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Fulham 2-1 Manchester United: Signs Emerging That Erik Ten Hag Could Be Running Out of Time

Fulham 2-1 Manchester United: Erik ten Hag walks off the pitch after defeat at Old Trafford

After a run of four successive wins, Manchester United fans were given a familiar feeling from the last two seasons with a late 2-1 defeat to Fulham at Old Trafford

Despite a dreary performance, the Reds looked as if they could steal a late win at 1-1 before Fulham snatched a deserved 97th-minute winner. The 2-1 loss puts the top four and Champions League qualification further away. There are signs that we could be seeing the beginning of the end for Erik ten Hag.

Fulham 2-1 Victory Ends Manchester United Winning Streak

Erik ten Hag Faces Uncomfortable Final Run

Erik ten Hag would have been feeling much more positive after Manchester United strung together a run of wins against Wolves, West Ham, Aston Villa and Luton Town. His side were unbeaten in 2024. 

Saturday’s performance at Old Trafford undoubtedly will have spoiled that move, as it did their unbeaten record. The Dutch manager looked frustrated throughout, as his side conceded chance after chance. 

Marco Silva was much more happy in contrast, telling Sky Sports: “It’s a great feeling. We were the better team, clearly, from the first minute until the last. We controlled the game in our way.”

Read More: ‘Major Blow’: Manchester United ‘Leader’ Ruled Out For Up To 3 Months With Leg Injury

Indeed, Fulham registered 21 shots with 9 on target, they also forced six blocks. United only managed 17 shots and 5 on target. 

How Manchester United Lost Late vs Fulham

Ten Hag’s side were played through, cut open and ran around from all over the pitch. The midfield of youngster Kobbie Mainoo, Casemiro, debutant Forson and Fernandes was beaten easily, which only got worse when their Brazilian midfielder was forced off with a head injury. 

Calvin Bassey opened the scoring after his header hit his teammate Castagne and fell nicely for him to smash a shot into the roof of Andre Onana’s net. Harry Maguire restored hope in the 89th minute and United looked likely to grab an undeserved winner. 

In a bitter, late twist, Marco Silva’s substitute Adama Traore darted on the break past two players before setting up Alex Iwobi just inside the box. The Nigerian shifted two incoming defenders the wrong way before finishing past Onana, who was rooted to the spot. 

The latest loss at Old Trafford leaves Manchester United in sixth place, eight points astray from Aston Villa, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot. Ten Hag’s remaining league fixtures are by no means promising either, as they include tough sides such as: Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Chelsea and Brighton.

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Erik Ten Hag: ‘You Have to See the Bigger Picture’ – Fulham 2-1 Manchester United

Reflecting on the match, Erik ten Hag told the BBC: “After one defeat you have to see the bigger picture – and the bigger picture looks very good.”

For some, however, the Dutchman may be hiding from reality. Saturday’s tie at Old Trafford marked their tenth league defeat of the season, only Newcastle and Chelsea have lost as many or more in the top half of the league table.

The data is perhaps even more concerning than the raw loss numbers, as the Red Devils have conceded 435 shots in their 26 league matches this season. Only Sheffield United have conceded more.

Of course, Ten Hag can point to injuries to Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw but ultimately, he has to learn to adapt and find a way for his team to disrupt the opposition. Against Marco Silva’s side, their press was beaten consistently. 

While these injuries of course can hugely affect play all over the pitch, one would struggle to claim they have worse options than say, Everton, who have the fifth-best defensive record in the Premier League.

One must wonder, then, if the manager truly believes things are getting better, as their defensive record worsens every week and key players such as Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes continue to struggle for form.

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Manchester United Poor Transfer Business Raises Questions Over Erik Ten Hag

While the extent to which Erik ten Hag has had control of the transfer business is not clear, he told the media that control of transfers was a condition he set out before joining the club in 2022.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS new control of football operations threatens to take back some of that control from the former Ajax boss, with Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth expected to join the club.

The manager reasserted earlier this week that he would still have the final say and that recruitment would be a collaborative process. However, recent transfer business could undermine his authority at the club and may raise questions as to whether he is the right man for the future of the club.

During United’s 2-1 defeat on Saturday, Omari Forson was given a first start, alongside Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford, who struggled in the striker position and only received 19 passes all game.

Read More:  ‘Out For Two To Three Weeks’: Man Utd Deliver Gutting Injury Update On ‘Exceptional’ Star

Despite struggling to create chances, with the game still winnable in the dying moments, Antony was not turned to until the 99th minute of the game.

This is a truly concerning state of affairs and will add pressure on the manager, especially after The Athletic revealed in December that the club had initially valued him at £25m, before paying £82m for the winger.

Luke Shaw’s injury highlighted the predictable and strange error of terminating Sergio Reguilon’s loan deal, which resulted in the Spaniard joining Brentford on loan in the January window.

While other business has undoubtedly brought in better players, high-priced moves for ageing stars Raphael Varane and Casemiro has resulted in a team on two different timelines, with prime players contrasted by younger prospects such as Hojlund, Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo.

One would struggle to argue that transfers under the current manager have helped the team build towards their future.

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Fulham 2-1 Manchester United: Conclusions

With Champions League qualification etching further and further away from United, Erik ten Hag’s future beyond this season is under question.

While he can certainly rue his side’s abysmal injury luck, tactically, United look lost at sea far too often. Their attack lacks repeatable and sustainable patterns and as a result, vital creators like Fernandes and Rashford are struggling for form.

Defensively, they are far too open and are consistently played through by lower-table opposition. With a relatively poor transfer record and struggles on the pitch, INEOS could eye a move for a new manager in the summer.

Read More:  ‘Out For Two To Three Weeks’: Man Utd Deliver Gutting Injury Update On ‘Exceptional’ Star

Xabi Alonso, Julian Nagelsman, Thomas Tuchel and Roberto De Zerbi could all be available for the 2024-25 season and the club will need to assess whether they have a better chance with a new manager, or whether they are better with the devil they know.




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