Man United’s capitulation against Liverpool brought back memories of Brentford thrashing

CHRIS WHEELER: Man United’s capitulation against Liverpool brought back memories of their horror defeat against Brentford… the team have a LONG way to go under Erik ten Hag – who must have wanted the Anfield turf to swallow him up

  • There were big similarities between United’s losses to Liverpool and Brentford
  • In both games, the team were run ragged and looked vulnerable in each attack 
  • Erik ten Hag has earned credit since last year but still has a long way to go 

The sight of their team’s spectacular capitulation at Anfield will have brought back traumatic memories for Manchester United fans.

Suddenly they were transported back to Brentford in mid-August and the early, uncertain days of Erik ten Hag’s time as manager.

Just like at Liverpool on Sunday, it felt as though Brentford would score every time they got over the halfway line as they raced into a 4-0 half-time lead and United supporters watched the debacle unfold through their fingers.

Just like at Liverpool, United disintegrated before their eyes and seemed powerless to stop the carnage around them.

There is another worrying comparison between the two games: the total distance of 99.01km run by United’s players at Anfield was the lowest since they clocked 95.6km at Brentford, suggesting that a lack of effort and commitment was once again a contributory factor. United fans who witnessed the second-half horror show on Merseyside are unlikely to disagree.

Just like at Anfield, United looked vulnerable to every attack in a 4-0 loss to Brentford last year

Just like at Anfield, United looked vulnerable to every attack in a 4-0 loss to Brentford last year

The key difference, however, is that Ten Hag has enough credit in the bank now to avoid the bulk of criticism. Questions will be asked of the players again, and rightly so, but the manager is unlikely to face quite the same scrutiny.

Seven months ago at the Gtech Community Stadium, he looked utterly lost as his team were blown away by Brentford, six days after United’s defeat to Brighton in their home opener at Old Trafford.

You feared for Ten Hag then. You feared he had bitten of more than he could chew by leaving a winning team at Ajax to take charge of a basket case of a club. All of a sudden it felt as though United still hadn’t reached rock bottom and anything was possible.

You didn’t know then what we know now. That the next game – ironically against Liverpool – would signal the start of an upward curve that brought United to Merseyside on Sunday fresh from winning the Carabao Cup and still competing on another three fronts.

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A week after dancing on the Wembley turf, Ten Hag must have wanted the green grass of Anfield to swallow him up, such was the evisceration of his team in a 7-0 defeat.

It was as if the confidence, team spirit and momentum built up steadily since Brentford had been stripped away in the space of 45 minutes.

Erik ten Hag has earned credit since the Brentford debacle - but still has a long way to go

Erik ten Hag has earned credit since the Brentford debacle – but still has a long way to go

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The only good to come out of this humiliation is that it provides evidence that the squad must be improved in the summer

No-one was kidding themselves that he has provided a permanent solution for all United’s problems, but it felt as though the cracks he has papered over so methodically since the summer re-opened one by one before his eyes. Key players like David de Gea, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford went missing.

For now, the emphasis will be on trying to get back on track for Thursday’s Europa League last 16 clash against Real Betis at Old Trafford. To write this off as a freak result that has effectively ended United’s faint title hopes but nothing more than that.

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Looking further ahead, it may actually work to Ten Hag’s advantage. At times recently, it felt that he has indeed performed a minor miracle by turning United into a team capable of winning a quadruple. Many inside the club were uncomfortable with the growing levels of expectation.

Sunday’s record defeat was a painful reminder that United still have a long way to go, both this season and beyond. Any thoughts that they are even close to the finished product were ruthlessly blown away at Anfield.

When Ten Hag goes to his employers – be it the Glazers or new owners – looking to strengthen his squad over the next few months, he can point to the brutal manner of Sunday’s humiliation as evidence that there is still a long way to go in the process.

In that sense only, some good may come out of an excruciating day at Anfield.

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