Manchester United’s sorry season has been littered with catastrophes, but somehow, Ralf Rangnick’s flops managed to sink to a new low on Saturday evening after falling to a chastening 4-0 defeat at Brighton.
United have been on the end of some embarrassing results this year – but the second half hammering they received on the south coast rubber-stamped a pair of unwanted records for Rangnick’s side, who were already on course to muster their lowest ever points tally in a Premier League season.
That damning possibility became a reality at the AMEX Stadium, but Brighton’s four-goal haul also means United have now conceded an all-time high of 56 goals in a single Premier League season. That embarrassing tally beats the previous record (54) that was set back in the 2018/19 season.
Rangnick’s side have given up goals for fun this year and have looked seriously frail at the back. And alarmingly, United’s defensive issues appear to transcend personnel issues; regardless of who is selected at the back, they seem to struggle. Alarmingly, the pain the might not be over for United, who still have two league games left before they will be permitted to condemn this rotten, painful season to the history books.
While Ten Hag’s five-trophy haul is the main stat that has caught the eye, it’s the defensive resilience of his current Ajax side that should get United fans excited after Saturday night’s horror show. The Dutch giants are currently in pole position to bag their third Eredivisie title after conceding just 15 goals in 31 league games – a far cry from the 56 that United have shipped this season.
Although the Premier League is a different proposition entirely, the 52-year-old’s current Ajax team and their impressive defensive foundations should provide United fans with a crumb of comfort after Saturday’s thumping. Ten Hag has a raft of issues to contend with once he gets to work in his new role, but shoring up the defence is likely to be at the top of his agenda.
United’s expensively-assembled rearguard looks completely bereft of confidence, and a new manager and a proper identity should give the entire team a boost. Ten Hag alone will not be able to conjure up an instant fix to resolve United’s defensive issues, but he should at the very least provide some respite.
Working out the proper solution to United’s defensive shortcomings will take time, money and will be a far bigger challenge than anything he’s faced in Amsterdam – but Ten Hag has already shown that knows what it takes to build a lean defence. And that shouldn’t be underestimated.