Manchester United travelled to Germany to kickstart their Champions League campaign against Bayern Munich.
With Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Brighton still fresh in the mind, no doubt Erik ten Hag would have been keen to get his side firing again and back to winning ways.
He fielded a relatively decent team considering the sheer number of players currently unavailable to him either through injury or off-the-pitch issues.
Andre Onana started in goal with a defensive four of Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Lisandro Martinez and Sergio Reguilon ahead of him.
In midfield, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes all started together.
Rasmus Hojlund led the line with Marcus Rashford and Facundo Pellistri on either side of him.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 4-3 loss against Bayern Munich.
Same old weak mentality issues
A running theme so far this season in the games United have lost is just how well Ten Hag’s men have started games, only to then fall apart after conceding first.
Against Brighton for instance, United started quickly and aggressively and were easily the better side in the opening stages of the match.
However, the Seagulls steadily grew into the game and after shedding first blood via Danny Welbeck, took control of the game and dominated.
They went on to run out 3-1 winners at Old Trafford.
Against Bayern, events unfolded in almost similar fashion. United started well and seemed to be cruising up until Leroy Sane broke the deadlock.
The former Manchester City winger fired a shot from inside the box, which Onana mishandled before letting the ball roll into the back of the net.
The result of Bayern’s goal was that United’s heads dropped, giving the Bundesliga champions the opportunity to exert their authority on proceedings.
The Red Devils barely touched them or threatened Bayern’s goal since.
After the break, United thought they were back into the game when Hojlund halved the deficit, but Harry Kane restored his team’s two-goal lead shortly after from the penalty spot.
It’s a major concern that Ten Hag’s stars seem to crumble at the first sign of adversity.
Even more worrying is that whenever United score, they always appear to concede just seconds later. This happened twice during the game. There is an inability to build on the momentum gained.
This is indicative of the weak mentality and spine that’s plaguing the team. It’s clear there is a lack of confidence and unless this is quickly fixed, there is more pain down the road for United.
Bayern did not need to be at their very best vs. their English rivals, but United’s collapse made it all too easy for them to win.
Midfield still very much an issue
United’s poor display in the middle of the park especially stuck out during their game vs. Bayern.
In the opening two Premier League clashes against Wolves and Tottenham, the Casemiro, Mason Mount and Fernandes trio came under intense scrutiny for the imbalance between them that made it difficult to control games.
Eriksen’s re-introduction after Mount’s injury saw a slight improvement but the Dane was harshly exposed by the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Jamal Musiala.
Eriksen was simply unable to keep up with the Bayern men and match their pace and intense physicality. Often, he was easily brushed aside.
This is not to say that the 31-year-old was solely culpable. Casemiro did not also show up. In truth, the Brazilian has been poor all campaign but his display against Bayern was wanting to say the least.
Casemiro is a former shadow of the excellent player he was last term. He was invaluable to Ten Hag and the team but this season, he is yet to do anything substantial and show why he should still be considered indispensable. His late goals should not cover up his performance.
Fernandes also had a quiet game and did not have the desired impact. As United’s captain, it squarely falls on him to provide leadership during turbulent times – a task he failed to successfully execute at the Allianz Arena.
If United are to overturn their current misfortunes on the pitch, they will have to address their midfield issues. Luckily, the returns of Kobbie Mainoo, Sofyan Amrabat and Mason Mount from injury are not too far away. This should give Ten Hag more options and leeway to fix this problem.
Pressure piling on Ten Hag
United have now suffered three consecutive defeats.
This will only add pressure to Ten Hag – it comes with the territory as United boss.
The Dutchman has already had to deal with a lot of issues this season including injuries, off-the-pitch matters and of course poor performances.
Ten Hag needs to start registering points on the board sooner rather than later, or it won’t be long until the sharks start smelling blood.
As the Reds travel to Turf Moor on Saturday to take on Burnley, nothing short of a win against the Clarets will suffice.