Manchester United entered the international break on the back of a last-gasp victory over Brentford in the Premier League, which ended their losing streak at home.
Manager Erik ten Hag can point out that injuries have devastated the squad. At the same time, off-field controversies involving two right-wingers have played a major role in the disappointing results.
However, what has really let him down is the performance of his big-game players who were instrumental behind United’s rise up the table last term.
Big stars letting ETH down
One player who has been facing a lot of heat recently is Casemiro, with the Brazilian looking like a pale shadow of his former self.
He seems to be unable to deal with the opposition counters, while he seems to be more focussed on attacking rather than shielding the back four.
His former Real Madrid teammate Raphael Varane has endured a terrible time when it comes to injuries since his arrival in Manchester a couple of seasons ago.
The Frenchman has been injured for a whopping 180 days and has missed almost 40 games, a terrible record for a starting defender.
Ten Hag’s best two centre-backs are World Cup winners Varane and Lisandro Martinez and both have missed a lot of games at the same time.
Former United United assistant manager Rene Meulensteen has indicated that both the former France international and the Brazil star are causing Ten Hag to not play his style of football at United because they can no longer play at an intense pace.
Rene Meulensteen’s opinion
“United have certain shortcomings,” Meulensteen was quoted as saying to ESPN. “(Varane) cannot handle the pace. The Premier League is dynamic. Everything goes at 100 kilometres per hour.
“That is the big problem in midfield. They have no energy and that is how the defence gets into trouble. He (Ten Hag) wants to put a lot of pressure on, with a lot of intensity. Just like at Ajax.
“But he doesn’t have the players for that. The players don’t have the mentality to constantly put pressure on. Casemiro, for example, can’t handle it at all.
“Ten Hag has a certain conviction about how he wants to play. But he has to find ways to get there.”
For United’s sake, fans will be hoping Varane can stay injured for a sustained period especially post Martinez’s injury while Casemiro regains the form he displayed last season.