Manchester United have had a mixed start to the season.
While there have been some improvements in structure and organisation, technical ability and decision-making have ultimately let Erik ten Hag down in certain games.
After the opening two defeats to Brighton and Brentford, Ten Hag reverted to a more pragmatic approach in the next games.
United are used to playing on the back foot.
Their success under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has mainly been with a counter-attacking style of play.
Beating Liverpool and Arsenal at Old Trafford was not very surprising. Fans have seen this side ‘smash and grab’ results in previous years.
However, this is not in sync with Ten Hag’s footballing principles.
The Athletic’s Carl Anka highlights how the United boss has to choose between philosophy and pragmatism.
“A chastening loss to Manchester City on Sunday provides another checkpoint for the United manager: does he again embark on a streak of pragmatic changes or stick with his initial tactical plan?”
“Sunday’s 6-3 defeat came from United’s poor execution of an ambitious — if naive — game plan. ”
The Dutch coach probably expected a bit too much from a side that lacks the tactical intelligence to follow his plan.
The midfield was where the derby was truly lost. Christian Eriksen did not have the defensive awareness to track his runners, and Scott McTominay was bypassed entirely by the skilful Man City players.
The midfield was a short-term fix which worked for a few games but ultimately lost out to a champion side.
“Eriksen, who has been an attacking boon to United, found himself a defensive liability, unable to track the multiple runners from City’s midfield for the first goal and being outmatched by Haaland on a corner for the second.”
Ten Hag will likely tweak his tactics to accommodate the existing United players and get the best possible results.
For the Dutchman to implement his philosophy, it will take time, and fans must be patient.