Premier League English

Hell freezes over as the Ten Hag-orchestrated horror show sinks to new low with another horrendously humiliating debacle

It was the great French emperor Napoleon who once famously spouted, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”

Crystal Palace, under the watchful eyes and savvy of Oliver Glasner, certainly took these words to heart – cherishing the depth of the wisdom latent in the French despot’s statement – as they gleefully observed a bungling, self-eviscerating Manchester United selection committing innumerable blunders during their encounter at Selhurst Park on Monday night, thanks in large part to their beleaguered and self-deluded general with his great plan that is visible only to him and him alone.

Football aficionados will surely still recall the image of United star Casemiro awkwardly lying helpless on the turf while an impish Puck-like Michael Olise effortlessly danced away from him – this being merely one of the many intriguing snapshots framing in perfect composition the utter chaos that befell the English juggernaut of yore. The 4-0 scoreline obviously flattered the Red Devils and scarcely reflected the dire, full extent of United’s collapse of massively abysmal proportions. As such, this leaves them with their only solace that Palace somehow failed to find a fifth goal to match their record win over the Red Devils 52 years ago. In fact, truth be told, the scoreline could have been much worse for the visitors.

Compounded by the absence of both their injured captain Bruno Fernandes and erstwhile defender Harry Maguire, Ten Hag put into play his great plan in defense relying in large part on a partnership featuring primarily Jonny Evans and Casemiro as their 14th center-back pairing of the league season.

And all it took were a mere 13 minutes for a ruthless Palace to cut to shreds this flimsy makeshift defense, with a light- and fleet-footed Olise effortlessly toying with, and teasing, theo once highly-regarded and heavily-revered Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro before breaking the deadlock.

Then just before the half-time whistle was blown, it was Evans’ turn to be left embarrassingly exposed against another Palace thrust, as Mateta skilfully wove around him and doubled the home team’s lead.

The misery was subsequently made more excruciating for United and their supporters as Adam Wharton’s superb cross to Tyrick Mitchell added a third goal at the hour mark to inflict yet another deep slash to United. And like the popular saying goes ‘when it rains, it pours’, things were further exacerbated when the unstoppable Olise capitalized on yet another uncharacteristic bungle by Casemiro, unleashing a thunderous strike that left Andre Onana stunned dead in his tracks with no chance whatsoever to redeem himself.

A simple combination of the fluidity of Palace’s attacks and United’s grossly-defensive vulnerability was all that was required to paint a bleak picture for a totally outclassed Ten Hag side meandering aimlessly like lost souls on the vast plains of Selhurst Park on a night when the ghouls of the past continued to haunt United.

Should there still be any who are still farcicly harboring doubts about Erik ten Hag’s future at United, this humiliating, and most shambolic of, debacles would surely eradicate them completely, without any shadow of a doubt. In truth, it would be most befuddling for the club’s new minority owner – with his publicly-professed exacting high standards of corporate governance and expectations to not be fully convinced now that a change in the dugout is imminently necessary and way overdue.

Of course, needless to say, the under-pressure coach – who is somehow now beginning to look more like the artful dodger with each disastrous passing match – may, by all his desperately contrived means, survive until the end of the season, but the humongous task staring him squarely in the face now is to regain the confidence and motivation of his demoralized players, a Herulean task akin to cleaning the Aegean stables at this stage for the heavily beleaguered Dutchman who seems to have wandered into a forest where he can’t differentiate the wood from the trees.

For United to have suffered 13 losses in a single Premier League season is a precedent highly unimaginable, as one has to turn back the clock 47 years to arrive at that inglorious place in time past when they conceded over 81 goals in all competitions. Such statistics are simply inconceivable and plainly unacceptable for a powerhouse like United.

One miserable victory in their last seven matches clearly depicts United’s tumultuous descent down the league table has seen them stumble and slip to the eighth position, the lowest ever so far in their incredible history. They area already facing the alarming prospect of missing out on European competition altogether next season, which would likely paint a gloomy picture of severe financial implications for the club.

Looking immediately ahead at an almost next-to-impossible scenario awaiting Ten Hag and his not-so-merry-men secure European football, they must either finish seventh and secure a spot in the Europa Conference League or defeat Manchester City in the FA Cup final to secure a place in the Europa League, with the latter being obviously another Herculean task obviously not easily accomplished, one that even the most able and qualified of challengers like Arsenal and Liverpool would caution restraint not to foolishly disdain the juggernaut looming ahead of them.

In what has been a season filled with disappointments, this is United now lodged in great embarrassment as it’s inept boss ponders how to extricate themselves from the new nadir of growing humiliation with this latest setback. What’s even more scary is that the situation could still deteriorate much further, with the chasm into the abyss widening by the day as the sand begins to trickle out in the hourglass.

In one of his interviews, the ex-Ajax boss clung tenaciously to the same points he’s been laboriously trotting out all season in his own pathetic defense – from injuries, a lack of consistency in his selection, transfer failings, players failing to follow the script he has prepared and also prominent players failing to take charge, to individuals following their own whims and not following the rules set – as a show cause for all that should be accountable, himself excluded of course, for the woeful, highly lamentable campaign this season.

As for his now all-too-familiar claim that there are hardly any able-bodied, capable stars he can field to fully execute his plans, invisible to all and sundry but himself, he somehow still managed to field 10 internationals at Selhurst Park on Monday, including five players signed for £47million or more, all of them on his watch. The team cost more than £400m to assemble, with seven of the XI having been recruited in his two years there.

Clearly this level of mediocrity cannot be allowed to continue as the season is rapidly turning from having been just a trickle of disappointments initially to what has spiralled continually downwards into a downright humiliation that is growing worse with each successive match.

What truly stings much more than the apparent lack of interest displayed by the players and their visible detachment and disengagement is the myopia and obduracy of a coach refusing to accept reality for what it is. One preferring to trot out instead inexhaustible excuses for his and his team’s continued excesses and deplorable performances on and off the pitch, where a dalliance with scandals like that engulfing the credibility and proven reputation of a Cristiano Ronaldo, and compromising the promising future of an up-and-coming Jadon Sancho would be welcome distractions to make the former Ajax boss shine as the lord and master of all he surveys and rules.

For Ten Hag, it has long since evolved into a quagmire clearly acceptable only to himself where ‘to bungle is human, to continue [bungling] divine’.

United still have matches against league leaders Arsenal and Newcastle United at Old Trafford, followed by a trip to Brighton, so there is a distinct possibility that they may extend their record of 13 defeats and compound their woes.