Man United are in disarray ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford, so why has their start to the season gone so horribly wrong?
With kickoff edging closer, we spoke to long-suffering United fan Alex Turk (@AlexCTurk) to get his thoughts ahead of the biggest fixture in English football.
Come on then – how bad is it at Man United at the moment?
It’s hard to say, in all honesty. It’s nothing compared to the numb feeling of last season, which Liverpool took full advantage of in both fixtures.
There’s a sense of frustration with our opening two games, especially after such a positive pre-season, but there’s also a widespread understanding that Erik ten Hag wasn’t going to turn Man United’s worst-ever side into world-beaters overnight.
This will be a long process and it was always going to get worse before it got better.
I wouldn’t say Ten Hag has a free pass, but it was always going to be a tough season, especially after little to no backing in the transfer window before the campaign started.
Things seemed more positive in pre-season, so what has gone wrong since then?
I wouldn’t say anything has gone particularly wrong. Pre-season is never a good indicator of what’s to come – that was proven under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
Level-headed fans knew what to expect, considering Ten Hag started the season with just one new face in the side.
But I can’t deny it has been massively disappointing. It was always going to take time to adjust under Ten Hag, but the Brentford game was shocking and it mainly came from individual mistakes.
It won’t get better until he has time to instil his philosophy into the current players, but more importantly, until he is able to recruit and shape his own squad.
It was far from plain sailing for Liverpool in Klopp’s first season in charge, and as painful as it is to admit, I hope to see Ten Hag’s reign follow a similar trajectory.
Whether that’s possible with the current ownership in place remains to be seen.
How big an issue is Ronaldo and his situation in general?
It was exhaustive seeing so many – mainly those with connections to rival clubs – labelling Cristiano Ronaldo the problem in a failing team with no vision last season.
He was far from it, but the ironic thing is that he is a problem now.
Ten Hag’s style is so detailed and it starts from both the most advanced striker and goalkeeper. Ronaldo can’t press. That’s that.
But he made his desire to leave known at a horrendous time – months after it was clear United wouldn’t be playing Champions League football this season – and the circus surrounding his future to follow wouldn’t have helped Ten Hag in the slightest.
If a suitable offer arrives, United must facilitate his exit.
Looking ahead to Monday, do you think Ten Hag will go with a more pragmatic approach?
I think he has to. Liverpool haven’t exactly been as daunting as in past seasons in their opening two games, but the threat is always there and it feels like any team is capable of putting four past United at the moment.
Five at the back isn’t likely on the agenda, but don’t expect a midfield featuring both Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen.
Sadly, with Casemiro not arriving in time, there will be no repeat of his Champions League final masterclass.
We’ll have to settle for McFred…hopefully for the final time (on a regular basis anyway).
How do you expect United to line up at Old Trafford?
I’d love to say there’ll be mass change across the board, but United simply don’t have the depth to do it.
Ten Hag has never been one to heavily rotate in league games either, no matter how bad it’s going, but I think there will be big changes.
Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo all to drop out.
My predicted XI: De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Eriksen, Rashford; Martial.
As for Liverpool, is this a tiny blip or something more than that?
I wouldn’t even call it a blip, to be honest.
I’m not as blinded by bias to fail to see that Liverpool are dealing with bad injury problems right now.
It could click at any point, and honestly, if there’s any team you’d want to play right now to get back in the groove, it’s United.
Where do you think both teams will end up finishing this season?
I actually predicted Liverpool to win the league before the season began but now I’m not so sure.
Man City look formidable and it’s difficult to see them dropping points in the fashion Liverpool have so far. I still back your lot to be comfortable runners-up at the very least.
As for United, I didn’t expect anything more than sixth at the start of the season.
Unsurprisingly, I still don’t expect anything more than sixth now. I hope to be proven wrong, and maybe my stance will have changed when we speak again next year.
Top five, big gap, dogfight for sixth. Sadly.
Finally, what’s your prediction for Monday’s game?
I’ll be in the Stretford End, 13 rows from the pitch, once again, and I’d take anything less than how demoralised I felt walking out of Old Trafford after this fixture last season.
I’d hope United show a bit of fight to respond to that mauling at Brentford. A match under the lights always brings out the best atmosphere, too.
But United must start well. With the Glazer protests expected before, during and after, emotions will be high and it could get ugly on the pitch and off it if Liverpool fly out of the blocks.
I expect to see an improved performance, but I can’t see how we take three points here. Three out of three in the ‘L’ column.
Man United 1-2 Liverpool.