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This was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final attempt, a match from a different time, but it only temporarily postponed the inevitable. The first two goal scorers for Manchester United were Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, whose combined age was just 70 at the time. They emerged victorious with a score of 3-0 against Tottenham, resulting in the dismissal of the declining and struggling manager, Nuno Espirito Santo.
Solskjaer never won another match in charge of United. More than two years later, 30 October 2021 still stands out for another reason: it remains the last time United defeated anyone vaguely resembling a leading team in the Premier League anywhere other than Old Trafford.
On Saturday, they were defeated at St. James’ Park, which was not surprising given the current injury situation of their hosts. In the time that Eddie Howe has been in charge, Newcastle has only lost a few home games in the league, and those were against top teams. Manchester United has been struggling to win against teams aiming for Europa League qualification, let alone the Champions League.
After Solskjaer’s significant win against Tottenham, United have had 17 away games in the Premier League against Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Aston Villa, Newcastle, and Brighton, but have not won any of them. They were also unable to beat Newcastle, who were at the bottom of the league when Howe took over in December 2021. In 2023, they have lost twice to the current team.
In the 17 games so far, only five points have been earned. The performance under Erik Ten Hag has been even worse, with only two points gained. One point was against a Chelsea team predicted to finish in the bottom half, and the other against a Tottenham team led by Ryan Mason. This equates to only two points out of a possible 33.
Ralf Rangnick’s two goals were scored against Newcastle before Howe had the chance to make any additions. The opposing team, coached by Steven Gerrard, was not as intimidating as Unai Emery’s current team. This leaves only one truly impressive result on the road during the post-Solskjaer era: the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge under the leadership of caretaker manager Michael Carrick, who chose to bench Ronaldo.
Solskjaer may feel nostalgic as he reflects on his unbeaten record away from home in the 2020-2021 season, which took place during lockdown. This impressive streak included wins against top teams such as City and Spurs, and a crucial victory against Leicester to secure Champions League qualification. While Rangnick’s struggles cannot be attributed to Ten Hag, his own performance has been disappointing.
Losing 0-7 at Anfield was possibly the lowest point, while their 6-3 loss at Manchester City last year was a kinder result for United, who were trailing 6-1. However, at least they were able to score goals. Currently, they have only scored once in three crucial away matches this season and have failed to score in five of their last seven games. Despite scoring nine goals in their Champions League group, they only have one point to show for it, highlighting their lack of effectiveness in England.
At times, the performance has been terrible. Ten Hag could mention their decent displays at Arsenal in the previous season, but they have been overpowered at the Etihad Stadium, humiliated at Anfield, and performed poorly in their recent visits to St James’ Park.
Ten Hag utilized players that United spent half a billion pounds on during Saturday’s match. However, they were clearly inferior.
Ten Hag could anticipate the question due to their poor record. He didn’t have a clear answer but remained optimistic about overcoming this issue. However, it’s unclear how they will do so. He referred to his team as “resilient” but it’s debatable if that is true. Last season, United showed potential but struggled to secure wins away from home. Currently, they are not performing well.
In any case, there has been a lack of resilience. In the 11 matches, his team has allowed 31 goals. In some games, they were defeated from the beginning, while in others, they were headed for a tie before giving up crucial late goals.
The idea that resilience should come from experienced players, consistent winners, and individuals with strong personalities suggests that Manchester United should have had a diverse group of players over the past 15 months, including David de Gea, Andre Onana, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford. However, there has been a noticeable lack of resilience.
Unfortunately, it could only be hidden for a limited time. Under the guidance of Ten Hag last season, Manchester United showed great performance in three-fourths of their league matches. This includes their games at Old Trafford and those against teams in the bottom half of the table when playing away. Due to a favorable schedule, they were able to reach sixth place and even go to St James’ Park with some luck on their side. However, this is no longer the case as their next five matches (and seven out of the next 10) will be against teams that have the potential to finish in the top half of the standings. This assumes that both Chelsea and West Ham will also secure spots in the upper portion of the table.
The matches they are currently playing are not resulting in wins. Their upcoming game will take place at Anfield, where they suffered a devastating 7-0 loss. This was their worst outcome in 91 years. While a repeat should be preventable, there is not much evidence to suggest that Ten Hag’s team, who have not achieved a positive result since Solskjaer took over as manager, can pull off a victory.