'I don't see them as a team' – Heskey says Ten Hag's Man Utd have lost air of 'invincibility'

By Sports Desk November 07, 2023

Manchester United have lost the air of "invincibility" which characterised Alex Ferguson's trophy-laden reign at Old Trafford.

That is the view of former England striker Emile Heskey, who sees Erik ten Hag's Red Devils as a group of expensively assembled individuals, rather than a coherent team. 

United have made an underwhelming start to their second season under Ten Hag, sitting eighth in the Premier League table after 11 matches despite Saturday's last-gasp 1-0 win at Fulham.

In Europe, the Red Devils began their Champions League group-stage campaign with back-to-back defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray before needing Andre Onana to save a stoppage-time penalty in a hard-fought 1-0 win over Copenhagen.

With Ten Hag attracting criticism from supporters and pundits, Heskey believes his tenure shares many similarities with those of his predecessors Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho.

Asked why Ten Hag has failed to revive United's fortunes, Heskey told Stats Perform: "It's the million-dollar question, isn't it? You look at Ole… he never got [United into form], Jose never got that either. 

"There's a consistency with… I wouldn't say this bunch of players, but with the club bringing players in that they're not able to string together and gel. 

"I don't see them as a team, I don't see them as a team that's going to fight for each other. Look at Spurs, a team that's going to really dig down and fight for each other. 

"It happens with eras, you go through that. They've lost that invincibility. 

"[United] won the game before the actual game started in my era. Teams that would go there and you're already set up to lose. 

"[Now] teams are actually going to Old Trafford and saying, 'Well, we're going to win this, this is how we're going to set up'. They've lost that invincibility."

Forward Marcus Rashford is among the United players attracting scrutiny after failing to reach the heights he hit last term, when he scored 30 goals across all competitions. 

Rashford was criticised by Ten Hag for going out to celebrate his birthday just hours after 3-0 defeat to rivals Manchester City recently. Having missed Saturday's win at Fulham through injury, he then hit out at what he described as "malicious rumours" regarding his future on social media.

Rashford signed a new five-year contract with United in July, but Heskey does not believe that has impacted his form, saying: "I don't think it's anything to do with the contract. 

"As fans, we're looking for something. The reality is there's a lot of onus on him being a local lad, there's a lot of pressure on him. 

"He needs to figure out how to deal with that pressure again, like he did last season, because there was a lot of pressure on him but he managed to still get the goals. 

"The fascinating thing is he's probably giving the same sort of performance as last season, but he was finishing his chances. 

"Now, when you're not finishing your chances, everyone's looking at the money, everyone's looking at your lifestyle. Everyone's looking at what you do here, what you don't do there.

"You just want to concentrate on football. But if you just concentrate on football and it eats away at you and you have a mental breakdown, then you're saying, 'why didn't you go and do something else outside of football?'

"I think for Marcus, he just needs to figure out, 'what's good for me?'"

Rashford has only scored once in 14 appearances for United across all competitions this season, despite attempting 38 shots totalling 3.82 expected goals (xG) in those matches.

Related items

  • Alonso capable of winning historic treble with 'exceptional' Bayer Leverkusen – Ramelow Alonso capable of winning historic treble with 'exceptional' Bayer Leverkusen – Ramelow

    Xabi Alonso is capable of guiding 'exceptional' Bayer Leverkusen through the remainder of the season unbeaten en route to winning a historic treble.

    That is according to former Leverkusen defender Carsten Ramelow, who told Stats Perform that Alonso is undoubtedly the key to their success.

    Bayer were crowned champions of Germany at the weekend for the first time in their 120-year history with five Bundesliga games still to play.

    Not only have Alonso's side dodged defeat in the league, they have also not lost any of their 14 DFB-Pokal or Europa League matches.

    With a 2-0 lead heading into their Europa quarter-final second leg against West Ham, and with Kaiserslautern awaiting them in the domestic cup final, the treble is very much on.

    "The season they have played is phenomenal," Ramelow said. "Their streak is sensational and it looks like they will do this until the end. 

    "Every team has a bit of a lapse, but Leverkusen have been exceptional in every competition. They can still win everything. Things are looking really good."

    Former Real Sociedad B coach Alonso took over Leverkusen in October 2022 with the club second from bottom in the Bundesliga.

    The Spaniard guided them to sixth last season and has taken them to the title in his first full campaign at BayArena, ending Bayern's run of 11 successive crowns.

    Ramelow, who spent 13 years as a Leverkusen player, has hailed the part Alonso has played in the greatest season in the club's history.

    "I heard a lot of people talk about him how much of a worker he is, and that he is also very companionable," Ramelow said. "The whole package is in perfect harmony.

    "I think that the coach has big merit in this. When he arrived in Leverkusen, he was facing a few problems, which is normal. 

