Premier League icons Manchester United are once again in the midst of a difficult opening period of the season under Erik ten Hag after the Red Devils taste defeat at the hands of Roberto De Zerbi’s high-flying Brighton.
Former United striker Danny Welbeck was among the goalscorers at Old Trafford this afternoon when the Seagulls bagged three straight goals on either side of the half-time interval before United youngster Hannibal Mejbri found a consolation goal as a second-half substitute in what was Ten Hag’s third loss of the 2023-24 Premier League season in the opening five fixtures.
That unfortunate run of results set a new club record in the Premier League era, with the Dutch tactician presiding over a United side that has lost three of its first five outings for the first time in its history since the rebranding of the English top-flight.
Last season saw a similarly rough start to the campaign for the former Ajax Amsterdam boss when United stumbled out of the gate before ultimately finishing the season third to net Champions League football, but after another summer of considerable spending, and the manager fully bedding into the club, questions will surely be asked surrounding poor early season form.
It is the latest in a string of frustrating events that have taken hold at the Theatre of Dreams so far since the start of the season, with Ten Hag regularly suggesting that United are both performing well while also being hard done by officiating on the pitch, particularly during the loss against bitter rivals Arsenal.
The complete breakdown between the manager and Jadon Sancho has no doubt added fuel to the fire as well, while Brazilian international Antony is now being kept away from senior duties in the wake of allegations of assault by his former partner and will remain away from the first-team indefinitely as investigations are ongoing.
Thus far, United have failed to extract any points against top-six rivals Arsenal, Tottenham, and Brighton. Despite wins against Wolves and Nottingham Forest, the Red Devils were hardly the out-and-out better side in either of those outings, with PMGOL having admitted an error that would have given Wolves a chance to secure a late equalizer from the penalty spot.
Though there is still plenty of football left for Ten Hag to get United firing just as he did last season, but his inability to hit the ground running is likely to once again cost the club a chance to challenge on the domestic front.