Paul Merson says Manchester United need to stop hiding behind the Glazers situation and has called on the players to stand up and be counted as they prepare to host Brighton in a crucial Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Manchester United are down in 11th, six points behind Premier League leader and neighbours Manchester City after an up and down start to the season.
Erik ten Hag’s side, who are yet to pick up a point away in the league this season, spent the international break mulling over a six-point return from their opening four games, which leaves them already playing catch up on the teams they want to challenge at the top end of the table.
In his latest column for skysports.com, Merson discusses the latest at Man Utd ahead of a crucial run of games in the Premier league and Champions League…
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‘Stop hiding behind Glazers situation’
There are plenty of issues at United at the moment.
The results haven’t been great at the start of the season. They had the defeats in north London, but Wolves could have got something at Old Trafford and Nottingham Forest were also a bit unlucky there. There’s the Jadon Sancho issue and the noise around Harry Maguire. The transfer window also wasn’t the best so there is pressure building on Ten Hag.
For me he has to find some answers on the pitch. He needs to win football matches and he will know that. This is Man Utd, they need to get into the top four.
At the moment, it feels like everyone is hiding behind the situation with the Glazers.
They are in the firing line for everything it seems but they don’t play the game. Of course, they could invest in the stadium but a brand new state of the art stadium isn’t going to make the players play better. Turf Moor isn’t ‘nice’ but Burnley still do well.
Hiding behind the Glazers every time there is a defeat needs to stop. It’s time for the players to stand up, be counted and get results.
Man Utd’s Premier League results so far this season…
- Man Utd 1-0 Wolves
- Tottenham 0-2 Man Utd
- Man Utd 3-2 Nottingham Forest
- Arsenal 3-1 Man Utd
‘Man Utd face huge game against Brighton’
Manchester United need a result against Brighton. It’s a huge game for Ten Hag and his side.
It’s not been the easiest of starts for United but they were a centimetre away from not a bad start with Alejandro Garnacho’s offside goal at Arsenal.
Nine points from your opening four matches, including trips to Arsenal and in-form Tottenham, reads pretty well. We’d be waxing lyrical about United now had things gone their way at the Emirates.
But that shows you the fine margins involved. Garnacho’s late goal is ruled out, Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus strike late, and the pressure increases on United after two wins and two losses from their first four games.
‘United cannot afford another defeat at this stage’
When your targets at the start of the season include the Premier league title, you cannot afford three defeats in your opening five games.
That is why the Brighton game is such a big one for United.
A home defeat to Brighton, and in terms of the title, that’s another year gone. You are just fighting for second, third, fourth and fifth. They are just fighting to get into the top four and it’s only the middle of September.
All the teams around them have got stronger too, so it’s going to be a huge battle to get into the top-four.
‘They have the ability to turn things on’
Brighton are an excellent team and they have experience of winning at Old Trafford.
They stunned United on the opening day of last season as Ten Hag’s reign at United got off to the worst possible start.
However, United have it in them to turn things on and turn up when their backs are to the wall.
Ten Hag will be hoping he can get a response from his players and get a result that gets their season going because they have some decent league fixtures coming up.
‘Hojlund a bright spot for Man Utd’
A bright spot for them at the Emirates was the cameo of striker Rasmus Hojlund.
It was only 20 minutes or so that he was on the pitch but he showed plenty.
He was physical and got the better of Arsenal defender Gabriel on more than one occasion.
However, he’ll have a different pressure on him now if he starts the game. Remember, we saw plenty from Mykhailo Mudryk on his Chelsea debut at Liverpool. He was electric for 20 minutes or so at the end of the that game at Anfield but we haven’t seen anything since from the Ukraine international.
So, that’s the challenge for Hojlund. He could come against Lewis Dunk, who is a solid Premier League performer. He also had a very good game in midweek for England against Scotland so will be coming into this game full of confidence.
It will be interesting to see how Hojlund copes with that challenge but I do like what I’ve seen so far from him.
‘Games coming up United should be winning’
Man Utd need a good week. Ten Hag needs a good week, especially in the Premier League.
A trip to Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich looks a daunting prospect at the moment, and that makes the Brighton game even more crucial.
A defeat to Brighton followed by a defeat at Bayern, then the pressure does start to build on Ten Hag.
Man Utd’s fixtures before next international break…
- Sat Sep 16: Brighton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
- Wed Sep 20 Bayern Munich (A) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm
- Sat Sep 23: Burnley (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
- Tue Sep 26: Crystal Palace (H) – Carabao Cup, kick-off 8pm
- Sat Sep 30: Crystal Palace (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
- Tue Oct 3: Galatasaray (H) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm
- Sat Oct 7: Brentford (H) – premier league, kick-off 3pm
He won’t be under any illusions. He had a decent start at Old Trafford, winning the Carabao Cup, getting into the top four, getting to the FA Cup final and having a decent run in Europe, but he knows he needs to keep winning games.
They have games coming up that are extremely winnable in the league, but they all become difficult games if they can’t get a win against Brighton on Saturday. They follow up the game against Brighton with a trip to Burnley, and you are either going to Turf Moor as high as a kite or you can walk under a snake with a top hat on you are so low.
The Bayern game will be difficult. I don’t see them getting any joy out in Munich, but the games against Brighton and Burnley are games Man Utd should be winning.
Follow Man Utd vs Brighton in our live blog from 1.30pm on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) and watch free match highlights from 5.15pm.