    "I think you have to give managers some time in this day and age. That's also what they did with him. He explained his philosophy and idea very well to the team. 

    "The boys execute that really well. And I also think he’s a great guy who acts as an example for his players – both on and off the pitch."

  • Steve Evans returns to Rotherham following Leam Richardson sacking Steve Evans returns to Rotherham following Leam Richardson sacking

    Rotherham have appointed Steve Evans for a second spell in charge after sacking Leam Richardson.

    Richardson left the Millers on Wednesday morning after losing 18 of his 24 games in charge, overseeing relegation to Sky Bet League One, with Stevenage manager Evans swiftly named as his replacement a few hours later on a three-year deal.

    Evans previously managed at the New York Stadium between 2012 and 2015, when he guided the club from League Two to Championship safety.

    He leaves Stevenage having also taken them from the bottom of League Two to sitting just outside of the League One play-offs.

    Evans’ returns sees a change in structure, with director of football Rob Scott reverting to head of recruitment and the Scot coming in as manager rather than head coach.

    Chairman Tony Stewart said: “On behalf of everyone at Rotherham United, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Steve Evans and Paul Raynor back to the football club.

    “Leam and Rob’s (Kelly, assistant manager) departure was not something we took lightly, but following extensive conversations at board level, it was unanimously agreed that a change of direction was needed to give us the best possible chance of bouncing back to the Sky Bet Championship at the first time of asking.

    “In Steve and Paul, we have two individuals that understand the Rotherham United ‘DNA’ and know what it takes to build a successful team. They have a proven track record of success at a plethora of clubs, including our own.

    “Finally, I would like to place on record my thanks to Leam Richardson and Rob Kelly for their efforts and it goes without saying that they leave with the very best wishes of everyone here at Rotherham United.”

    The former Wigan boss took over from Matt Taylor in December but endured a miserable time at the New York Stadium.

    His appointment was with a view to rebuilding the club in the third tier but he has not made it until the end of the season, with his assistant Kelly also leaving with immediate effect.

  • How things stand: Title, promotion and relegation issues up and down country How things stand: Title, promotion and relegation issues up and down country

    Portsmouth sealed a Sky Bet Championship return on Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Barnsley and several other teams still have plenty to play for as another enthralling domestic season draws to a close.

    Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the promotion and relegation issues up and down the country.

    Premier League

    Neutrals are gripped by the first three-way title race in the top flight for a long time. Another twist occurred last weekend as champions Manchester City returned to the summit on Saturday, before Arsenal and Liverpool suffered shock home defeats on Sunday. With six games left, Pep Guardiola’s side hold a two-point lead over the Gunners and Reds.

    At the other end, an intriguing relegation battle continues – on and off the pitch. Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton occupy the bottom three spots and, while the race appears almost run for the Blades and the Clarets have an uphill task to stay up, the Hatters’ survival hopes remain alive. Nottingham Forest and Everton – in 17th and 16th, respectively – are within touching distance, as both clubs wait to learn their fates after appealing against points deductions over breaches of financial rules.

    Championship

    It has been a rollercoaster ride for supporters’ of Ipswich, Leicester, Leeds and Southampton this season, especially in recent weeks. With only a handful of matches left, Kieran McKenna’s Tractor Boys are top on 89 points, with the second-placed Foxes a point behind with a game in hand. However, that fixture is against fourth-placed Saints, who are not out of the top-two race themselves with a four-point deficit to previously runaway leaders Leicester. Leeds sit third, with all four still in with a shot of automatic promotion spot.

    Rotherham’s relegation to League One has already been confirmed, but two more spaces need to be finalised. Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield are in the bottom three on 44 points each. Birmingham sit one point above the two Yorkshire clubs, while Stoke, QPR, Plymouth and Blackburn would not consider themselves safe as they remain below the 50-point mark.

    League One

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by @efl

     

    After Pompey claimed the title on Tuesday, all eyes are on which club will be runners-up. Derby are second on 86 points with a three-point gap to Bolton, but Peterborough, with a game in hand, cannot be ruled out despite a six-point deficit to the second-placed Rams. Everything could be settled this weekend.

    Carlisle are already consigned to the fourth tier and Fleetwood’s defeat at Peterborough left them six points from safety with only two games to go. Port Vale are 22nd on 40 points, while Cheltenham are 21st on 41 points, but crucially have a match in hand. It means Burton, especially, and Cambridge are still looking over their shoulders, with the former only two points above the bottom four and the latter holding a five-point advantage along with a game in hand.

    League Two

    Mansfield joined Stockport and Wrexham in clinching promotion to League One on Tuesday, but there is still one relegation spot to be determined. Colchester’s win over Grimsby ended the survival hopes of Forest Green and gave the victors a four-point advantage over 23rd-placed Sutton along with a game in hand. Sutton need to win their last two matches and hope both Grimsby and Colchester fail to win again this season.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.