It can still be turned around.
At the beginning of the season, the Opta supercomputer estimated Manchester United's chances of reaching the Champions League at 63%. Based on the current campaign, MU has only a 4% chance of making it to the UCL. It is even considered that the chances of them getting relegated to the Championship (0.06% probability) are higher than winning the Premier League (0.01%).
The supercomputer also simulated the Champions League. The probability of MU advancing from Group A is only 32.9% after defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray. Erik ten Hag's team can win the UCL in only 0.45% of cases out of 10,000 simulations processed by the supercomputer. The start of the season for United has been terrible, despite a victory over Brentford in the most recent Premier League match. But it can still be turned around. Here are 5 things that the Mancunians should do to save the season.
Get the Injured Players Back Quickly
Getting injuries is one thing, but getting them all in one area is another. The main problem for MU right now is the left-back position because there is no one to rely on. With Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malasia, and loaned Sergio Reguilon still in the infirmary, Erik ten Hag has recently relied on Sofyan Amrabat on the left defensive flank. Still, the Moroccan feels uncertain in that position.
United has problems throughout the defense. The primary center-back pair of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane has played only 197 minutes together. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been out of action for a month. Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund missed some time due to injuries, and the situation with Jadon Sancho isn't helping the team either. The same goes for Anthony, although he has already returned to the team.
Having an incomplete squad and injuries at the start of the season is a problem for almost every coach, but everyone deals with it in their own way. If Erik ten Hag can get at least one injured player back for each position, it could help the team find consistency and confidence, especially in defense.
Stop Blaming the Goalkeeper for Everything
In the current season, MU has conceded 19 goals in all competitions. That's a lot, but it's not entirely Andre Onana's fault. The Cameroonian has made several good saves in the current campaign, although he has also let in quite a few goals. The former goalkeeper of Inter Milan and Ajax was signed because he is better with his feet than David De Gea. But when the ball keeps finding its way into the net, it seems like a more severe problem than the ability to start attacks from the goalkeeper.
Onana has faced more than 50 shots on goal in the current season, conceding 18 goals (excluding own goals) out of 15.8 expected goals on target (xGOT). This means he is revealing about 1.2 goals more than expected statistically.
But if you compare it, in the first 10 matches of the previous season, De Gea conceded 17 goals from 43 shots on target. The xGOT metric was 14.3 (he conceded 2.7 more goals than expected). Considering that United was playing in the Europa League then, not the Champions League, Onana's results look better than his predecessor's.
Bring back the old Casemiro or give preference to Amrabat
Last season, Casemiro was one of Manchester United's key players. But now, that's not the case. On one hand, he averages 2.9 tackles per 90 minutes, the second-best on the team. However, he gets dribbled past an average of 2.4 times per match, which is the worst record at Manchester United. Only Liverpool's midfielder, Dominik Szoboszlai, gets dribbled past in the Premier League more frequently. Still, unlike the Brazilian, Szoboszlai isn't a holding midfielder and doesn't shield the defense.
The main advantage of Casemiro is that, for some inexplicable reason, he remains one of the main threats to opponents' goals. The Brazilian is United's top scorer in the current season with four goals. Only Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford shoot more frequently than him. It would be great if the coach could bring back last year's version of Casemiro. If not, maybe Erik ten Hag should consider placing the energetic Amrabat in his usual position.
At the 2022 World Cup, Amrabat ranked third among midfielders in the number of tackles (16) and was the leader in ball recoveries (57). His 26 rallies in the defensive phase were also high among the same group of players. In Serie A, he completed 89.3% of accurate passes. Only four midfielders had better numbers. As an alternative, Amrabat can be played alongside Casemiro, providing excellent coverage for the defensive backline and reducing reliance on them during opponent attacks.
Bring Rashford back to form
Rashford urgently needs to regain his form from last year. Last season, he scored 30 goals in 56 matches in all competitions, taking 167 shots on goal. Marcus has played 10 times in the current campaign and scored only one goal. His shooting efficiency has dropped to 3.6% compared to last season. As a result, the winger who used to score on average every 143 minutes last season has scored only one goal in 742 minutes the current season.
In the home match against Brighton (1-3), Rashford was involved in eight attacks that resulted in shots. He took all eight photos but failed to convert any of them. Then, in the match against Galatasaray, he didn't take a single picture in 68 minutes on the field. Was this a tactical decision by the coach, or has his form deteriorated significantly?
Like with Casemiro, it's hard to believe that Marcus has lost his quality almost overnight. Suppose ten Hag can help him regain the confidence he exuded last season. In that case, there is every reason to believe that Rashford will convert big moments into big matches again.
Play Hojbjerg more
Hojbjerg has yet to score much despite his high transfer fee, but he already shows why he was signed. His movements, offensive work, and self-assurance are already at a good level. The young Dane hasn't stood out in the Premier League yet. Still, if his teammates create opportunities for Rasmus, he will start repaying them and the entire team with goals.
At 20 years old, Hojbjerg became the youngest player to score in his first two Champions League matches since Erling Haaland in 2019 and the fourth player to achieve 3 goals in his first two Champions League matches for Manchester United after Dimitar Berbatov (4), Romelu Lukaku (3), and Wayne Rooney (3). Hojbjerg trails behind Casemiro in the team's top scorer ranking. Still, with 0.6 goals per 90 minutes in the Champions League, he will soon catch up with the Brazilian.
Published by Patrick Jane