Joleon Lescott column: Liverpool could be like Ten Hag's worst nightmare
Things are going from bad to worse at Manchester United and a visit from a wounded Liverpool side is the last thing Erik ten Hag needs.
Though I predicted the Red Devils to get turned over by Brentford in last week’s column, the manner of the defeat was far worse than I anticipated.
I’ve seen plenty of suggestions this week regarding dropping senior players and picking youngsters to freshen things up — but how does that help the long-term plan?
Teething problems are inevitable. It’s a new manager with a new way of playing and players who aren’t used to his style, so these first few weeks are effectively a training period.
United are not going to be relegated, so I don’t think there’s a need to be reactive to results — though there comes a time where Ten Hag may question if individuals are up to what he’s demanding of them.
For example, if you’re playing out from the back, distribution must be a strength of your goalkeeper and backline or else it’s going to cause more negatives than positives.
What the manager must do is quickly assess in these first few weeks whether certain players can get up to where he needs them to be — and if not, react accordingly.
That could mean bringing in new players but it may also require Ten Hag to refine his tactics a little. Only time will tell.
Confidence is a huge factor, too. When confidence is low, your eye for a pass isn’t as sharp. Your touch may be a bit loose. Mistakes inevitably happen.
Facing Liverpool is always an intense occasion for Manchester United and whoever makes that first mistake on Monday night is going to face a strong test of their character.
No panic for Reds
Jurgen Klopp will be frustrated to only have two points on the board but Liverpool were a bit unlucky against Crystal Palace, so there’s no need to panic.
We all know the Reds are capable of winning at Old Trafford and going on a 10-match win streak — though they’ll have to start it without the suspended Darwin Nunez.
It was certainly naive for the Uruguayan to react in the way that he did. But we must remember this is a 23-year-old who has just undergone a massive period of change in his life.
He knows he let his team-mates down and the fact they dropped points will hurt him even more. I know the feeling all too well, having received a few red cards early in my career.
You learn from these things and he now has to expect opposition defenders to employ similar tactics to what Joachim Andersen did — and rise above it.
A trip to Old Trafford looks the perfect way for the Merseysiders to get their season up and running given their track record of handling the occasion.
It’s now eight league meetings between the pair without defeat for Liverpool, which speaks volumes about the strong characters inside that dressing room.
Time for my Matchday 3 predictions.
Joleon Lescott’s Matchday 3 Premier League predictions
Tottenham vs Wolves (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport)
I said what a big game it was for Spurs going to Chelsea last weekend and that late equaliser will have felt like a win for them.
For whatever reason, Wolves continue to struggle for goals and this trip to North London looks a tricky one.
I hate going against my former club but this looks like a home win to me.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Wolves
Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa (Saturday, 3pm)
Palace and Villa supporters will both view this as a winnable game.
The Eagles look in a slightly better place at the moment to me — my old mate Patrick Vieira has them really well drilled.
Another one that could go either way but let’s try a home win.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Aston Villa
Everton vs Nottingham Forest (Saturday, 3pm)
What a massive game for Everton, entertaining a Forest side who arrive off the back of a fantastic victory against West Ham.
Although they have ambitions of kicking on, I think Toffees fans are realistic and know another long season could be in store for them.
The fans can play a crucial role for them at home, however, and they can edge this one.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Nottingham Forest
Fulham vs Brentford (Saturday, 3pm)
Here we have two teams who play entertaining football and will be full of confidence off the back of recent results.
It’s an interesting clash of styles as well — and I fancy Fulham to take the three points on home turf.
They seem to have much more of a plan this time around, rather than just trying to buy their way to safety.
Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Brentford
Leicester vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)
This is a tight contest which could go either way, with both teams making quite slow starts.
Normally I’d fancy Leicester to have too much for Southampton but with all that’s going on around both clubs, I’m leaning the other way.
Saints just feel a little bit more settled at this moment in time — the transfer speculation won’t be helping Leicester either.
Prediction: Leicester 0-1 Southampton
Bournemouth vs Arsenal (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Bournemouth had a tough time of it against Manchester City and this looks like another stern test for Scott Parker’s men.
Arsenal have been really impressive in their opening two games and Gabriel Jesus already looks like potentially the signing of the season.
Given it’s away, I wouldn’t be that surprised at a draw but you can’t oppose the Gunners at the moment.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal
West Ham vs Brighton (Sunday, 2pm)
These are two sides who will quite rightfully be targeting a tilt at European qualification, though it’s not been a great start for the Hammers.
David Moyes will want to get some points on the board as quickly as possible but Brighton are tricky opponents to face when on a good run.
There won’t be much in it but I fancy Moyesy’s men to find a way.
Prediction: West Ham 1-0 Brighton
Leeds vs Chelsea (Sunday, 2pm, Sky Sports)
Leeds will be really pleased with their start and I think Jesse Marsch is proving himself to be a really sound tactician.
However, the American will face another fine tactical mind in Thomas Tuchel on Sunday — someone who I have a lot of respect for as a coach.
Comparing the two squads, you’d think Chelsea’s quality will shine through at Elland Road.
Prediction: Leeds 1-3 Chelsea
Newcastle vs Manchester City (Sunday, 4.30pm, Sky Sports)
Newcastle will fancy themselves to cause the champions a few problems in front of what will be a rowdy home crowd on Tyneside.
It’s an unbelievable atmosphere up there when things are going well and City will need to be on their game from the first whistle.
That said, I’m still expecting a strong performance from the visitors and they should take three points.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City
Manchester United vs Liverpool (Monday, 8pm, Sky Sports)
It’s such a difficult game for United because I don’t think they can afford to approach it in a conservative style — and I don’t think Ten Hag has that mindset anyway.
They need to try and get the fans buying into the new philosophy. But the more open and expansive they try to play, the more spaces they will leave for Liverpool to exploit.
I can only see a comfortable away victory.
Prediction: Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool
Joleon Lescott was speaking to Matthew Hill