If Erik ten Hag was under any allusion how difficult the job would be to make Manchester United elite again, the shockingly bad performance at home to Brighton illustrated the many issues that this team has.
In his first line-up, ETH made the same mistakes that previous United managers have made. His back four included Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, two defenders unable to play a high line because they read the game to poorly.
Compounding that error, ETH went with a McFred pivot in midfield. United have been crying out for a top CDM for seasons now, but manager after manager has persisted with Fred and Scott McTominay. Two players who are not good enough to play for a top team. Which is maybe why they keep getting in the United line-up?
With an injured Martial and an unfit Ronaldo, ETH went with a false nine in the first half, which went as well as when United tried this formation in the Manchester Derby last season.
It’s very early in ETH but this is a big week for him. Does he drop Maguire and Shaw and being in Varane and Malaciaat? He has wanted a CDM all summer, do United finally land Frenkie de Jong this week, or do they move and secure Fabian Ruiz? Either way he cannot persist with McFred.
Up front it is clear that United are short at least one striker. Get Antony from Ajax and give themselves some options up front that are not academy players.
In his post-match press conference, ten Hag was not pleased with the errors that his team made, and hopes it will be a learning experience for United.
‘We made mistakes on the ball and organisation mistakes in defending,’ ten Hag said. ‘We have to take the lessons and learn quickly from it.
‘Brighton are a decent team, all the compliments, but I look to my team and we should not give two easy goals away.’
The 52-year-old was despondent with the team’s performance, but spotted promising signs in the later stages of the match.
‘Of course definitely a setback and real disappointment,’ ten Hag fumed. ‘I knew from the start it would not be easy.
‘It is clear to see the second half we were better in midfield with [Christian] Eriksen down and [Cristiano] Ronaldo up. We created and [Marcus] Rashford had two good chances, it is a shame we did not score.
‘I am not satisfied, totally not. We lost and it was not necessary. We should do better.’