Erik ten Hag previews Galatasaray game
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted the game he believed was the start of the end of his managerial reign at Manchester United. And Erik ten Hag must pass the test the Norwegian failed at Old Trafford to ensure Saturday’s defeat against Crystal Palace isn’t the same catalyst for his demise.
United have recorded back-to-back home losses in the Premier League, having been beaten 3-1 by Brighton and Hove Albion and 1-0 by Palace.
The Red Devils’ four defeats in their opening seven league games have made up their worst-ever start to a top-flight season. A 4-3 Champions League loss at Bayern Munich further dampened the mood.
But each defeat before Saturday came in games against top sides in fixtures that can always go either way on paper.
United have no excuse for losing to Palace on home soil, especially days after cruising past Roy Hodgson’s side 3-0 in the Carabao Cup.
There was an unsettled atmosphere at full-time, similar to when United were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa at Old Trafford near the start of Solskjaer’s final season in charge.
Bruno Fernandes missed a 93rd-minute penalty that day, and Solskjaer lost his job less than two months later.
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In an interview with The Athletic in September, the former United boss admitted that was the game he felt his tenure began to spiral.
He said: “When I looked at the fixtures, it was going to be a deciding period: Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham, and Leicester away.
“Then Chelsea and Arsenal, plus Champions League games. Things went against us. It started with Aston Villa at home [a 1-0 defeat] and a late penalty miss.
“When you have a group, you need everyone to pull in the same direction. When things didn’t go right, you could see certain players and egos come out. We beat Tottenham convincingly 3-0 away, but then we lost two games…”
Ten Hag’s results have been far worse than Solskjaer’s in the build-up to that Palace defeat, so the Dutchman certainly needs his players to pull in the same direction during a similarly crunch upcoming schedule.
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Five of United’s next six games on either side of the October international break are at home against Galatasaray, Brentford, Copenhagen, Manchester City and Newcastle United.
A trip to Sheffield United later this month is the exception, and visits to Fulham and Copenhagen follow the Carabao Cup clash with Newcastle.
Luton Town then visit Old Trafford before another two away fixtures at Everton and Galatasaray.
By that stage, United’s status in the Premier League and Champions League will be far more clear. Ten Hag has credit in the bank, already doing something Solskjaer couldn’t by lifting silverware last season.
But football is a results business, and if the current trend continues throughout the upcoming run, his job security could fall into serious jeopardy.
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