Man Utd enduring worst season since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement as revealed by damning stat

  • Man Utd lost their tenth game of the season against Newcastle
  • Erik ten Hag's side are on the brink of Champions League elimination and outside the Premier League's top six
  • Dutchman has faced questions over his handling of the dressing room
Erik ten Hag's side have already suffered ten defeats this season
Erik ten Hag's side have already suffered ten defeats this season / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

During pre-season, Erik ten Hag admitted: "I think, in general, when I came in at Man Utd, the standards were not right. That's true."

A year and a half into his tenure, there is little evidence to suggest that Ten Hag has dramatically raised those standards.

Manchester United's limp loss to Newcastle United, with a 0-1 scoreline that desperately flattered the inept visitors, was the club's tenth defeat of the season. United have only played 21 games this term.

Across the decade of decay since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, no previous manager has ever racked up double digits for defeats as quickly as Ten Hag's current vintage. Yet, even more damningly than those statistics is the style of United's losses. They are still failing the same way.

Ten Hag candidly revealed the deeply troubling sight that he spotted ahead of his first away game as Manchester United manager, a humbling 4-0 defeat to Brentford.

"I saw one of our players shake his head and say with a sigh: 'It is much too hot to play football'," Ten Hag told Voetbal International. "I thought: 'What is this? The opponent also suffers from it. You have to pull yourself together. You must have hardness'. That was what was missing - that ambition. It's purely about mentality. Brentford ran eight miles more than we did that afternoon."

The Dutch coach infamously punished his squad with a run to make up the difference in distance on what had been scheduled as their day off. But that question of 'ambition' was flagged in United's first away trip of this current campaign as well.

After a bright but goalless first half against Tottenham Hotspur, United wilted under the August sun once again. Ange Postecoglou's hosts racked up 98 sprints compared to United's 57, scoring twice against a set of players "not doing their jobs anymore", by Ten Hag's assessment.

"They didn't run," the Dutchman lamented that day. "Or they run in the wrong moment, too late. Especially the front didn't recover."

Midway through the first half of United's latest loss to Newcastle, Anthony Martial barely broke out of a saunter as Fabian Schar waltzed forward, striding into United's half with precious little opposition. Ten Hag dropped his typical thousand-yard stare to scream at Martial, who expended more energy flapping his arms than he had when failing to press Schar.

Newcastle have been even more gravely decimated by injury than Manchester United but still racked up 185 off-the-ball runs compared to the visitors' 96.

Man Utd's defeats across all competitions this season

Andre Onana
Manchester United's loss count hit double digits with defeat at Newcastle / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages





Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd

Premier League


Arsenal 3-1 Man Utd

Premier League


Man Utd 1-3 Brighton

Premier League


Bayern Munich 4-3 Man Utd

Champions League


Man Utd 0-1 Crystal Palace

Premier League


Man Utd 2-3 Galatasaray

Champions League


Man Utd 0-3 Man City

Premier League


Man Utd 0-3 Newcastle



FC Copenhagen 4-3 Man Utd

Champions League


Newcastle 1-0 Man Utd

Premier League

There is ample opportunity for opponents to expose United's failings out of possession given their lack of any semblance of stability on the ball.

Following a dire 3-3 draw with Galatasaray in Istanbul at the end of November - which must have felt like a defeat after United had led 2-0 and 3-1 - Bruno Fernandes sighed: "We have to control our games. It's not the first game we have [lost control] like this."

Each of the club's three Champions League losses this term - a joint-high for United in a single group-stage campaign - have followed a similar collapse into chaos. Across their trip to Bayern Munich and the visit of Galatasaray, United conceded within ten minutes of scoring on four separate occasions.

As Fernandes highlighted, the 4-3 reverse in Denmark was hardly more measured. "Even in Copenhagen, we had [a] 3-2 [lead], you have to be smart enough and manage the game better. Everyone has to step up and take responsibility for their own mistakes," United's captain bemoaned.

If anything, the side is worse than last term. United have shipped three or more goals in eight games already this season - that only happened six times throughout the 2022/23 campaign. No improvement seems imminent.

"The mental errors we make, you cannot allow them at this level. You get punished," Ten Hag has said, before worryingly conceding: "This is difficult to control."

United may have banned the dissenting voices from their press conferences but they very much exist in the dressing room and will surely seep into the boardroom at some point.

"This team is resilient," Ten Hag declared after the tenth defeat of a bleak campaign. "We had a bad defeat and we stick together." How long that will last, if it hasn't already passed, remains to be seen.