Premier League English

Only one person is absolutely certain Eric ten Hag’s still the best man for United despite everything crumbling – himself

Despite openly acknowledging Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat at Crystal Palace being the lowest point of their season so far, an ostensibly recalcitrant Erik ten Hag still obdurately insisted he remains the right man to turn around the crumbling fortunes of the club.

The man’s simply unbelievable. Regardless of whether one’s a deluded supporter or a critic of the Dutchman, you have just got to hand it to him for the offensive gall, abrasive audacity, the pugnacious impertinence and the odious cheek he has with the nagging question that is simply begging to be asked – which rock did he crawl out from?

After United shamefully went down 4-0 at Selhurst Park to a much more superior and absolutely re-galvanised Crystal Palace selection under new boss Oliver Glasner, the United boss actually had the ridiculous bloated self-belief to shamelessly continue insisting that he’s still the right man to sort out the unholy mess from the series of implosions at that once formidable club after the deceptive lull of his first honeymoon season. The early creditable achievements of his debut season had understandably, and obviously, raised the hopes of the United faithful to an unprecedented level that their new savior had finally arrived that would undoubtedly bring the once highly-revered, austere club new glories in abundance.

Instead, with a stinging slap to the face, an injury-ravaged United suffered their heaviest loss of the campaign as Michael Olise, who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer, brilliantly ran amok at Selhurst Park with an impeccably-dazzling two-goal display. Of course, after he himself had been primarily responsible for planting two of the main incendiary charges that helped cause new implosions at the club at that crucial match, one would easily understand the disdain he would now have for the once mighty United.

Jean-Philippe Mateta – apparently brimming with new confidence under the capable tutelage and guidance of Oliver Glasner – and Tyrick Mitchell were the next to be promptly on target after Olise broke the deadlock in the 12th minute and subsequently making it 4-0 with 24 minutes left to roast United’s goose completely.

Even after having gotten used to the shambolic displays the Dutchman’s United selections are wont to dish out with the only consistency that has now become a predictable trademark for the team, it was still an unbelievably wretched and repugnant experience to witness another appallingly sorry non-performance from a sickeningly dishevelled Ten Hag side totally devoid of pride-of-ownership, confidence and skills as his expensively-assembled motley crew ambled aimlessly on the pitch – clearly without a well-thought out and well-penned script – to consign the now eighth-placed United to their lowest ever Premier League finish.

United had ended up an ignoble seventh in the 2013-14 campaign – the first after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson – on 64 points, but now they can no longer even reach that total and currently trail sixth-placed Newcastle by two points with only three games left to make up the deficit.

When the question – which is now beginning to smell suspiciously like one surreptitiously put into place to function like a trap for the gullible, self-effacing United boss deliriously swaddled up in his comfortable cloak of denial – was put to him if he believed he was the right person to restore United’s fortunes, Ten Hag unhesitatingly gobbled up the bait and promptly told Sky Sports: “Absolutely! And if the right players are there, available, we have a good squad, but we miss almost the whole back line and then we have problems.

“It is very disappointing. Under-performing. Definitely the worst defeat. We should have done better.

“We are aware, as a team performance, we were not correct, making big mistakes and not following the plan and the script and the rules we have.

‘… not following the plan and the script …’? What absolute tosh as even the blind could have seen there were not even vague fragments of a ghost of a plan having been put in place at all. And as for a script, the only one that obviously existed was the one that was being eerily scripted as the dastardly plot was being surreally unfolded on the pitch as the game developed with the Eagles dominantly in command.

He continued: “Yes (a low point), it was very poor how we gave the goals away, especially when we prepare the team and the conceding of the first goal is very disappointing.”

‘… especially when we prepare the team …’? This is absolutely hilarious as it appears now especially after this ludicrous debacle, piled on top of the other disasters prior to this, that the only plan the man seems to have prepared for the team is to fail with unerring consistency.

United had made their entrance in south London without Harry Maguire and captain Bruno Fernandes, with a diabolical plan of partnering a fit-enough veteran Jonny Evans with Casemiro in defense.

However, both stars invariably ended up on their butts in the first half as Olise left Casemiro sprawled embarrassingly on the deck by the center circle before the striker stylishly drilled a shot into the bottom corner, courtesy of the grace and the freedom made readily available by United’s backpedalling defense.

Fast forward and we next see a confidence-infused Mateta burst past Evans to rifle a stunner beyond a helpless Andre Onama after 40 minutes to give the hosts their well-deserved half-time lead.

United could barely muster a threat that was even vague at best although there was a 27th-minute effort by Casemiro that was ruled out after Rasmus Hojlund clumsily barged into Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

For consolation and amusement, Antony’s lame 22-yard shot after 51 minutes was the visitors’ first one on target, but an alert Mitchell tapped in seven minutes later for Palace.

All that was left for the Eagles to end the excruciating debacle for the visitors was for Olise to provide a fitting finale when he delightfully curled a whopper beyond Onana with 66 minutes on the clock after Daniel Munoz had been too strong for the hapless Casemiro.

It was altogether an undesirable night that saw United breaking numerous unwanted records – now with 13 league defeats, the most they have ever recorded in a Premier League season, while conceding 81 goals in all competitions, the most in a single campaign since 1976-77. The list goes on, unfortunately.

Ten Hag added: “Actually, yes (it was out of the blue), because this is fourth defeat in 2024.

‘… this is fourth defeat in 2024 …’, United’s boss in the hot seat magnanimously intones. He certainly has this penchant for massaging the truth in his attempts to soften the blows for himself. Yes, their fourth defeat in 2023, but their thirteenth in the season so far. Unbelievable.

“So far you have always seen a team that was playing and following the script. That is why, (yes) we didn’t have a lot of wins, but we were hard to beat. Today we were easy to beat.”

‘… so far you have always seen a team that was playing and following the script …’ Again there’s the infernal reference to a script that was all this while non-existent in their matches ever since he took over from Ralf Rangnick even in the first season where he had tasted some measure of success.

‘… That is why, (yes) we didn’t have a lot of wins, but we were hard to beat. Today we were easy to beat.’ It is simply incredible to see how far a person could be removed from the harsh reality that stares him in the face. He actually believes all this while that his United selections so far have been ‘hard to beat’, while the results clearly attest otherwise. What kind of inebriating opiate is the man on that the rest of us, especially United fans, can’t do without, for goodness sake?

“I am sure that the players had the right intention to come on and they were eager from the start, but once we were playing we didn’t perform. Individuals didn’t perform and, as a team, we didn’t perform.”

And his raspy voice rises desperately as he continues his soliloquy, alone on a deserted stage, as the proscenium lights dim while the depressed faithful head aimlessly like lost souls for the exits.