On Sunday, West Ham United’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United shook up the Premier League’s Champions League race. The Hammers moved away from the relegation zone thanks to Said Benrahma’s solo goal. It was a much-needed win for West Ham, who had been winless in their last three games. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s six straight victories brought them within one point of the Red Devils, who are in danger of having their season unravel unless they can regain their consistency.
Manchester United’s hold on the top four appeared secure heading into the new year, but injuries and elimination from the Europa League have put Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge at risk of ending on a sour note if the team’s chemistry can’t be restored. Goalkeeper David de Gea seems to lack confidence in the players in front of him, and the midfield lacks faith in those behind them. To compound matters, de Gea made a costly error on the game’s solitary goal, failing to hold an easy ball as it trickled into the net.
Pervasive Issues Plaguing United
The team’s defensive struggles have been attributed to Harry Maguire, but as the season has progressed, it appears to be more of a chemistry issue. Although Luke Shaw is an international-caliber left-back, playing him at center-back in a back four disrupts his natural game. He can handle speedy strikers, but alongside Victor Lindelof, it creates gaps that opponents can exploit.
On paper, Manchester United’s upcoming matches against Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, and Chelsea shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. However, the pressure of the run-in can change games, and both Wolves and Bournemouth, who are fighting to avoid relegation, have been causing unexpected upsets in their desperate bid for survival. United, meanwhile, are keeping a watchful eye on their rivals as they aim to secure a Champions League spot.
Erik ten Hag is facing a tough situation, and while he may want to make adjustments like Jurgen Klopp, the lack of available players from the academy means that he has few options to shake up the lineup until Alejandro Garnacho returns from injury. The absence of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez has forced ten Hag to field players who he might not otherwise, and it’s starting to affect results. Coaching will be critical at this time, as it’s one thing to change a team’s performance by changing players, but quite another to get different results from the same group.
Pressure Mounting For United’s Coach
If United cannot find a way to achieve the latter, then Erik ten Hag’s promising inaugural season could end in disappointment. Qualifying for the Champions League is essential on multiple levels. Not only does it bring prestige and financial rewards to the squad, but it also creates an expectation of continued success that United cannot afford to ignore.
This is a team that needs to offload players during the summer and look to bring in new ones, particularly in the midfield. However, failing to make the top four could hurt United’s ability to attract top-tier players during the summer transfer window. Despite being linked to players like Harry Kane, United may have to look elsewhere as simply offering Europa League football may not be enough of an incentive to convince them to move to Old Trafford.
Although a few wins could remedy the situation, the Red Devils need them sooner rather than later. If they continue to struggle, it could create a snowball effect that may make it easier for Liverpool to overtake them in the table, a prospect that few would have considered just a few weeks ago.
Manchester United faces a crucial match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on May 13th, as they desperately need a victory to keep their Champions League hopes alive. With their inconsistent form and mounting pressure, this is a must-win match for the Red Devils if they want to secure a top-four finish and compete at the highest level of European football next season.
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