Manchester United employed a foolish tactical approach in the first game of the season and got away with it just about. And now the club’s decisions are being called into question.
The national media should have had to put lines like Bart Simpson on a whiteboard after last season: “Don’t overreact to the first two games.” Don’t overreact to the first two games, and so on.”
Because, following United’s disappointing performance early on, every action is being scrutinized. Consider what would happen if we were defeated.
A case in point is a piece in The Times by Martin Samuel, who blames United’s recruitment policy for the club appearing ‘off the pace’ in the first game. We should have signed Declan Rice and Harry Kane, according to reports.
‘Declan Rice’s family desired a move to Manchester United.’
According to Samuel’s editorial in The Times, ‘Erik ten Hag is to blame’ for Manchester United looking ‘a rung below the others’.
There is no mention of Ten Hag taking over a club on its knees in June 2022 and leading it to a trophy, a cup final, and Champions League qualification in his first season.
And after just one game in the 2023/24 season, he’s ready to write United out. Perhaps he is correct, but there are 37 games left to prove him incorrect, and three points are already in the bag.
In arguing that United’s recruitment is flawed, Samuel cites Declan Rice, who joined Arsenal last summer for a club record fee of about £105 million, one of the top ten transfer fees of all time.
He believes Rice was interested in joining United last summer and that a deal was in the works with West Ham.
According to the source, “there was always a chance of doing business, even for a player of Kane’s stature.” Rice was in the same boat. His family was quite hopeful of a Manchester United move last summer, and we now know he had a price.”
United had an option last summer, and they chose Casemiro over Declan Rice. The Brazilian was £60 million rather than £100 million or more.
Bringing in a five-time Champions League winner was a wise approach. The issue is that United currently expects him to win the midfield battle on his own. Declan Rice would have been in the same situation on Monday night if he had been Erik ten Hag’s lone isolated defensive midfielder.
Last summer, United had a lot to do on the market. It was not planned to spend £100 million on a single player. Rice may have cost £10-20 million more since he has two years left on his contract in 2022.
In his column, Samuel questions whether United should have pursued Kane and Rice this summer. Perhaps. It would improve the Red Devils at a significant expense. However, the club’s transfer window is not yet over.
More transactions are in the works, and United must sell in order to buy this summer. If Kane or Rice had been signed, there would have been no new goalie. Ten Hag has had to make choices.
The media was just waiting to pounce, and if United loses to Spurs this Saturday, the pressure will mount. But it won’t make a difference. The transfer window is not yet closed; there is still work to be done. After that, with a few more games under our belts, we’ll be able to properly evaluate United’s decisions.
When September arrives, United will pay a visit to Arsenal and Declan Rice in his new home.
United will be without injured wonderkid Kobbie Mainoo for that game. But, after seeing his preseason performance versus Rice, you have to wonder how much that played into Ten Hag’s long-term plans.
The manager is thinking long term. He is not attempting to make popular selections in order to achieve short-term success. We’ve seen that method fail previously at Old Trafford.