I’M TO BLAME
As United crash to ANOTHER humiliating defeat at home by Bournemouth, under-pressure boss Ten Hag admits…
By Chris Wheeler AT OLD TRAFFORD
ERIK TEN HAG accepted the blame for Manchester United’s latest shocking defeat, and admitted his players are not good enough to perform on a consistent basis.
United lost for the 11th time in 23 games this season, as Bournemouth ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at a stunned Old Trafford.
Ten Hag’s side were punished for another slow start, once again showing the worst side of their game, three days after outplaying Chelsea.
‘I think we have to always be ready for the game, and so I have to take the responsibility for that,’ the United manager said. ‘I have to prepare the team so they are ready for the game.
‘From my point of view, I’m very disappointed the way we started. Annoyed, definitely. I expected something different.
‘I hoped before the game that we could build on the performance and result from Chelsea, so it’s very disappointing.
‘We are really inconsistent. We have the abilities to do it, but you have to do it every game and every third day.
‘As a group, we have to improve and get tougher. We have to be ready for the game from the start. In this league, if you are not playing on the highest levels, you get killed.
‘You have to start right and 100 per cent focused. It can’t happen that the opponent is more eager than you are. You can’t make such mistakes at this level, opponents will take benefit from it. You can’t switch off and that’s what happened. We have to work on that if we want to be successful. If you want to reach the targets you’ve set, you have to be consistent.
‘I understand the fans’ disappointment and frustration. We are as well because we should do better. We have to show it every game and not with such big difference in levels.’
Captain Bruno Fernandes admitted that United simply couldn’t match Bournemouth’s intensity. The Portugal star’s frustration got the better of him at the end when he picked up a booking for dissent, which will see him suspended for next weekend’s clash with Liverpool at Anfield.
‘They were more intense than us. They
IF THIS is the right direction Erik ten Hag keeps talking about, then God help Manchester United if they ever take a wrong turn. A week after it felt as if United couldn’t play any worse in the defeat at Newcastle, they managed it at a rain-swept Old Trafford yesterday, although that perhaps doesn’t do justice to an outstanding Bournemouth performance.
In between, Ten Hag’s side outplayed Chelsea here in midweek. Inconsistent hardly begins to describe them.
Just which Manchester United turn up for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League tie against Bayern Munich and the perilous trip to Anfield next week is anyone’s guess.
If it’s anything like this one then Ten Hag is in even bigger trouble than we think.
Somewhere, Sir Jim Ratcliffe was watching this horror show unfold as he prepares to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on his £1.25billion investment.
What must Ratcliffe and his Ineos advisers make of this utterly shambolic performance? What must they think of these overpaid and under-achieving stars?
And how do they judge a coach who clearly hasn’t got a clue what kind of a performance he will get from his team from one game to the next?
United went to Newcastle as the form team in the Premier League and had their pants pulled down. They started this one with an opportunity to go level with Manchester City on points, having just swept the November awards for manager, player and goal of the month, yet once again found a way to fall flat on their faces.
‘Consistently inconsistent! An abysmal result,’ Gary Neville posted on social media, summing up the infuriating nature of his old club this season.
Ten Hag manfully accepted responsibility for United’s 11th defeat in their opening 23 games, but once again it was the players who let him down so badly.
He can’t keep making excuses for them, and certainly not for a performance as rank as this one.
It felt like that notoriously leaky roof had fallen in on Old Trafford. When substitute Dango Ouattara looked to have scored a fourth goal in stoppage time, you honestly feared if Ten Hag would survive until the Bayern game on Tuesday.
It was chalked off for handball, as was Marcus Tavernier’s header for offside in the first half. Dominic Solanke hit the post.
Make no mistake, this could have been worse and it would not have flattered Andoni Iraola’s side either.
They were excellent from start to finish. Everything United weren’t. Smarter, hungrier and more clinical when it mattered.
Their fourth win in the last five games was also the club’s first ever victory at Old Trafford.
It will never match their famous FA Cup victory over United at Dean Court in January 1984 when Harry Redknapp’s side were struggling towards the bottom of the old Third
Division, but their fans won’t forget this one in a hurry.
Nor will Iraola, who ranks his Europa League victory with Athletic Bilbao here in 2012 as the highlight of his playing career.
It was hard to believe how easily Bournemouth held United at arm’s length.
Ten Hag’s side had 20 shots but 12 were blocked and only three were
on target. Only one of them, Harry Maguire’s looping header from Sergio Reguilon’s cross in the first half, caused goalkeeper Neto any inconvenience at all.
United were already behind by then and it had been coming even before Solanke put Bournemouth ahead in the fifth minute.
Slow starts have been a problem for Ten Hag all season.
They have now gone behind in half of their games in the Premier League and conceded the opening goal nine times in all competitions at Old Trafford.
They were at it again here having played several sloppy passes before Bruno Fernandes attempted another one to Scott McTominay. Lewis Cook got to the ball first with a burst of acceleration that took him in front of McTominay and beyond United’s back four in the same movement.
Cook crossed low for Solanke, who had found space in between Maguire and Luke Shaw, and he beat Andre Onana with a lovely flick.
Solanke and Cook were the pick of a very good Bournemouth bunch.
The striker proved a real handful for United’s defence, bullying them at times and then dropping deep to give their midfielders a taste of the same medicine. Cook got to the ball first time and again.
United were so bad that when Maguire intercepted on the edge of his box before half-time, it was greeted like a goal.
The home fans were cheering again within 11 minutes of the restart when Ten Hag decided he had seen enough — or not enough — from Anthony Martial and hooked the Frenchman in favour of Rasmus Hojlund.
It was hard to say which part of that switch pleased the fans the most. Yes, Martial was his old infuriating self again, but he wasn’t alone.
United continued to labour and were floored by a second Bournemouth goal in the 68th minute. This time, Shaw’s aimless pass was intercepted and Solanke fed Tavernier on the left.
He crossed towards the edge of the six-yard box where 6ft 4in substitute Philip Billing was always favourite to beat Shaw and Reguilon to head home.
Within five minutes it was three. Tavernier swung in a corner from the right and no one was picking up Marcos Senesi as he planted a header into the back of the net from 10 yards.
The goal was met by a chorus of boos from the United fans as Ten Hag stood scowling on the touchline.
If United can’t beat Bournemouth then what chance Bayern? On the evidence of such an erratic season, you actually wouldn’t put it past them.
But the prospect of a Champions League exit on Tuesday and going to Anfield on Sunday, where Ten Hag lost 7-0 last season and without captain Bruno Fernandes after he was booked for dissent here, is almost too awful to contemplate.
With Ratcliffe’s arrival just around the corner, the United manager has every right to feel nervous.
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