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Ten Hag treading dangerously ahead of crunch Euro test

Updated: 2023-12-12 10:29
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Manchester United's future in this season's Champions League hangs by a thread ahead of Bayern Munich's visit to Old Trafford, with an early exit in Europe sure to put more scrutiny on manager Erik ten Hag.

The Dutchman tried to argue after victory over Chelsea last week that United's season has not reached crisis mode.

But Ten Hag's hopes that a turning point had been reached were short-lived as a 3-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday saw a troubled campaign reach a new low.

The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League after seven defeats in their opening 16 games.

Yet, while there may be time to recover a place in the top four domestically, their need in the Champions League is urgent.

Only victory against the German champion on Tuesday will give United any chance of progress to the last 16, and even then it needs FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray to draw in their final Group A match.

United is fortunate to even have a shot at the knockout stages after a return of just four points from its opening five matches.

No English side has ever conceded as many as the 14 goals that Ten Hag's men have in five Champions League group games.

A series of high-scoring shootouts in Europe contrasts sharply with United's troubles to score goals in the Premier League.

"We are really inconsistent. We have the abilities to do it, but you have to do it every game and every third day," said Ten Hag after Bournemouth celebrated its first ever win at Old Trafford.

"I think as a squad we are not good enough to be consistent and we have to work as a squad to improve that."

Rashford in reverse

No United forward has scored at home in the Premier League all season as Marcus Rashford's struggles in front of goal have contributed to his side's slump.

Rashford scored 30 times in a career-best campaign for goals last season but has just two so far this season — one of which came from the penalty spot.

The England international has exhausted Ten Hag's patience and been dropped for the last two games.

But Rashford could return against Bayern as his understudies have also struggled to shine.

Alejandro Garnacho has produced flashes of brilliance, though remains wildly inconsistent as can be expected for a 19-year-old winger.

Meanwhile Antony, who Ten Hag pushed to sign in an 86 million pound ($108 million) deal, has not scored in his last 25 matches.

The Brazilian is just one of a long list of expensive flops that have seen United's fortunes decline in a decade since Alex Ferguson departed as manager.

Last weekend's loss to Bournemouth was the 35th home league defeat suffered by United since Ferguson's retirement.

During the iconic 26-year reign of the Scottish manager, United was only beaten in the league at Old Trafford 34 times.

Bayern may already be assured of its place in the last 16 as group winner but has a point to prove after being thrashed 5-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

And the last time Bayern lost a Champions League group game was six years ago.

United captain Bruno Fernandes said he and his teammates must "do their job" and hope for help in Copenhagen.

"We know that the next game is going to be really tough — we have to win and wait for a good result in the other game for us," he said.

"We have to do our job, first of all, but we are more than capable of getting the result in that."


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