Bad habits & basketball: Chelsea defeat could spell the end for Ten Hag at Man Utd

  • Man Utd embarrassingly crumbled 4-3 to Chelsea on Thursday night
  • Champions League qualification now looks out of reach
  • Erik ten Hag's team consistently show the same poor traits and he could suffer for it with his job
Erik ten Hag is running out of time and excuses
Erik ten Hag is running out of time and excuses / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE - As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

Manchester United have a long list of bad habits. And in one of the craziest, most unserious and out of control Premier League matches we've ever witnessed on Thursday night at Stamford Bridge, we got to see them all.

Chelsea, for the billions spent, have a multitude of problems of their own, and even after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat on the night still sit tenth in standings. Perhaps Europe is possible. But Cole Palmer's beyond-added-time double ensured the spotlight and scrutiny sat again on the brow of United's increasingly beleaguered manager Erik ten Hag.

United have lost 17 games in a season for the first time since 1989/90. There will be more before it ends and you'd fancy table-topping Liverpool to increase the number on Sunday. If they do, the pressure will become unbearable.

The closing weeks of the season were a proving ground for the Dutchman to show he should assume another season leading the team under new sporting control. Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford were spotted in attendance at Stamford Bridge. And while he is not their guy there has been strong enough a case for much of his time at United that he should be given a chance to work in a fresh, cohesive structure instead of the chaos he walked into.

Jarred Gillett, Harry Maguire
United conceded two soft penalties...but also 28 shots / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

United went into the last international break on a high of beating Liverpool in the FA Cup, but the two matches since have seen deep into injury time goals costing them five league points and likely a Champions League place. These goals because of lapses in concentration, weak mentality, inability to defend set pieces and a non-existent midfield leading to Ten Hag's team allowing the most shots against in Europe's top 5 leagues in 2024.

Whether it's Ten Hag's players failing him or his own shortcomings, perhaps a mix of both (it's probably that) we see so many alarmingly poor traits still as evident and obvious in match round 30 as they were on the opening Monday night of the season against Wolves.

Ralf Rangnick called performances Jekyll and Hyde. Nowadays, we either see United dominated by inferior opposition (see Brentford) or playing basketball on a football pitch (see Chelsea, plus other examples).

Ten Hag called for his players to make better decisions under pressure in the aftermath of defeat in west London but Ten Hag's tactical plan appears so frequently frantic and lacking in control that it's easy to see why players make poor choices.

A miracle was needed the last time Liverpool visited Old Trafford, and Ten Hag got one. A miracle is needed again on Sunday but it's difficult to see Liverpool being so forgiving this time around, or making the same mistakes twice. You can't say the same about United, who refuse to stop making them.