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Talking Tactics: How Ten Hag can halt United's slump after derby drubbing
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Cian Cheesbrough
Erik ten Hag is under pressure as Manchester United boss
Erik ten Hag is under pressure as Manchester United boss

Manchester United's problems were laid bare once again in their dismal derby day defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

The Red Devils were soundly beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford, their seventh defeat in just 14 games in all competitions this season.

Uncertainty over ownership has not helped under-pressure boss Erik ten Hag's cause but that does not make him immune from blame for their slump.

With United looking to return to form against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, we look at the changes the Dutch boss can make to turn around their fortunes.

Instil an identity

A lack of clear playing style is a concerning trait of United under Ten Hag.

Pundit Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports on Sunday: "None of us here can explain what Manchester United try to do in terms of how they play. He has been here now nearly 18 months. 

"They are playing underdog football and they have done since he came in."

United have a favourable run of Premier League fixtures against Fulham, Luton and Everton coming up and Ten Hag should see that as an opportunity to implement a more expansive style.

Settle on a midfield

Manchester United's midfield is failing to function
Manchester United's midfield is failing to function

With the likes of Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, Mason Mount, Sofyan Amrabat and Scott McTominay to choose from, United should be capable of controlling the midfield against most teams.

Yet Ten Hag has still to find the right combination in the engine room — with new signings Amrabat and Mount seemingly complicating things further.

Casemiro has not looked the same player that made such an impact last term, although his combativeness and discipline are attributes shared with Amrabat.

Eriksen was the favoured partner alongside the Moroccan against City but the duo did not complete a single pass to each other during their 45 minutes on the field.

Neither Eriksen or Mount appear able to execute the deeper role, so McTominay sitting further back with Fernandes more advanced seems the most logical choice right now.

Get key forwards firing

Both Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford have failed to catch fire in the Premier League this season and the duo's form could be key to turning things around.

Hojlund has shown plenty of encouraging signs since his £72million arrival but it is not yet translating into goals.

Only four players have missed more big chances (six) than the Danish striker and with the likes of Erling Haaland (11) and Ollie Watkins (10) topping that list, there is reason to suggest the goals will start to flow if Ten Hag stands by his man.

Rashford's struggles appear a more difficult one to solve, with the England forward isolated on the left flank and seemingly devoid of confidence.

A 30-goal striker last season, the boyhood United fan thrived under Ten Hag, who must now find an approach that involves the 26-year-old more and plays to his strengths.

Marcus Rashford is enduring another slump in form in 2023-24
Marcus Rashford is enduring another slump in form in 2023-24

Address captaincy issue

While undoubtedly one of United's brightest players this term, the selection of Fernandes as captain was put back into the spotlight after their derby drubbing.

The Portuguese took over the armband from Harry Maguire in the summer but legendary Red Devils skipper Roy Keane branded him "not captain material" after a lacklustre display against City.

The lack of logical alternatives speaks to a wider issue with recruitment but should also see the 29-year-old keep hold of the armband for now. 

That said, Fernandes could help his manager out by taking a leaf out of Keane's book and showing the leadership that is expected of a United captain. 


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