‘Bigger picture very good’ – Ten Hag upbeat despite ‘uncertain’ future

24 February 2024 0 By Total Football News

Bruno FernandesManchester United have lost eight home games in all competitions this season – their most in a single campaign since 1973-74

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag insists the future is positive despite losing at home to Fulham for only the second time in 61 years.

The 2-1 defeat was United’s 10th loss in the Premier League this season.

To put that into context, Sir Alex Ferguson never experienced the ignominy of 10 league losses in 21 Premier League campaigns. It has now happened to United five times in the past 11 seasons.

They are now eight points adrift of fourth-placed Aston Villa, even though they have done the double over Unai Emery’s men.

Although the home side had more possession, corners, shots and shots on target at Old Trafford on Saturday, most observers would have agreed with Fulham boss Marco Silva’s concise summary: “It is clear in my opinion, the better team won the game.”

But, in the week when Sir Jim Ratcliffe had his co-ownership of United confirmed, talked of knocking Manchester City and Liverpool off their perch and the importance of Champions League qualification, Ten Hag came up with an alternative narrative.

“After one defeat you have to see the bigger picture – and the bigger picture looks very good,” said the Dutchman.

Ten Hag’s reasoning is threefold.

Firstly, he needs his injured players back. The United boss bemoaned the loss of influential midfielder Casemiro, who suffered a hefty bang on the head when the game was still goalless. With Rasmus Hojlund, Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez already out, it was a blow United could ill-afford.

Ten Hag can also see the promise of Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo and Omari Forson, who was defended by his manager after failing to spark on his full debut: “I thought it was a reasonable performance.”

And then there is the transfer window, even though Ratcliffe mentioned earlier in the week that without Champions League qualification, finances in the summer will be tight.

“When we get the injuries back we will be more in balance in the team,” said Ten Hag. “We also need to strengthen the squad in the transfer windows and then there are many good players, with high potential coming up.

“Definitely we are going in the right direction. So when everyone is available we have a very good team.”

Pressure on FA Cup tie before City meeting

Analysis – Simon Stone, BBC Sport

United can now add Fulham to Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest as unheralded clubs on a fraction of their budget whom they have been beaten by this season.

Next weekend they go to Manchester City. Few would be confident of United avoiding an 11th defeat of the league season at the Etihad Stadium.

They also still have to face Liverpool and Arsenal at Old Trafford later in the campaign, which evidently makes Champions League qualification significantly harder, even if five places end up being on offer.

That puts even more focus on the midweek FA Cup fifth-round trip to Forest.

Famously, it was a win at the City Ground in 1990 that sparked the run to Wembley which kept an under-pressure Ferguson in a job and paved the way to more than two decades of sustained success.

For all Ratcliffe’s bold words, United’s ambitions at present are significantly more modest. For Ten Hag, the “bigger picture” is uncertain.

It cannot be known at this point whether victory or defeat by the Trent will make or break Ten Hag’s reign. But at the very least, the looming encounter with Pep Guardiola could be approached from a far more solid base if United still had a chance of winning something.

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