LONDON. — Sunday was supposed to herald a new dawn in the life and times of Manchester United Football Club — and in many ways, it did.
After all, United have probably never had a day where one of their most iconic players was booed by the crowd, fans fought among themselves in the stands while others protested outside at the club’s ownership, and they were linked to another past-it forward as they crashed to a first ever defeat at home to Brighton. Pretty groundbreaking.
Instead of providing the basis for a bold new era under Erik ten Hag, it was a day that only served to expose the deep-rooted problems that exist at the heart of a club still searching for its soul long after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
A day that should have drawn a line under the ill-fated reigns of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick ended up being anything but as United struggled for identity on and off the pitch.
There was much to discuss about United on Sunday, but let’s start with the result – a woeful 2-1 defeat to Brighton. Ten Hag will need time to instil his ideas on a team whose identity over the last nine years has been under-performance and under-achievement.
But the deployment of Christian Eriksen as a false nine and a nightmare Old Trafford debut for Lisandro Martinez certainly didn’t help to get the doubters on side. It’s early days, but it already looks fair to question whether the 24-year-old is really worth the £50million United shelled out for him.
The Red Devils looked shaky at the back, hopeless in midfield and toothless up front. All of the problems that existed before Ten Hag remain – including Cristiano Ronaldo.
What does it say for a club whose fans, arguably rightfully, boo one of their greatest ever players? The disdain with which Ronaldo has treated United over the summer understandably rankles with supporters. Yet he is still there, still picking up a wage and no doubt still thinks it is all about him. He is the spectre at the feast.
Fergie wouldn’t have stood for what has gone on this summer. And if Ten Hag wants to earn some credibility early doors, he needs to lance the Ronaldo-shaped boil that is looming over United’s season.
Remarkably, on-pitch events served as a mere aperitif to the other issues that the 13-time Premier League champions faced yesterday.
As the Red Devils fell to a 2-1 defeat, some of those watching on decided to fight among themselves in Old Trafford’s south stand. If ever a scene perfectly captured the disharmony at the heart of the club, this was it.
That disharmony was also felt before the game as supporters continued their protests against Glazer family’s ownership of the club. — The Daily Star.