ERIK TEN HAG’s first game in charge of Manchester United has not gone according to plan.
The Dutchman left Ajax as soon as last season ended so he could start working in the Red Devils’ squad as soon as possible.
But if the 2-1 defeat to Brighton was anything to go by, their big plans have yet to come to fruition.
United were as open and easy to play as they were under Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
There was virtually no improvement on last season, when the club slipped to their worst ever points total in the Premier League.
Now, less than two months into his time at the club, Ten Hag faces his first big challenge to cheer the players on as they prepare to face Brentford.
But what can you do differently?
Well, he has no new players to choose from after another farcical week in the transfer market.
A shock bid for Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic was rejected last Sunday, before United pulled out of negotiations following a backlash from disillusioned fans.
They have also pursued Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, another questionable move given his inconsistent form for club and country.
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However, despite Juventus agreeing to a £15m fee rising to £20m, United have yet to agree personal terms with the Frenchman.
As a result, Ten Hag have been left with the same set of players that lost against Brighton six days ago.
But that doesn’t mean he lines up with the same team, far from it.
Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to return after being on the bench last weekend.
The Portuguese superstar played just 45 minutes in pre-season amid speculation of a possible exit from the club.
And while his future remains up in the air, his substitute appearance against Brighton and a week of “effort” on the training ground will see him replace Christian Eriksen at the forefront of United’s attack.
At the other end of the pitch, club legend Rio Ferdinand has called for Lisandro Martinez to be employed in midfield, with Raphael Varane returning to partner captain Harry Maguire.
He then wants Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes either side of Martinez in a midfield three, a move that would see both Scott McTominay and Fred drop.
But it seems an unlikely line-up, especially when you consider that Martinez hasn’t played a competitive game in midfield since January 2020.
Alternatively, Ten Hag could still deviate from McFred’s midfield pairing by playing Eriksen and Donny van de Beek either side of the Brazilian.
Other changes could see new boy Tyrell Malacia replace Luke Shaw at left back.
And then up front, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho will be hoping to keep their place in the wings.
But both are in danger of being dropped after poor displays against Brighton.
Rashford is the most likely to miss out as Fernandes could be preferred to him on the left depending on how the midfield is set up.
Regardless of the starting XI, United know they face a tough task traveling to the Brentford Community Stadium.
Thomas Frank’s men showed great grit and determination to fight back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Leicester at the King Power Stadium last weekend.
Along with champions Manchester City, United were the only other top six sides to do the double over Brentford last season.
The Bees produced some stellar performances against the toughest opposition – beating Arsenal and Chelsea on their way to Premier League survival.
And the pressure is on United to get off the mark after Brighton’s embarrassment… or else Ten Hag could find themselves in the heat before August.
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