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Staff Takeaways: Manchester United 1-2 Brighton & Hove Albion

We move? I guess?

Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Colin: This will take some patience

That was bad.

Definitely not the start to the season that anyone would have wanted, certainly not Erik ten Hag, but to be honest we maybe should have expected this.

A McFred midfield was trusted to control the middle of the park under the press in the first match of the season, and they became the cause of several incidents which left the defense scrambling and recovering. The defense did not do so well in that regard, but they weren’t getting much help either.

Some of that will ideally be fixed in time. Maguire and Martinez struggled operating in situations where they were forced to cover for each other or their teammates, but that will ideally mend somewhat with experience playing together more often. The same can be said for the rest of the team adapting to the way ten Hag wants them to. There are obvious needs that need to be addressed in the transfer window, particularly in midfield and attacking depth, but for now this is the squad the manager has to work with and it won’t happen over night.

This isn’t a season where United are likely to win anything. They’ll be identifying what does and doesn’t work, and while we hope that process will be more fun we are likely to have to endure more matches like this one.

Pauly: Erik Ten Hag is the third straight manager forced to use McFred. Erik Ten Hag is the third straight manager with no idea how to use McFred

Let’s get one thing clear. Scott McTominay and Fred has been none of United’s last three manager’s ‘preferred’ midfield pair. They have been everyone’s most available midfield pair.

None of the past three managers have had any idea how to use McFred pair, which isn’t their fault since they are not a pair that complements each other. Fred is better pushed high up the pitch where he can break play and a have someone covering behind him. McTominay is not a deep sitting number 6.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer constantly chopped and changed their roles in hopes of finding something that would work. They never found any consistency and whenever something worked for one of them, the next match it usually didn’t.

Ralf Rangnick came in and gave them more assigned roles. One of the (few) things that Rangnick was almost universally praised for was how Fred blossomed under him. Recognizing that Fred is very poor in the buildup phrase, Rangnick took away his buildup responsibilities and pushed him higher up the pitch. That’s the role that suits Fred best and he blossomed there. Of course that meant Scott McTominay was your deeper midfielder, and given McTominay’s propensity to spend the entire match in the cover shadow, United’s buildup really struggled.

It wouldn’t be a surprise for someone to watch McTominay in that role and say “he shouldn’t be playing in that role.” Therefore in match number one, Erik Ten Hag took him out of that role and pushed him higher up the pitch. Like a see-saw, when one side goes up the other comes down. McTominay was pushed up higher leaving Fred to handle the buildup duties. With McTominay high, Fred was often isolated and he greatly struggled, but pushing McTominay up just took him out of the match. McTominay finished the first half with 17 touches, a paltry number for a midfielder as Fred naturally couldn’t do it all on his own.

United’s midfield completely failed to gain a foothold in this match leading to every other problem they had. Jadon Sancho had the fewest touches of any player in the first half with 16, a direct result of United simply not being able to get him the ball. If you can’t get your good players the ball, then it’s fairly obvious they’re not going to be effective.

Maybe next week Ten Hag swaps McTominay and Fred around again, maybe he doesn’t. But as long as these two guys remain United’s most available midfield pair, Erik Ten Hag is going to be dealing with these issues.

Vince: 2021/22 all over again, just new jerseys

I woke up today like every United fan did, new season, new hope for change, ready to put last year behind me ..... Then the match started and I realized that this team was going to be just like the 21-22 team, just in a different jersey.

There is so much I want to say but its the first match and I don't want to write off the season after one match. Besides, Roy Keane said it best: