Ten Hag under scrutiny as Man Utd fight for Champions League survival
11th December 2023
By Makua Ubanagu
Manchester United’s future in this season’s Champions League hangs by a thread ahead of Bayern Munich’s visit to Old Trafford, with an early exit in Europe sure to put more scrutiny on manager Erik ten Hag.
The Dutchman tried to argue after victory over Chelsea last week that United’s season has not reached crisis-mode.
But Ten Hag’s hopes that a turning point had been reached were short-lived as a 3-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday saw a troubled campaign reach a new low.
The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League after seven defeats in their opening 16 games.
Yet, while there may be time to recover a place in the top four domestically, their need in the Champions League is urgent.
Only victory against the German champions on Tuesday will give United any chance of progress to the last 16 and even then, they need FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray to draw in their final Group A match.
United are fortunate to even have a shot at the knockout stages after a return of just four points from their opening five matches.
No English side has ever conceded as many as the 14 goals that Ten Hag’s men have in five Champions League group games.
A series of high-scoring shootouts in Europe contrasts sharply with United’s troubles to score goals in the Premier League.
“We are really inconsistent. We have the abilities to do it, but you have to do it every game and every third day,” said Ten Hag after Bournemouth celebrated their first ever win at Old Trafford in style.
“I think as a squad we are not good enough to be consistent and we have to work as a squad to improve that.”
• Rashford’s demise
No United forward has scored at home in the Premier League all season as Marcus Rashford’s demise has contributed to his side’s struggles.
Rashford scored 30 times in a career-best campaign for goals last season but has just two so far this season — one of which came from the penalty spot.
The England international has exhausted Ten Hag’s patience and been dropped for the last two games.
But Rashford could return against Bayern as his understudies have also struggled to shine.
Alejandro Garnacho has produced flashes of brilliance, though remains wildly inconsistent as can be expected for a 19-year-old winger.
Meanwhile Antony, who Ten Hag pushed to sign in a £86 million ($108 million) deal last year, has not scored in his last 25 matches.
The Brazilian is just one of a long list of expensive flops that have seen United’s fortunes decline in a decade since Alex Ferguson departed as manager.
Last weekend’s loss to Bournemouth was the 35th home league defeat suffered by United since Ferguson’s retirement.
During the iconic 26-year reign of the Scottish manager, United were only beaten in the league at Old Trafford 34 times.
Bayern may already be assured of their place in the last 16 as group winners but have a point to prove themselves after being thrashed 5-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
And the last time Bayern lost a Champions League group game was six years ago.
United captain Bruno Fernandes said his side must “do their job” and hope for help in Copenhagen.
“We know that the next game is going to be really tough – we have to win and wait for a good result in the other game for us,” said Fernandes.
“We have to do our job, first of all, but we are more than capable of getting the result in that