argue against that. His contract is up at the end of the season and it is becoming more and more obvious that he will not sign a new one.
No matter how good Ten Hag is as a manager, he will get no joy at Old Trafford unless he is given a completely new team. This current lot just do not have the quality or the bottle to don the shirt – even Rangnick said as much.
With the current ownership at United, it is highly unlikely the Dutchman will be given complete control but unless they want to be battling with Liverpool, instead of rolling over, they will need reinforcements. There needs to be a complete culture shock at the club and that stems from the top.
- Manchester United FC
- Liverpool FC
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