ERIK TEN HAG’s first game as Manchester United manager did not go according to plan.
The Dutchman left Ajax as soon as last season ended in order to work in the Red Devils squad as soon as possible.
But after the 2-1 defeat by Brighton, his big plans have yet to materialize.
United were just as open and easy to play through as they were under Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
There was next to no improvement from last season when the club plummeted to their worst-ever Premier League total.
Now less than two months into his time at the club, Ten Hag faces his first big challenge to motivate the players as they prepare to face Brentford.
But what can he do differently?
Well he has no new players to choose from after another absurd week on the transfer market.
A shock offer for Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic was rejected last Sunday before United pulled out of negotiations after backlash from disaffected fans.
They are also targeting bad boy Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot – another questionable move given his volatile form for club and country.
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Despite Juventus accepting a £15m fee, which rose to £20m, United have still been unable to agree any personal terms with the Frenchman.
As a result, Ten Hag have exactly the same players who lost to Brighton six days ago.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll compete with the same team – far from it.
Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to return after being benched last weekend.
The Portuguese superstar played just 45 minutes in pre-season as speculation arose over a potential exit from the club.
And while his future remains up in the air, his reserve game against Brighton and a week of ‘hard work’ at the training ground will see him replace Christian Eriksen at the head of United’s attack.
At the other end of the field, club legend Rio Ferdinand demanded that Lisandro Martinez be deployed in central midfield while Raphael Varane returned to partner captain Harry Maguire.
He then wants Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes to either side of Martinez in a midfield threesome – a move that would see both Scott McTominay and Fred fall.
However, that seems an unlikely formation, especially given that Martinez has not played a competitive game in midfield since January 2020.
Alternatively, Ten Hag could still detract from the McFred midfield pairing by playing Eriksen and Donny van de Beek on either side of the Brazilian.
Other changes could see new boy Tyrell Malacia stepping in for Luke Shaw at left-back.
And then Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho up front will hope they can keep their places on the flanks.
But both are at risk of being dropped after poor performances against Brighton.
Rashford is more likely to be absent as Fernandes could be preferred to him on the left – depending on how midfield develops.
Regardless of the starting XI, United know there is a tough task ahead on the journey to Brentford Community Stadium.
Thomas Frank’s men showed tremendous courage and determination to bounce back from two goals down and earn a 2-2 draw with Leicester at the King Power Stadium last weekend.
Along with champions Manchester City, United were the only other top six side to manage the double against Brentford last season.
The Bees put in some outstanding performances against the tougher opponents – beating Arsenal and Chelsea on their way to survival in the Premier League.
And the pressure is on United to hit the bull’s eye after the embarrassment at Brighton… or Ten Hag could find themselves in the Heat ahead of August’s exit.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5990866/erik-ten-hag-man-utd-cristiano-ronaldo-brentford-preview/ Erik ten Hag stuck on Man Utd flops lost to Brighton So how does he get Ronaldo & Co to fire against Brentford?