Manchester United midfield is failing when it should be an Erik Ten Hag success story
You could pick any one of Brighton's three goals at Old Trafford on Saturday to highlight just how badly Manchester United's midfield were outplayed, but let's start at the end and look at the third. When Joao Pedro starts his run forward from the centre circle, Bruno Fernandes is a couple of yards behind him, but the captain jogs back without closing the gap and ends up with the perfect view of the forward's fine finish.
That was game over and the exclamation mark of another desperate day for United this season. Erik ten Hag has a multitude of problems to sort, but it feels like so many of them start in midfield, which is an issue for Ten Hag himself.
His response this weekend was to pick four central midfielders, but they still looked inferior to Brighton's three. Pascal Gross, Mo Dahoud and Adam Lallana cost £2.6million, while United had a £35m midfielder not in the squad, in Donny van de Beek.
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You can highlight the role of midfielders in all of the goals. For the first, Christian Eriksen couldn't get out to Joel Veltman in time, although that was a tactical failing as much as anything, given the diamond midfield would always leave opposition full-backs without a direct opponent. Once Veltman had fired the ball into Danny Welbeck, United were exposed, with Casemiro unable to cut the pass out and then the wrong side of the striker.
Brighton dropping their forwards into midfield is a tactic they use every week and one United should have been aware of. Instead, Welbeck was being marked by neither the centre-backs nor Casemiro and had the freedom to turn. His run into the box to apply