Manchester United 1-0 Luton Town: Erik ten Hag says Red Devils ‘could have made life easier’

Given the general narrative around Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag, it came as a surprise to discover they are actually in decent form.

In addition, they have also kept consecutive top-flight clean sheets for the first time since the beginning of May.

This is despite a period which has seen them suffer successive 3-0 home defeats by Manchester City and Newcastle, blow a two-goal lead in Copenhagen to leave their Champions League hopes dangling by a thread, and be knocked out of the Carabao Cup.

At times such as these, when the winds of change are swirling around Old Trafford, accentuating the positives can be a valuable approach.

It is something Ten Hag should be stressing to Sir Jim Ratcliffe should, as expected, the Ineos owner be confirmed as a significant, albeit minority, shareholder in United during this month’s international break.

The same is also true of Sir Dave Brailsford, the former British Cycling performance director, who is expected to have an important role no matter what the new structure looks like.

There are clear issues at United.

Injuries continue to be a concern, with Christian Eriksen and Rasmus Hojlund both exiting early and United’s strikers continue to draw blanks.

But, for a couple of weeks, Ten Hag has space to breathe and United have a chance to focus on marking the sad passing of legendary former captain Sir Bobby Charlton on Monday and then the ownership situation.

‘I told them at half-time we are not taking risks’

United’s strikeforce – Marcus Rashford, Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Martial, Antony – has scored one league goal between them so far this season.

Against Luton, Rashford wasted two chances, Hojlund one from inside the six-yard box, and Garnacho one when he elected to take a touch rather than shoot and was closed down by keeper Thomas Kaminski.

“We create many chances and we could have made life easier if we score goals,” said Ten Hag.

“In the first half, I observed four 100% chances. If you get the first, you get the second and it becomes easier.

“I told them at half-time we are not taking risks. If you bring bodies higher on the pitch, the opportunity to score goals is higher. It will come but with those four 100% chances, one has to find the net.”

Injury woes at Old Trafford

Christian Eriksen

United have struggled with injuries all season.

The absences of Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez have robbed Ten Hag of his preferred left-sided defensive option for virtually the entire campaign.

Hojlund arrived from Atalanta with a back injury. Sofyan Amrabat was also injured when he signed from Fiorentina. Mason Mount has had a spell on the sidelines, so too Raphael Varane.

Against Luton, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was ruled out because of illness.

Under the circumstances, Ten Hag could be forgiven for wincing when Eriksen went down in the first half with no-one near him before the same thing happened with Hojlund in the second period, not long after he had been treated for a knock.

“You don’t want to lose any player this is also our season, so many injuries,” said Ten Hag. “We talk about it many times, the routine levels in your team, in the style of play.

“At this moment with Rasmus, I can’t say anything about it because I don’t know. We do an assessment but have to wait for 24 hours to see the conclusion and if there is a problem.

“Christian slipped, but it is the same.”

‘There is a certain point when you have to accept decisions’

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag will be sat in the stands against Everton at Goodison Park in two weeks’ time after receiving a one-match ban for his third booking of the season.

Challenging the award of a throw-in on the halfway line as the game entered stoppage time seemed a silly way to talk himself into a suspension.

Ten Hag was able to see the funny side, pointing out he would not have to fine himself for a breach of club discipline because that only applies to red cards.

However, he accepts he needs to learn a lesson.

“It was so clear,” he said. “I was on top of it and it was obviously our ball. But there is a certain point when you have to accept decisions, and that is what I should do as well.”

How to follow Manchester United on the BBC bannerManchester United banner footer

Adblock test (Why?)