Erik ten Hag must urgently fix Man United’s biggest weakness | OneFootball

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The Peoples Person

·22 September 2023

Erik ten Hag must urgently fix Man United’s biggest weakness

Article image:Erik ten Hag must urgently fix Man United’s biggest weakness

Two battling goals in the dying minutes against Bayern Munich will have saved Casemiro from a barrage of criticism from the media but they are barely papering over the cracks of what has been a dismal start to the 2023/24 campaign for Manchester United’s central midfield.

Casemiro was trolled during pre-season by fans saying he looked overweight and he responded in typically defiant fashion, taking off his shirt to show his six pack after a tour game against Arsenal.

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The Brazilian is now United’s top scorer for the season and was United’s highest ranked player for the Bayern game (source:, but as his season statistics show, his normal bread and butter game – breaking up play – has been sadly lacking so far this term and he has looked to be struggling to keep up the pace.

In the Premier League, 0.6 interceptions per game, 2.6 tackles per game and 2.6 times dribbled past per game are not of the level you’d normally expect. Last season, by contrast, these numbers were 1.2, 3.2 and 1.6, respectively.

Some of the malaise could be put down to starting the season with a new midfield partner in Mason Mount, who pushes forward a lot more than last season’s regular partner, Christian Eriksen, leaving Casemiro outnumbered against some midfield setups. But when Mount got injured and Eriksen returned, the figures did not improve.

Eriksen himself has been in patchy form and his performance against Bayern was one of the worst he has ever put in in a United shirt.

The pair look as if one summer has aged them five years apiece.

After the loss in Germany, pundit Chris Sutton said (on Mailsport via The Mail) “I think Manchester United’s problem area … is that midfield area.

“I just do not think they have the legs and dynamism.

“Manchester United really can only play counter-attack, and that’s their problem.”

The wait for Sofyan Amrabat’s debut for United is made all the more frustrating by the form of the two players who transformed the Red Devils last season and left the old days of “McFred” feeling like a distant memory.

Casemiro is known to start seasons slowly and perhaps the two goals against Bayern will reawaken something in him.

Eriksen’s form could be about confidence, given that despite his superb season last time around, Ten Hag’s first act of the summer was to sign Mount to replace him.

But whatever the reasons, with the incoming pair now approaching fitness and young holding midfielder Kobbie Mainoo also back in training, Ten Hag has options and his priority will surely be to find a combination that will protect his defence better.

United’s defending has been poor so far this season. The campaign started with a clean sheet against Wolves but Ten Hag’s men have since shipped 14 goals in 5 games, for an average of nearly 3 per game.

Onana’s howler against Bayern was one of those and injuries to Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have not helped. Goals were conceded against Arsenal with a makeshift centre back pairing of Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans after Lindelof and Martinez had both been subbed.

But it is clear to the naked eye that whoever is playing in defence, they are not getting the protection from midfield that they enjoyed in 2022/23. This has to be resolved urgently before United’s season is over before it has fully begun.

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