Jamie Carragher slams ‘stale’ Manchester United and says there is only one way they can beat Manchester City
The derby at Old Trafford will show how much progress Erik ten Hag has made, if any!
The Red Devils have endured a mediocre start to the new season and although they appear to have staged a mini revival by winning three consecutive games, problems persist for their under-fire manager.
Wednesday’s Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen was only assured following a dramatic injury-time penalty save by Andre Onana, while the three points gained at Bramall Lane last weekend were equally fortuitous.
None of Ten Hag’s major summer signings have made significant impacts so far, while last year’s headline purchase, Casemiro, has struggled badly and is currently out injured.
United beat their local rivals at Old Trafford last season with the sort of smash and grab raid that has become their go-to tactic against elite opposition, and Carragher believes it his high time they were capable of showing a more adventurous style under a manager who has been at the helm for nearly 18 months.
‘Manchester United resemble a team reaching the end of a cycle, not one still rebuilding under a relatively new manager,’ Carragher told The Telegraph.
‘Despite winning their last three games, the football is stale and the symptoms of regression are visible; there is a lack of style and panache, few of Erik Ten Hag’s signings are consistently performing, and players such as Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay – who the manager was willing to discard last summer for the right price – are back in favour.
‘United are in an unfulfilling holding pattern, seeking to eke out results and get by before their next refresh. It is a measure of their faltering progress that they are preparing for another Manchester derby with trepidation rather than expectation.
‘Yet again, the only means by which they can stop Manchester City this weekend is by playing ‘underdog football’ – sitting deep, counter-attacking and hoping defensive resilience yields a reward.’
Ten Hag was hired with the intention of him implementing the possession-based style he employed at Ajax that marked the Dutch side out as one of the most exciting in Europe.
Despite the additions of Mason Mount, Antony and Rasmus Hojlund, United are still turgid as an attacking force to the extent whereby Carragher believes there is little difference between the current team and those managed by Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskajer.
‘No-one was demanding Ten Hag create a title winning side in one or even two years, but it was reasonable to assume the United line-up would be clearly distinguishable from the tactical set-up of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho,’ he said.
‘The most damning criticism is that they are not. Their game plan is virtually identical.
‘If United are successful this weekend, it will be by virtue of using the counter-attacking strategy which brought Solskjaer and Mourinho their best results in their first few years.
‘There is nothing ‘Dutch’ about United under Ten Hag. They bypass their midfield, play direct to their front men and seek to make the most of their possession high up the park.’
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