‘Slow’ Man Utd start shows Man City ‘gap’ is ‘even wider’ with Ten Hag tactics exposing 31yo – pundit

Jason Soutar
Casemiro looks frustrated during a Premier League game.
Casemiro looks frustrated during a Premier League game.

Former Premier League captain Robbie Savage thinks Erik ten Hag is setting Manchester United up to be “picked apart” in midfield.

It has been a rough start to the season for the Red Devils, who were lucky to beat Wolves on matchday one before a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham.

The ease at which Wolves were able to cut through the United midfield was extremely concerning and Ten Hag’s decision not to alter his midfield three of Casemiro, Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes meant they were beaten by a superior opposition to Gary O’Neil’s men.

Casemiro, in particular, has looked off the pace, though a lot of that is down to the fact Ten Hag’s tactics have left him very isolated and exposed in front of the back four.

And Savage thinks Scott McTominay should have been brought in to help support the 31-year-old at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Savage attributed United’s “slow” start to the season to how Ten Hag has set up his midfield and was also critical of the club’s decision to sign Rasmus Hojlund for £72million instead of Harry Kane for north of £100m.

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Writing for the Mirror, Savage said: “We’re only two games in, but already Manchester United have managed to find turmoil.

‌”Twelve months ago they made a horrendous start, losing to Brighton and, in humiliating fashion, at Brentford.

“Now they have been slow out of the blocks again, with a lucky win against Wolves followed by a poor second-half performance in the defeat at Tottenham.

‌”That may be down to their pre-season schedule and Erik Ten Hag working his squad ferociously hard in training.

‌”But the supposed takeover at Old Trafford is dragging on and on, and in the meantime the one player they should have moved heaven and earth to sign – Harry Kane – has gone to Bayern Munich, while the club’s other transfer business in this window has not set the world alight.

‌”I was hoping Ten Hag would build on the relative success of last season, but instead of his era taking off I fear another campaign stuck in the transit lounge.

“Why have United taken a £72million punt on Rasmus Hojlund’s potential when proven quality Kane was available? Were they priced out of the market for Kane? Did they speak to his representatives?

“Now they have problems in midfield because Fred has gone, Mason Mount is out for six weeks and they may have to ask Scott McTominay – who looked surplus to requirements when the season kicked off – to help with holding the fort.

‌”Ten Hag should have asked McTominay to help plug the gaps exposed by Wolves in last week’s game at Tottenham – but they were picked apart again in the second half.

‌”I just don’t get it: Why would you go to Spurs, on the back of Wolves running through the middle of the pitch at Old Trafford, without giving Casemiro more help?

“Casemiro may be a five-time Champions League winner but he can’t do it all on his own.”

Savage added: “United should have enough quality to beat Nottingham Forest this weekend – but I don’t see the gap between them and City closing any time soon.

‌”Based on the first two weeks of the campaign, it looks like getting even wider.‌”

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